There’s a Portland Volcano! Visiting Mount Tabor Park in Portland, Oregon

One of the things that most surprised me about Portland, Oregon was the presence of a volcano, making it one of only three cities in the U.S. with a volcano within city limits. Oh no! What if it erupts and wipes outs millions of vegan bicyclists?

Don’t worry, the Portland volcano named Mount Tabor is extinct, meaning it won’t erupt again. Although I wonder how they can be so sure about that, since there are plenty of documented instances of supposedly dormant or extinct volcanoes erupting. It’s been 300,000 years since the cinder cones in Oregon had a lava flow, so I suppose we can safely say Mt. Tabor is not going to erupt.

Mt. Tabor in SE Portland has been turned into a park of the same name, with hiking trails, basketball and tennis courts, horseshoe pits and more. How many park signs have you seen with an arrow pointing towards the volcano? I love how nonchalant they are about it. It’s just another feature in the park. Picnic area… playground… volcano. No big deal!

mount tabor portland oregon park sign

History of Mt. Tabor, the Portland Volcano

Mount Tabor is a volcanic cinder cone and was named after the Mt. Tabor in Israel. Nobody even discovered there was an old volcano here until 1912, a year after the first park was established. The park covers 190 acres and the elevation is 636 feet, so it’s not super-tall, but it does provide nice views of downtown Portland.

portland volcano skyline views

Distant views of the skyline from atop the Portland volcano, Mt. Tabor.

They say this mountain is part of a network of cinder cones, but the lava field that created them has been extinct for 300,000 years. I guess I’ll take their word for it!

In fact, there are three other dormant cinder cones within Portland: Rocky Butte, Powell Butte, and Kelly Butte. Who knew there were so many Oregon volcanoes?

While Mt. Tabor in Portland is no threat anymore, there are four other Oregon volcanoes on the government’s list of “very high threat” volcanoes. They include popular tourist spots like Mount Hood and Crater Lake, home of the national park.

Trivia: Which three other U.S. cities also have a volcano within city limits? Those would be Bend, Oregon; Jackson, Mississippi; and Honolulu, Hawaii.

Things To Do in Mount Tabor Park in Portland, Oregon

Today, Mt. Tabor Park covers 190 acres of greenery and is a popular spot for people to go on sunny weekends to relax and play. People go jogging and bring their kids to the playgrounds on the very land that was once the site of powerful magma eruptions.

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harvey w scott statue

Near the top of the park sits an imposing statue, but it doesn’t honor a president or important historic or civil rights leader. Instead, the bronze statue depicts Harvey W. Scott, the editor of the Oregonian newspaper in the late 1800s. Journalists getting their own statues? I can get behind this!

The statue was sculpted by Gutzon Borglum in the early 1930s, while he was working on Mt. Rushmore at the same time.

I spent most of my time in Mt. Tabor Park getting a taste of nature by hiking on the trails. It’s not easy to get lost here, with color-coded signs pointing the way and numerous trails that intersect.

mt tabor woods portland oregon volcanoes

The park has an off-leash area for dogs, so between the animal lovers and outdoor enthusiasts, it can be a pretty busy place. Mount Tabor Park is located at SE 60th Ave. and Salmon St. So why not spend an afternoon on an old volcano in Portland?

23 Comments

  1. I see these are all old comments so I will add a new one . . . I also was born and raised in PDX and grew up in the Montavilla neighborhood which is just east of Mt. Tabor. Now if you drive up and park in the parking area there you will also see a small blocked off little area which is the remnant of the lava hole and you will also see the very top of the cone.

    Now as for seeing Mt. St. Helens from your hotel window, if you go up to the view point on Rocky Butte or up to Council Crest or any of several other view points in the City on a really clear summer day, what we call a five volcano day, you will see five of the big still living but sleeping volcanos, Mt. Hood to the east, Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Rainier to the north, Mt. Adams to the northeast and Mt. Jefferson to the south . . . I am not sure, but I believe there are ten living volcanos in the neighborhood with nr. eleven, Mt. Shasta just south of the California border . . .

  2. I grew up about 2 blocks from Mt Tabor, and went to the school just down the street. I can’t even explain that terrifying fear that you get the moment you realize that while ‘extinct’ if it did go off you’d be totally screwed…and then going back to the X-Files without a second thought. Its a great area.

  3. According to the USGS, there are 80 lava vents, lava flows, and cinder cones in the Portland/Vancouver (Portland Basin) area. Some of the lava cones inside the city of Portland’s city limits on the east side are: Mt. Tabor, Powell Butte, Kelly Butte, Mt. Scott, and Rocky Butte.

  4. As a kid, I grew up in the 1960’s living and playing on the slopes of Mt. Tabor! They built a parking lot right over the caldera! I always thought that would make the Volcano mad and that it would erupt again to get the asphalt off its back! I’m 57 years old now, and live in Maui Hawaii and I still think Mt.Tabor is still angry about that. We used to do skits on the outdoor stage near the caldera, (I wonder if the stage is still there???) I was part of a free Craft’s Program that they held for young children in the Park in the summertime up there. The skit was a Show that we put on for our parents. So many hours and fond memories I spent and have of that Park. Born and raised in beautiful Portland Oregon and proud of it. Rick T.

    1. That sounds like a cool experience growing up, Rick. It’s disappointing they built a parking lot on top – I can see why the volcano would be mad after that! Thanks for sharing your story.

  5. Wow, I had no idea there was an extinct volcano in Portland! I did think it was pretty awesome, though, that I could see Mt. St. Helens from my hotel window in Portland. I always forget there is actual volcanic activity in that part of the U.S. Glad to see you featuring such a great place this month! LOVE Portland!

  6. Wow, I had no idea there was a volcano in Portland. Interesting. I agree with you – don’t know that I’d feel comfortable with a volcano nearby even an extinct one.
    It’s a lovely park though and the view is stunning.

    1. I have lived in portland for 35 years. Iseen mt st helin blow up too times . It was the most I ever seen mother earth do it was what man will never be abel to do

  7. Like you, I’m a bit doubtful about so-called extinct volcanos. What if they make up their mind to give the complacent citizens a surprise??? Amazing though to find a volcano within city limits.

  8. I had no idea there was a volcano in Portland when I visited – haha totally missed that. Very cool feature of the city though.

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