Clackamas Hiking Old Cascades Trip report

Memaloose Lake and Milo McIver State Park – 6/18/2020

We had the rare opportunity to have company on one of our outings on our vacation. Four of Heather’s running buddies (we won’t name names but you know you you are) were open to our 5am start time so we swung by and had them follow us to the first of two stops at the Memaloose Lake Trail.

The trailhead is along Forest Road 45 which runs between Highway 242 and Highway 211. The 2014 36 Pit Fire forced the closure of FR 45 at Highway 224 after damaging a section of the road. This was the recommended way to the trailhead as the fist 11.2 miles were paved and the final mile was good gravel. While the repairs are nearly finished FR 45 was still closed 3.5 miles from Highway 242 meaning we would need to take FR 45 from Highway 211. From that highway it was 23 miles to the trailhead and although most two digit forest roads are paved or at least good gravel FR 45 was not. There was a short section of pavement before turning to a pothole filled mess. For their part the Forest Service was in the process of clearing brush and debris along the road but there was still quite a bit of work to do as some downed trees had been worked on just enough to allow vehicles to get by. We picked our way slowly around (and sometimes through) the obstacles and eventually made it to the trailhead.

The Memaloose Lake Trail starts uphill into the Mt. Hood National Forest and quickly enters the Clackamas Wilderness.


The 1.4 mile trail gained 700′ as it climbed through a lush green forest.



The trail crossed a couple of small streams before climbing to a more substantial crossing of Memaloose Creek.
IMG_6282First little stream crossing.

IMG_6288Another stream crossing, this one with skunk cabbage.

IMG_6296Memaloose Creek crossing.

IMG_6298Memaloose Creek above the crossing.

The crossing was made just a bit tricky by a downed log in the middle of the creek which required some awkward steps on potentially slick rocks.

Beyond the creek the trail made a long switchback up to Memaloose Lake.


IMG_6313Skunk cabbage, shooting stars, and marsh marigolds across the lake.

There were some rough skinned newts in the water that we watched for a bit.

After a short break at the lake we continued on crossing the outlet on some logs.

The Memaloose Lake Trail ends at the lake, but a user maintained trail continues uphill for a mile to the summit of South Fork Mountain.

The trail was in good shape for an “unmaintained” trail. There were a few trees down including a spot where we were forced to dip down on a hillside to get around one. The footing wasn’t bad but it could become an issue if not addressed.
IMG_6330Typical obstacles for the trail.

I was hoping for a few flowers on the summit but aside from some trillium a bit below the summit and some small parsley up top there weren’t any.


What there was though were views of volcanoes. It was pretty much cloudless and we had unimpeded views of the Cascades from Mt. Rainier down to the Three Sisters.
IMG_6352Mt. Rainier, Mt. Adams (with Goat Rocks the snowy patch just to the left), and Mt. Hood

IMG_6360Mt. Rainier

IMG_6358Goat Rocks to the left with Mt. Adams

IMG_6364Mt. St. Helens

IMG_6354Mt. Hood

IMG_6368Mt. Jefferson, Three Fingered Jack, Broken Top, Mt. Washington, and the Three Sisters.

IMG_6371Mt. Jefferson

IMG_6381Three Fingered Jack

IMG_6377Broken Top, Mt. Washington, and the Three Sisters

I am often surprised by views of Broken Top forgetting that it is quite a bit east of the Three Sisters. I hadn’t clued into the fact that it was visible behind Mt. Washington until I was writing this post.

After exploring the summit and taking another short break we headed back down to the trailhead and prepared to drive back down through the potholes to Highway 211.

The hike to Memaloose Lake and South Fork Mountain was 4.75 miles so when I was planning our outing I was looking for another hike in the 6 to 8 mile range in the area. Luckily Milo McIver State Park offered a couple of loop options that fit the bill.

I had chosen the Riverside Loop Hike described in the Field Guide.

We parked at the Riverside Day Use Area near the Clackamas Fish Hatchery and set off on the Dog Creek Loop Trail at the far end of the parking lot.


We took a quick detour to visit the Clackamas River and watch a duck on a rock.


The trail crossed Dog Creek twice on footbridges before arriving at the fish hatchery after .2 miles.



We stayed right here and continued to stay right at junctions for 1.2 miles to the start of the Vortex Loop which we had originally considered taking, but the junction with the trail on the right was simply marked with a hiker symbol and no trail name. It appeared to be heading back down to the trail we just came up so we continued on until coming to a viewpoint of the Clackamas River below.

IMG_6434Red elderberries


IMG_6443A phacelia


IMG_6448Tiger lily



Beyond the viewpoint we arrived at a meadow with a grassy track joining on our right we reread the description and realized that this was the other end of the Vortex Loop and we had missed the turn.

We decided to save the 2 mile Vortex Loop for another time and stayed on the Rivermill Trail which skirted the meadow before crossing a pair of roads, the second of which was near a horse staging area.

