Mt. Tabor Park – Urban Sanctuary and Retreat

In Places & Neighborhoods by lratzlaff0 Comments

Nature offers us a place for reflection, rejuvenation and relaxation. We each find our own special places in nature that speak to us and provide a space of peace and joy. Mt. Tabor Park is one of my special places. Fortunate enough to live at its doorstep, I head into the park frequently in all seasons and always leave in a better mental place than when I entered.

Mt. Tabor Park is Nature in the City

Every time I enter the park I am amazed. I’m amazed that there’s such a natural retreat in the heart of a bustling city. You can hear the birds. You can really feel the breeze. You can smell and almost taste nature. I know the park is teeming with wildlife, and on quiet days you can almost hear the animals going about their business.

There are few places like this within a city, where you can easily escape the urban and reach something more natural – a place where you feel almost outside the city within it.

I’m also amazed at the natural beauty within and outside the park. Of course, the park has those iconic reservoirs. Man made bodies of water that just seem like such a natural fit there. Created originally to hold drinking water and now being disconnected from Portland’s water system, the reservoirs give the park a unique feel. The water is soothing. The structure and walls of the reservoir reflect the heritage of Portland and almost take me back in time. It’s sad to see the reservoirs go out of use, but they also remind me how life changes and still retains its beauty.

Explore an Urban Volcano

Mt. Tabor Park Stairs

Stairs in Mt. Tabor Park

Sometimes I forget Mt. Tabor is actually a dormant volcano. Most of the volcanoes we know  – and can see from the park – like Mt. Hood, Mt. St. Helens or Mt. Ranier, are larger and well-known peaks. Standing only 636 feet high, Mt. Tabor has been extinct for over 300,000 years. Yet, Mt. Tabor is still a visible peak within the city. Look out towards Southeast Portland from Terwilliger Boulevard, and you can see Mt. Tabor rising above SE Hawthorne. I wonder what life was like here when Mt. Tabor and other neighboring volcanoes were active?

Mt. Tabor Park is one of my favorite places to walk. The park is almost 191 acres, and hiking trails meander through the entire park. It’s easy to walk for a few hours within the park along different trails. For variety, you can also climb stairs. I also like to take my bike into the park. The roads provide a great circuit for hill climbing and a quick work-out. In fact, there’s even a local bike racing series in the park. A few roads are always closed to cars, and Wednesdays are car-free day in the park.

Fun in Mt. Tabor Park

The park also offers other recreational activities. The park has a great play ground, a wonderful amphitheater, and plentiful picnic tables. On sunny days, picnickers dot the grassy fields surrounding the middle reservoirs along the soap box derby course. And yes, there is actually an annual soap box derby held every August. There’s even a dog park on the south end of the park. Skateboarders flock to the park on car-free days.

Urban Serenity

But mostly the attraction for me is the beauty and serenity I find there. No matter which walking loop I take, I spot great views of Mt. Hood or Portland. I wonder at the forest within the city and the life it hosts. I slow down and have time to just “be” and aware of my surroundings. I find refuge from a hectic life, recapture the joy of life, and feel gratitude for just being alive.

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