Mt. Tabor Navigation Course

Do you want to practice your map and compass skills close to home, alone or with a few friends? The Mazamas now have a permanent navigation practice course right here in Portland. This course will introduce you to the core skills of map interpretation and compass use, taking you on a walking tour of Portland’s scenic Mt. Tabor Park. Along the way you’ll learn a bit of local history, botany, geology, and of course, have a chance to practice navigation skills. The skills you’ll learn in this field exercise include:

  • Maps – Contours, Scale, Declination and UTM grid
  • Maps – Sense of direction and Orienting your map
  • Maps – reading UTM grid coordinates
  • Compass – Direction and bearings
  • Compass – Shooting and following a bearing
  • Compass – Following a bearing in low visibility or past an obstruction by leapfrogging
  • Map and Compass – Measuring a bearing between points on the map

To do the course, you’ll need to have a basic understanding of topographic maps (scale, contour lines, UTM coordinates) as well as compass declination. If you feel you need to brush up in these areas, please review the navigation portion of Freedom of the Hills or other suitable book before doing this exercise. (If you’re not sure if you need a review, read through the course notes to get a sense of how hard/easy it is for you.) This course was created in 2008 primarily for the Mazamas Basic Climbing Education Program (BCEP) class. However, anyone is welcome to use these materials and try the course. You can do the course on your own, or with a group. It should take between two and four hours to complete the course, depending on your prior navigation experience and the size of your group. An answer key is on the last page, so you can check your work as you go. Instructions are in the text for some of the compass work. You’ll need to print out two .pdf files from the links below:

1) a map of Mt. Tabor, and 2) the course notes. This color map prints on a single sheet of 8.5 by 11 inch paper. Please note that this is not a standard 1:24,000 scale USGS map. It has a custom scale, contour interval and UTM grid suitable for this smaller area. If it’s a soggy day, put the map in a ziplock baggie for weather protection. To read these files, you'll need Acrobat reader from Adobe on your computer, a free download. You’ll need to bring the following to Mt Tabor:

  1. Printout of the map (link below)
  2. Printout of the 9 page course notes (link below)
  3. Compass (ideally one with a baseplate and adjustable declination set to 17 degrees east)
  4. Pencil / pen
Mt. Tabor Navigation Course NotesPDF Document | 133.6 KB Mt. Tabor Navigation Course MapPDF Document | 670.3 KB





The Mazamas thank John Godino for the field course, and Josh Lockerby for the cartography. Your comments on this exercise are appreciated. Please send them to the Mazama Mountaineering Center (MMC). 

Please adhere to the park's open hours, don't trample carelessly over vegetation in order to "stay on course", and stay off private property.

The course begins at Point 1 on your map –at the middle of the east side of Reservoir #6, on the steps to the inlet gatehouse. The best access to this is off SE 60th Ave.