The horse staging area was located at another meadow which we turned right at skirting the edge on a wide track which was the Bat Trail (the Rivermill Trail was further to the right in the trees).

This led us to the Bat Barn and had a view of Mt. Hood which was now sporting some clouds.





It was too early in the day for bats but we did see a hawk with lunch.

Beyond the barn the Bat Trail rejoined the Rivermill Trail where we turned left and descended along a row of blackberry bushes.

This section of the Rivermill Trail hosted a horse training circuit which the six of us took turns training on.


The park had a serious issue with identifying trails. Most of the junctions indicated whether or not they were open to horses or just hikers, but the vast majority didn’t give the name of the trails or any indication of what might be down the trail. There was a sign for the Estacada Lake Trail though which we turned onto when we arrived at it.

We were now descending back down toward the river through a forest where a pileated woodpecker was busy working on a log.

When we arrived at a muddy pond we wondered if this could be the lake.

IMG_6534Dragonfly near the pond.

A quick look at the hike description let us know that this was indeed just a pond and that Estacada Lake was actually on the Clackamas River behind a dam. The Estacada Lake Trail dropped us onto South River Lake Road where we turned left along the river to the lake.




We picked up the Rivermill Trail again just beyond the dam viewpoint and followed it back to the Riverside Day Use Area and our cars. This loop came in at 6.5 miles giving us a nice 11.2 mile day. It was an interesting day in that the first hike had been in a wilderness area and we had seen no other people while the second hike was in a developed state park where there were other people and horses about. The scenery was very different but both hikes had their place.

It was also nice to share a hike with some other people. Most folks balk when they hear what time we leave in the morning (and sometimes when they hear how far we’re planning on going). Happy Trails!

Flickr: Memaloose Lake and Milo McIver State Park

Clackamas Hiking Old Cascades Oregon Trip report

Alder Flat and the Riverside Trail – 11/09/19

We managed to stay off the trail for two weeks but a favorable forecast called us back out for our November outing.  We chose a pair of hikes along the Clackamas River east of Estacada, OR.  The Riverside Trail was another of Sullivan’s featured hikes that we’d been saving for a rainy day, but we just didn’t have many of those this year so we decided to go ahead and check it off our to do list.

Before getting to the Riverside Trail though we stopped at the nearby Alder Flat Trailhead which is located along Highway 224 just west of the Ripplebrook Guard Station.
Alder Flat Trailhead

We arrived a little before the light so we waited at the trailhead for enough light before setting off on the .9 mile trail that led to the primitive Alder Flat Campground along the Clackamas River.
Sunrise over RipplebrookThere was a nice sunrise while we waited for enough light.

Alder Flat TrailAlder Flat Trail at the trailhead.

The trail passes by an old beaver pond and through a green forest before arriving at the campground near a swimming hole at a bend in the river. Maps also show a trail around the beaver pond but we followed it briefly on the way back and it petered out after crossing the outlet creek on a log.
Sunrise from the Alder Flat TrailPassing the old beaver pond.

Old beaver pond along the Alder Flat TrailBeaver pond from the former trail around it.

Former trail around the beaver pond.The trail around the pond petered out on the far side of this log.

Alder Flat TrailAlder Flat Trail in the forest.

Arriving at the campground.

Clackamas River at Alder FlatSwimming hole (It was a little too cold today.)

Clackamas River at Alder FlatClackamas River at the Alder Flat Campground.

From the Alder Flat Trailhead it was less than a mile to our starting point for the Riverside Trail at the Rainbow Campground.
Gate at Rainbow Campground

When the campground is open you need to pay to park there. With the campground closed there is no fee, but it does add a .3 mile road walk into and through the campground to reach the trail.
Rainbow CampgroundThe Rainbow Campground

The Riverside Trail sets off at the far end of the campground following the Oak Grove Fork of the Clackamas River.
Riverside Trail

Riverside Trail

Oak Grove Fork Clackamas River

The trail climbs up to an overlook of the Clackamas River in the first half mile near the confluence of the two rivers. We both were a bit confused at first when we got to the overlook because the river was suddenly flowing in the opposite direction, then we remembered that is was a different river.
Clackamas River

Clackamas River

Beyond this first viewpoint of the Clackamas River the Riverside Trail continues a little over three and a half miles to its end at the Riverside Campground. Along the way the trail makes several ups and downs as well as dipping deeper into the forest occasionally to navigate side canyons. There were a number of viewpoints above the river as well as numerous chances to explore the river bank. The final mile and half (after passing a spur trail coming from the no fee Riverside Trailhead) did spend more time closer to paved Forest Road 46 but there wasn’t a lot of traffic and the scenery was still nice.
Riverside TrailIn the forest for a bit.

Clackamas RiverViewpoint from above.

Riverside TrailBack in the forest.

Clackamas RiverAt the river.

Sun through the trees along the Riverside TrailSun peaking through the trees.

