Council Crest Park is quite literally a slice of heaven, situated just eleven minutes from downtown Portland. As one of the highest peaks in the entire city, the panoramic views of Mount Hood, Mount St. Helens and the Tualatin Valley sit 1,083 feet above sea level. It wouldn’t be a stretch to call Council Crest a hidden treasure. It’s not as widely-known as other popular viewpoints in the city, like the Pittock Mansion. But that only adds to the intrigue. Because boy, is it beautiful. For the purposes of contemplation and reflection, it doesn’t get much better than this. Every inch of the 43-acre park is heavenly, no matter the angle you turn. Especially at sunset. In this guide, we do our best to explore each inch of the park, highlighting why Council Crest Park is the perfect place to getaway in the mornings, during lunch breaks or in the evenings. Here we explore three primary viewpoints of Council Crest, all equally delightful to the senses.


As you ascend upwards towards the roundabout on SW Council Crest Drive and park your car, the most obvious view that hits you immediately is that of Mount St. Helens. Situated across the periphery of the park are benches that act as viewpoints of the majestic mountain. Popping out right behind Mount St. Helens is Mount Rainier, a couple hours away in Washington. This is easily one of the most jaw-dropping spots in all of Portland and is sure to stoke your sense of wonder. During sunset, the sun tucks into the mountains, an orange glow fills the sky. Fellow onlookers often come to Council Crest Park simply to take it all in. Even if you only have 15 minutes to spare midday, this is the perfect spot to get a recharge.



Somehow during our first visit to Council Crest Park, it took 15 minutes to notice that directly to the right of Mount St. Helens, Mount Hood was popping its head out to say hello. Tucked between a couple massive treelines that sit directly in front of Mount Hood, many visitors opt to make this their primary view during trips to Council Crest. For views of this caliber, you can’t help but notice how lightly-trafficked Council Crest Park is, compared to other parts of the city. Even on a cloudy day, few experiences match the feeling of being high-above the city lights as they do here.



To complete the trifecta of views, last up on our list is the meadow that faces the Tualatin Valley. While no expansive mountaintop like Mt. Hood or Mt. St Helens dominates the skyline, this has become our favorite place at Council Crest Park to pause, stop and reflect. Many folks often come to the meadow with a blanket, a journal and a furry friend to spend time in quiet contemplation, as the photos suggest. The soothing atmosphere acts as a balm for the soul, providing refreshment and restoration.



As we mentioned in the opening paragraphs, Council Crest Park is a hidden treasure that exists within the city limits of Portland. Living just a few minutes from the park is an absolute gift. All 43 acres of Council Crest set the stage to reflect, contemplate and be present with ourselves. As we previously discussed in our intro to Portland getaways, science has shown that getting at least two hours each week in green spaces is essential to our well-being. A remarkable report from Yale tells us: “the studies point in one direction: Nature is not only nice to have, but it’s a have-to-have for physical health and cognitive function.” Perhaps no one understood these rhythms better than Jesus, who we find often getting away into the wilderness, before returning back to engage the culture around him. He modeled what would later be known as silence and solitude. When we’re out in nature and captivated by its beauty, it often produces a wonder and heightened awareness of the world around us. How could such a beautiful place exist? That wonder can lead to an awareness of the One who created all the transcendent beauty that surrounds us. And here’s the transformative part — we can allow that awareness to drive us into connection with God. For Jesus, this is what getting away was all about. Being out in nature was about who he connected with whilst he was out there. When we encounter God in these environments of refreshment, we are able to acquire the strength and perspective we need to go back out into the world. We need this to love other people well. To create the change we long to see. To become the truest and best version of ourselves. These rhythms are essential for our well-being. As we see from the science, they are built into the very fabric of our existence. We benefit spiritually, mentally and physically from these environments of refreshment. For much of human history, these were our natural habitats. You could argue that the construction of modern city life is unnatural in this sense, as the constant busyness and distraction prevents us from getting perspective and moments of reflection. So especially living in Portland, modeling this “in-and-out lifestyle” will help us thrive amidst the rising tides of hustle culture and the pursuit of pleasure tend to wear on you over time. We’ll leave you with a few practical tips before you wander into Council Crest Park, which include:

1) Picking a time

Consider where you will regularly visit in Council Crest and when you will do that. Is it before work in the morning? Is it midday if your schedule is flexible? Council Crest is small enough and accessible enough to accommodate your schedule whenever and wherever you want.

2) Start small & build

If you’re making the effort to get away regularly, you’ve already hit the goal. And remember, habits are formed by starting small. Rather than saying we’re going to visit Council Crest for 90 minutes every morning, try retreating for 30 minutes at least 2-3 times a week. If you get in a rhythm doing that, maybe increase that to an hour in Council Crest for 2-3 times a week. And so forth.

3) Put your phone on silent

Smartphones breed distraction and will pull you away from being present in the moment. Try putting your phone on silent and resisting the urge to pull it out. Build up your tolerance over time.

4) Consider your wiring

Depending on your personality and temperament, you may want more of an active experience for your contemplative getaways. Consider hiking from Marquam Trail to the summit at Council Crest Park. Or maybe you want to simply circle in laps at the summit. This offers you the opportunity to keep moving, yet still be present in the moment.

5) Bring a blanket

If you like being stationery, consider buying a blanket, particularly for the Summit or Reservoir Loop. Get comfortable as you enter a place of contemplation.

6) Bring a journal

Fight against the urge to stuff away your thoughts by actively processing them through this form of feeling prayer. How are you feeling? Why are you feeling that way? Name the emotions coming up - envy, greed, sadness, grief, etc. Like Jesus, we discover that our emotions are a place to meet with God.

7) Contemplate scripture

This ancient practice, called Lectio Divina, involves picking a small passage to meditate on. Even if you haven’t read scripture in ages (or ever), this could be as small as a Psalm, a Proverb or the words of Jesus in the gospels. Let’s say a verse comes up about humility or loving your neighbor, we then pray for a greater understanding of how to model that in our lives. See what comes to mind. You can pick up a copy of the new Passion Translation here.

8) Practice gratitude

Gratitude is hard for us. Sometimes it feels like we suffer from chronic short-term memory loss, only able to see what we don't have or how our circumstances are less than ideal. And while there might be truth in that, this perspective causes us to miss the precious things of life that are sitting right in front of us each and every day. Take some time to write down prayers of gratitude, even for the smallest of things.

9) Be silent

Council Crest is so beautiful and diverse, that some days you might find yourself just wanting to be silent. Embrace this. Engage your breathing. Listen to the sounds around you. The birds. The breeze. The trees.

Whatever you decide to do with your time, take this opportunity to retreat from the hustle and bustle, opting to get away into the scenic paradise that is Council Crest Park.


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