Rock formation along the Riverside Trailone of several rock formations along the trail.

Clackamas RiverAnother view of the Clackamas.

Riverside TrailSide creek crossing.

Clackamas RiverBack along the river.

Clackamas RiverRock pinnacle in the Clackamas River.

Riverside TrailSpur trail to the Riverside Trailhead.

Clackamas RiverViewpoint near the spur trail.

Clackamas RiverViewpoint near the spur trail.

Riverside Trail

Clackamas RiverAnother rocky beach along the Clackamas.

Clackamas RiverLooking down river.

Clackamas RiverNow from above the rock beach.

Just before reaching the end of the trail at the Riverside Campground the trail passed above a deep green hole.
Clackamas River

We’d been keeping our eyes open for fish all morning given how clear the river was but hadn’t seen any until we gazed into the water here. We spotted several large fish.
Fish in the Clackamas River

Fish in the Clackamas River

The trail descended from the viewpoint above the hole to the Riverside Campground where we watched an ouzel dip in and out of the river looking for snacks.
Riverside Trail sign at Riverside Campground

Riverside Campground



Clackamas RiverClackamas River at the Riverside Campground.

We headed back the way we’d come stopping to admire some of the mushrooms and fungi along the trail.




Tree mushroom

Mushrooms on a log

In addition to the fish we’d been on the lookout for rough skinned newts. As we stopped at a viewpoint looking across the river valley toward Fish Creek Mountain (post) we finally spotted one.
Fish Creek Mountain

Rough skinned newt

This is a very popular trail in the Summer based on the number of cars we’ve seen when driving past on the way home from other hikes. We didn’t see a lot of other hikers on this day although we did pass one group twice (near each end of the trail) and several others as we got close to the Rainbow Campground on the way back. The GPS said we did 9.5 miles which included several side trips along the river and to viewpoints as well as the .6 miles of road walking. For those looking for a shorter hike the Riverside Trailhead would be a good starting point or try the Alder Flat Trail which is only about 2 miles round trip.

With the Holiday Season quickly approaching it was nice to be able to get our November hike in early with such nice weather. We plan to head out once more next month to wrap up our 2019 hikes so until then Happy Trails!

Flickr: Alder Flat and the Riverside Trail

Clackamas Hiking Old Cascades Oregon Trip report

Old Baldy and Tumala Mountain – 8/15/2019

Hike number four of our vacation week was chosen in an attempt to avoid the sound of gunfire which seems to be extremely prevalent along the Forest Service roads near Estacada. We figured our best chance to minimize that unpleasant noise would be a mid-week early morning hike so when the forecast for the area called for sunny skies Thursday we jumped on the chance and headed to the Old Baldy West Trailhead. Our plan for the day was to start by hiking up to the summit of Old Baldy then returning past the Trailhead and heading SE to the summit of Tumala Mountain, a rare double out-and-back.

A bonus for this hike are the paved roads to the trailhead which is a small pullout near some boulders.

Reminders of the penchant for shooting guns in the area were everywhere.

Just beyond the trailhead we met the Old Baldy Trail where we went left toward Old Baldy. The trail briefly follows the Forest Road before they veer away from one another.

The Old Baldy Trail runs right along the border of the Salmon-Hucklberry Wilderness through a nice quiet (on this day) old growth forest. It was too late for the Rhododendron bloom which happens in early summer but there was a great variety of mushrooms to look at as we climbed up and down for nearly 3 miles to a cliff top viewpoint.













IMG_6547Wildcat Mountain (post) and Mt. Hood

The sunny forecast appeared to be being threatened by some encroaching clouds as we continued on from the viewpoint.


More varieties of mushrooms followed as we made our way toward Old Baldy.



The final pitch up Old Baldy was a steep one as the trail launched straight uphill to the site of a former lookout tower.


A thin layer of fog had moved in over the mountain, but that didn’t matter here because there are no longer any views except for back down through the trees.

After catching our breath at the summit we headed back the 3.8 miles to the trailhead, stopping again at the viewpoint to note the creeping clouds as they moved east over the Eagle Creek Valley (post).

We walked past the spur to the trailhead and ignored the unmarked Eagle Creek Cutoff Trail that descended to the left.

The Old Blady Trail quickly launched uphill briefly entering the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness.

After a short but extremely steep climb the trail leveled out for a bit. That was both good and bad news because it was only 1.7 miles from the trailhead to the top of Tumala Mountain but we needed to gain nearly 800′ so every step that wasn’t going uphill meant that the ones that did would need to be that much steeper. Just for kicks the trail dropped about 80′ to a saddle before starting abit of a more gradual climb to a junction with the Fanton Trail.
IMG_6617Huge mushroom along the downhill.


IMG_6624Fanton Trail coming up from the right.

The trail did give back a little as we began finding ripe huckleberries to snack on.

Approximately 1.3 miles from the trailhead we ignored a semi-signed trail to the left that went to Twin Springs Campground.

We stayed right climbing briefly along a narrow rocky ridge then beneath a rock outcrop to a rocky road bed where we turned uphill.



There were a few flowers clinging to the cliffs along the road.



A short road walk brought us to a tower just below the summit.

From the summit we had a pretty good view of Mt. Hood although the clouds had begun to get in the way.


To the south though we had a clear view of the more distant Mt. Jefferson.


IMG_6671Three Fingered Jack and the Three Sisters even further south.

IMG_6673Looking west into the cloud covered Willamette Valley.


We joined a chipmunk and took a snack break before exploring the old lookout site.

IMG_6698Stairs to the former lookout.

IMG_6702Mt. Hood from the former lookout site.

By the time we began our descent Mt. Hood had vanished behind the clouds. Our timing had been pretty good, not only for the views but we made it back to our car without seeing another person or hearing a single gunshot.

The hike was 10.6 miles and approximately 2200′ of cumulative elevation gain. Skipping the viewless summit of Old Baldy would shed 1.8 miles and a couple hundred feet of elevation and only going to one viewpoint instead of both would lower the numbers even further. It was a really nice hike so hopefully the reputation of the area doesn’t scare hikers off. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Old Baldy & Tumala Mountain

Clackamas Hiking Old Cascades Oregon Trip report

Baty Butte, Skookum Lake, and Thunder Mountain – 7/26/2019

Sticking with our Matt Reeder inspired vacation, on Thursday we selected a hike featured in both his “101 Hikes in the Majestic Mount Jefferson Region” and “Off the Beaten Trail” second edition. In the latter he doesn’t describe the extended hike to Baty Butte. We started our hike at the Thunder Mountain Trailhead where, just as at the Pine Ridge Trailhead, we were greeted by mosquitoes.
IMG_4576Spur road leading to the trail from the pullout.

IMG_4580Signage at the end of the closed spur.

The trail began climbing almost immediately via a switchback that passed us through a thimbleberry and devil’s club covered hillside.
IMG_4581Thimbleberry crowding the trail.

IMG_4582Devil’s club along the trail. We each had our hands brush against some and it doesn’t feel pleasant.

IMG_4587Lupine and paintbrush in the thimbleberries as the trail enters the forest.

After the initial battle with the brush the trail entered the forest where some old growth was present and the trail much clearer.


IMG_4600It looked like these two trees fell out of the same hole but in different directions.

IMG_4609Anemone and queen’s cup

IMG_4612Beargrass and huckleberry bushes.

After climbing for a mile we reached a viewpoint at a switchback with a view of Mt. Jefferson.

IMG_4618Schreiner Peak in front of Mt. Jefferson.

Another .2 miles of climbing along a wildflower dotted ridge brought us to a junction just below the summit of Thunder Mountain.

IMG_4626Small sign on the tree marking the trail to Thunder Mountain’s summit.

We decided to save Thunder Mountain for the return trip due to the position of the Sun and the presence of quite a bit of haze. We followed the pointers on a temporary sign for Skookum Lake and Baty Butte.

The Skookum Lake Trail began to descend along a steep hillside that looked to have had an excellent wildflower display just a week or two earlier. As it was there were still a decent number of flowers in bloom.

IMG_4635Washington lilies


IMG_4648Assorted flowers

20190726_075502Washington lilies

IMG_4650Oregon sunshine

20190726_075546Scouler’s bluebells

IMG_4653Columbine and a couple different types of penstemon.

IMG_4663Cat’s ear lily



The trail left the wildflowers as it made a horseshoe shaped turn into thicker trees.
IMG_4671Skookum Lake Trail below coming out of the horseshoe turn.

Approximately a mile from the Thunder Mountain junction we passed a rocky viewpoint where large basalt boulders were jumbled along the hillside.


We didn’t stop to check out the view until our way back by, but there was a decent view of Mt. Hood and through the trees we could make out Mt. Rainier.

IMG_4933Mt. Hood

IMG_4938Mt. Rainier

The trail descended another half mile beyond the rocks before leveling out along a meadow.
IMG_4675The trail skirts a talus slope above the meadow.

IMG_4681Finally leveling out by the meadow after losing approximately 700′.

The meadow is also the site of the junction with the abandoned Baty Butte Trail which was marked by a sad little rock cairn and tattered flagging along with an easy to miss temporary sign.

IMG_4889I missed the sign until we had come back and started down the Skookum Lake Trail.

There were a few mosquitoes patrolling the meadow so we didn’t linger long but we did stick around long enough to notice several types of flowers still blooming.
IMG_4686Tall bluebells

IMG_4687The yellow might be a groundsel.


The tread of the trail was difficult to make out but there was some flagging on the far side and a faint path to it.

Beyond the meadow the trail became a bit more obvious as it passed through the trees. Occasional flagging assisted in keeping us on track.


The trail climbed a bit before arriving at an old roadbed .4 miles from the meadow.

The road was a casualty of the 1996 storms that caused flooding in Oregon and washed out much of the Fish Creek road network. The roadbed is now more of a wildflower garden. We turned right onto the road following a faint path through the flowers.

Shortly after setting off on the road there was a nice view of Mt. Hood to the north.


This was by far the most enjoyable stretch of old roadbed we’ve been on. The wildflowers were profuse and there were dozens of butterflies flying about. It was the tail end of the flowers but they were still very impressive.
IMG_4705Paintbrush, penstemon and lupine




IMG_4721Mostly past lupine




IMG_4732Several butterflies on Oregon sunshine.


IMG_4742Scarlet gilia




At about the .4 mile mark another old road joined from the right which wasn’t a problem on the way to Baty Butte but it is worth noting because coming from the other direction it looked like it might be easy to continue straight on the wrong roadbed.
IMG_4840Left is the wrong way on the return, the correct route is to the right through the brush.

IMG_4841Flagging marking the correct path.

Near the three quarter mile mark on the road we passed some rock out crops and a talus slope where we spotted a pika and some golden-mantled ground squirrels.




Shortly after passing along a narrow ridge the road arrived at the base of Baty Butte.


The road continued around the butte to the left but the Baty Butte Trail headed uphill amid some small trees.
IMG_4790Baty Butte Trail to the right.

The trail climbed around the side of the butte and showed some signs of recent trail maintenance.


After .4 miles on the trail, as it began to curve around a ridge, we turned uphill on a scramble trail.
IMG_4797Baty Butte Trail starting to curve around the ridge.

IMG_4798Scramble route up the ridge.

It was a steep quarter mile climb up the ridge which devolved into a narrow rocky spine toward the top.
IMG_4800Looking down from the start of the spine.



It required the use of our hands to navigate this and we stopped at a wide (for the ridge) spot. From here it appeared that the number of trees increased to a point that would make continuing even more difficult.

From this viewpoint we had a view of Mt. Jefferson and the Three Sisters.

IMG_4820Mt. Jefferson

IMG_4821Three Fingered Jack, Mt. Washington, and the Three Sisters.

There was also an excellent view of Table Rock and Rooster Rock in the Table Rock Wilderness (post).

IMG_4813Rooster Rock is the formation to the far left.

IMG_4823Looking down from Baty Butte.

After a brief rest we headed back eager to see more of the butterflies and flowers along the road.



20190726_105330Orange agoseris


IMG_4860Pearly everlasting


We also got to sample a few ripe strawberries.

The trail heading off of the road was easier to spot than it had been at the meadow.

Back through the meadow we went to the Skookum Lake Trail.
IMG_4877Monkeyflower along the trail.

IMG_4887Crab spider on aster.

We turned left following the pointer for Skookum Lake.

The Skookum Lake Trail descended for three tenths of a mile to Skookum Lake.

IMG_4893Rhododendron along the Skookum Lake Trail.


The little lake was full of activity with butterflies flying along the shore and rough skinned newts floating lazily in the water. Trout were also visible swimming in the shallows.


We followed the trail along the lake shore to the Skookum Lake Campground.



A forest road used to provide access to the primitive campground. It still sees some use though as the litter left in a bucket near the picnic table showed.

As we headed back along the lake Heather spotted a crawdad on a log.



After watching the crawdad for a bit we climbed back up to the junction with the Baty Butte Trail and then made the steep climb back up to the Thunder Mountain spur trail where we turend left.
IMG_4939Small sign on a tree marking the trail to the summit of Thunder Mountain.

It was just a tenth of a mile climb to the site of the former lookout tower at the summit.


From the summit we could again see Mt. Jefferson but now we also had a view north to Mt. Hood, Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, and Mt. Adams.
IMG_4945The view north.

IMG_4947Mt. St. Helens

IMG_4949Mt. Rainier and Mt. Adams beyond Fish Creek Mountain (post).

IMG_4967Mt. Hood

IMG_4966Mt. Jefferson

From the summit we headed back down to the car stopping at the lower viewpoint which had a better view of Mt. Jefferson.

Shortly before reaching the brushy section we passed a group of backpackers headed up the trail, the only people we saw all day. This was a really nice hike with a variety of scenery. Even if the scramble up Baty Butte is a little too much for some with the exposure the road walk to the butte was well worth a visit during wildflower season. The hike came in at just over 10 miles with a little over 3000′ of elevation gain making it a bit of a challenge but nothing too crazy. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Baty Butte, Skookum Lake, and Thunder Mountain

Clackamas Old Cascades Oregon Trip report

Fish Creek Mountain and High Lake – 6/28/2019

After taking Wednesday and Thursday off from hiking due to less than favorable weather forecasts we headed out on Friday planning on hiking the Riverside Trail along the Clackamas River. The forecast was for a 40% chance of showers and partly sunny so we thought a river hike was a safe bet and the Riverside Trail was one of Sullivan’s featured hikes that we had yet to do.

As we turned onto Highway 242 at Estacada though we began to rethink our plan. The sky had been relatively clear so far and we hated wasting a good river hike on a day where there might be views to have. Prior to knowing what the weather was going to be like we had originally had Fish Creek Mountain as one of our hikes for the week and as luck would have it the trailhead for that hike was also off of Highway 242. When we reached the sign for Indian Henry Campground (just before the 4th green bridge coming from the west) we veered right onto FR 4620. We followed this one lane paved road for 5.1 miles to gravel where we forked uphill for an additional 2.6 miles to the trailhead on the left. The trailhead is an old roadbed that is only marked by a wooden sign on a tree next to the start of the Fish Creek Mountain Trail. (Note: The sign is unreadable unless up close.)

The trailhead was moved to this location following the road to the original trailhead being washed out in 1996. The trail here was constructed by volunteers who connected it to the washed out road .4 miles from the original trailhead.

The trail gains 500′ over seven tenths of a mile as it climbs through a mixed forest to the decommissioned road.



We started to question our decision as we found ourselves in a bit of fog as we arrived at the old road.

IMG_1116Columbine along the decommissioned road.


The trail along this stretch was a bit overgrown in places and the moisture from the plants soaked us pretty good.

After a relatively level .4 miles along the road we arrived at the original trailhead where the trail headed up a ridge past a trail marker.

The trail climbed along the ridge and as it did we began to emerge from the fog.



The ridge was mostly forested with a few views to the west through the trees, but as we climbed occasional small meadows popped up filled with wildflowers.










Just over a mile and a quarter from the old road we came to a rocky outcrop where the flowers were amazing. As a bonus there was a nice view of Mt. Jefferson to the SE.






It wasn’t the largest wildflower area by any means, but there was an impressive variety of flowers in bloom, so much so that we stopped again on our way down.

20190628_081050A penstemon

IMG_1232False sunflower

IMG_1239A penstemon

20190628_081334Oregon sunshine

>IMG_1251Lupine among others

20190628_081532Cliff beardstounge



IMG_1268blue head gilia

IMG_1283Bleeding heart


20190628_110922Woodland stars

IMG_1470Larkspur and ballhead waterleaf



20190628_110406Cat’s ear lily

20190628_110329Wild rose

20190628_110300Buckwheat in blue head gilia


IMG_1472Larkspur, leafy pea, and candy flower

IMG_1286Rhododendron (just around the corner from the outcrop)

Beyond the viewpoint the trail gained an additional 600′ over the next .7 miles to a fork. There were a few more flowers along this stretch, mostly white forest varieties.
20190628_082236Star-flowered solomonseal

20190628_082244Plumed solomonseal

20190628_082253Vanilla leaf



IMG_1320Trail fork

From the fork the Fish Creek Mountain Trail continues uphill a little under a half mile to the site of the former lookout tower at the summit. The fork to the right heads downhill for .7 miles to High Lake. With blue sky overhead we decided to visit the summit first and stayed left at the junction.


Some of the foundation remains from the old lookout at the overgrown summit.

Despite the blue sky overhead clouds had moved in around us effectively eliminating any mountain views (Mt. Jefferson should have been visible from the summit). We rested a bit checking out the beargrass and a green beetle that was scurrying through the grass.


We started back down and noticed a side trail to the left about 110 yards from the old lookout site. We headed up this path which lead to a rocky outcrop with a survey marker.

It looked like it would have been a pretty good viewpoint but for us it was just a view of the clouds passing by.



After watching for a view of Mt. Hood that never developed in a break in the clouds as they passed by we returned to the trail fork and turned left toward High Lake.


This trail lost nearly 500′ as it wound down to the small glacial lake. Nestled in a basin below Fish Creek Mountain the vegetation along the trail was quite a bit behind that along the Fish Creek Mountain Trail. Here huckleberry bushes were still sprouting leaves and trillium were still in bloom.


We even ran into a small patch of snow hiding under some downed branches along the trail.

The small lake was quite pretty and it was also full of rough skinned newts.



We followed a rough use trail around the lake past a handful of campsites.


IMG_1417Curious newt


It was a little too chilly to hang out by the lake so after completing the loop we started back up to the Fish Creek Mountain Trail. Along the way we finally got a glimpse of part of Mt. Hood, albeit not much of one.

Mt. Jefferson had all but disappeared too when we stopped back at the flower filled viewpoint.

We had at least had a good view earlier and the wildflowers had made this a great hike even if we hadn’t had any views. We headed back down looking for any other flowers to take pictures of and found a few.
20190628_113006_001Inside out flower

20190628_113615Spotted coralroot

20190628_113701Stripped coralroot


IMG_1489Candy sticks

IMG_1500Wild strawberries

We were happy with our decision to forgo the Riverside Trail in favor of this hike. We had not expected to see such a variety of flowers in bloom which was a pleasant surprise. The combination of the flowers, a view of Mt. Jefferson and a nice lake made for a great 8.1 mile hike. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Fish Creek Mountain

Clackamas Hiking Old Cascades Oregon Throwback Thursday Trip report

Throwback Thursday – Clackamas River Trail

It’s time for another throwback Thursday hike. This week we’re covering our 6/30/2012 visit to the Clackamas River Trail. This was a strange hike for us. For some reason we were really dragging on this hike. Of the hikes where we’ve had our GPS with us our average moving speed for this one was our 9th slowest. All eight of the slower hikes had extenuating circumstance such as snow or extended off-trail stretches which contributed to the slower pace but this hike had none of that.

We began our hike at the Fish Creek Trailhead. The steep hillsides in the Clackamas River Canyon are prone to slides and rockfall which close the trail from time to time so as always it pays to double check the trail status before heading out.
Fish Creek Trailhead

The trail contoured along the hillside above the Clackamas River often within sight of Highway 224 on the opposite side. A half mile from the trailhead the trail spent some time near the riverbank before climbing away through a 2003 fire zone.
Clackamas River

Foggy forest along the Clackamas River Trail

Clackamas River

June flowers bloomed along the way including orange tiger lilies, purple penstemon, and red columbine.

The trail left the 2003 fire zone after 2 miles and entered a lush green forest passing several small side streams.
Stream along the Clackamas River Trail

Waterfall back in the trees

Skunk cabbage

Creek along the Clackamas River Trail

Rhododendrons were blooming along this section.

There was also a unique feature on a tree trunk, what appeared to us to be a face coming out of the wood.
Face in a tree

Just over 3.5 miles from the Fish Creek Trailhead we arrived at Pup Creek where a pointer to the right led us on side trail to 100′ Pup Creek Falls.
Pup Creek Falls

Pup Creek Falls

We had lunch by the falls before continuing. Our original plan had been to hike to Indian Henry Campground and back for a 15.6 mile round trip but the bridge at Pup Creek was out. We contemplated fording the creek but we had both felt pretty lethargic and knew we were dragging so we turned around and headed back leaving the other section for another time. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Clackamas River

Clackamas Hiking Old Cascades Oregon Trip report

Big Bottom (Clackamas Wilderness) & Rho Ridge Trail

For the second outing in a row we turned to Matt Reeder’s “101 hikes in the Majestic Mount Jefferson Region” as our guide. A number of the hikes in this book are lesser known and therefor less popular which means fewer people and most likely more challenging due to spoty trail maintenance.

We began our day with a short hike into one of Oregon’s wilderness areas that we had yet to visit, the Clackamas Wilderness. This particular wilderness is broken up into five separate tracts of land, one of which is Big Bottom. The Big Bottom tract protects an old growth forest along the Clackamas River. Although there are no official trails in Big Bottom a decommissioned logging road allows for a mile long walk down to the wilderness boundary where a use trail continues north for a little over half a mile before vanishing in brush.

To reach the decommissioned road we drove Forest Road 46 north from Detroit for 28.6 miles to Fores Road 4670 where we turned left crossing the Clackamas River. Just beyond the bridge we turned right on FR 4671 for .7 miles and parked on the right at the old road.
Closed road 120 which leads to the Big Bottom unit of the Clackamas Wilderness

We followed the roadbed downhill through a previously logged forest.
Heading down to Big Bottom

Just prior to reaching the wilderness boundary the road bed became choked with downed trees which we simply detoured around.
Trees leaning over old road 150

At a junction with an even older roadbed we turned left (north) and followed what became a clear user path into the old growth of Big Bottom.
Big Bottom

Big Bottom

There were a few downed trees to navigate but the path was easy enough to follow until we neared a creek where the ground became marshy and the underbrush extremely thick.
Big Bottom

We turned around at that point returning to the car to complete a 3.4 mile hike. That was our warm-up for the day before a longer hiker on the nearby Rhododendron (Rho) Ridge Trail. Our plan was to start at Graham Pass and follow the trail south 4.8 miles to the Hawk Mountain Trail and take the .4 mile trail up to the Hawk Mountain Lookout.

To reach Graham Pass we followed FR 4670 for 13.9 miles to FR 6530 where a large parking area was visible. There was no signage visible at the parking area, just a blank signboard along an old logging road.
Rho Ridge Trailhead

With no obvious trail visible we turned to the forest service map and our GPS to try and see if we could tell where the trail was supposed to be. Both of these indicated that the trail lay just east of the parking area so we headed into the trees and began to hunt for any sign of it.
Beargrass near Graham Pass

After a few minutes of climbing through the brush and crossing the location of the trail as shown on the GPS several times we decided to head toward the logging road. The GPS showed it curving back to the east further uphill where the Rho Ridge Trail would cross it and we figured the worst case scenario was we’d have to walk the road up to the crossing where we would hopefully be able to identify the trail. We were also beginning to suspect that the location of the trail on the maps was incorrect which is not all that uncommon. Sure enough we found the trail before reaching the road.
Rho Ridge Trail

We turned uphill following this obvious trail through beargrass filled meadows.
Rho Ridge Trail

Beargrass along the Rho Ridge Trail

The trail was brushy at times with lots of huckleberry bushes encroaching on the trail.
Rho Ridge Trail

The tread was faint through most of the meadows and blowdown was common along the way but old blazes and yellow diamonds on trees helped identify the trail.
Rho Ridge Trail

Blowdown over the Rho Ridge Trail

Rho Ridge Trail

The trail had several road crossing and shortly after the third we arrived at Fawn Meadow where a small stream flowed through a meadow of wildflowers.
Meadow along the Rho Ridge Trail

Shooting star

Wildflowers along the Rho Ridge Trail

After a fourth road crossing the trail entered another beargrass meadow with a partial view of Mt. Hood and Mt. Adams.
Penstemon lined road crossing

Mt. Hood and Mt. Adams from a beargrass meadow along the Rho Ridge Trail

The brush was particularly thick as we exited the meadow which required us to really pay attention to the trail which was hard to see through all the green. We reentered the forest where we crossed one final old logging road before spotting the first snow along the trail. (There was actually a larger patch lower that we’d notice on the way back down but somehow we both missed it on the way up.)
Rho Ridge Trail

Snow along the Rho Ridge Trail

The little patch of snow was near Round Creek which was flowing on this day. The sound of the creek was nice but we didn’t dare stop to admire it due to the many blood thirsty mosquitoes that were present. Just under half a mile later we spotted the sign for the Hawk Mountain Trail.
Rho Ridge Trail jct with the Hawk Mountain Trail

We turned uphill here climbing approximately 300′ in .4 miles to the summit meadow and the Hawk Mountain Lookout.
Hawk Mountain Trail

Snow along the Hawk Mountain Trail

Hawk Mountain Lookout and Mt. Jefferson

Hawk Mountain Lookout

The view from the summit is a good one especially of Mt. Jefferson.
Mt. Jefferson, Three Fingered Jack, The Three Sisters and Mt. Washington from Hawk Mountain

Mt. Jefferson

Additionally Three Fingered Jack, The Three Sisters, and Mt. Washington were visible further south with the very top of Broken Top poking up above the ridge north of Three Fingered Jack.
Three Fingered Jack, The Three Sisters, an Mt. Washington

The view wasn’t the only attraction at the summit. An impressive display of wildflowers was underway which had attracted a wide variety of pollinators.
Wildflowers on Hawk Mountain

Wildflowers on Hawk Mountain

Wildflowers on Hawk Mountain

Wildflowers on Hawk Mountain

Butterfly on penstemon

After a nice break it was time to head back.
Mt. Jefferson from Hawk Mountain

On the way down the Hawk Mountain Trail we stepped off the trail briefly to get a view to the north since trees on the summit had not allowed us to see in that direction. Mt. Rainier, Mt. Adams, and Mt. Hood were all visible.
Mt. Rainier, Mt. Adams and Mt. Hood

On the way back we managed to follow the trail all the way down where we discovered that the official start of the trail was just a few feet up the logging road from the blank signboard. The Rho Ridge Trail sign had been just out of sight.
Rho Ridge Trail sign

The hike from Graham Pass to Hawk Mountain was 10.7 but a shorter option exists by starting at the southern end of the Rho Ridge Trail. From this end the hike up to Hawk Mountain is just 4.2 miles round trip. This was the second straight outing that we didn’t encounter a single other hiker along the trails. As overcrowded as some of the popular trails have become it’s nice to know that there are still some out there that offer a little more solitude. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Big Bottom & Rho Ridge

Clackamas Hiking Old Cascades Oregon Trip report

Shellrock, Serene, and the Rock Lakes

We headed out on the first day of Autumn for our first post Summer hike and boy did Fall arrive in full force. We headed to the Roaring River Wilderness to check out several lakes on a loop hike. There was a possible view of Mt. Hood and several Washington snow peaks, but it was obvious from the forecast that any views were unlikely. The Roaring River Wilderness is part of the Mt. Hood National Forest and one we had yet to visit. We began our hike at the Shellrock Lake trail head under cloudy skies and a light mist.

After donning our rain gear for the first time in months we decided to do a “warm up” hike to Hideaway Lake in the opposite direction of our planned hike. The trail to Hideaway Lake started on the opposite side of the road from the Shellrock Lake trail. A short .5 miles path brought us to the lake which we then circled on a 1 mile loop. After completing the loop we returned to the parking area and set off toward Shellrock Lake.

The Shellrock Lake trail quickly entered the Roaring River Wilderness and just a short while later we arrived at Shellrock Lake. Fog drifted over the water at this peaceful lake which had plenty of campsites but no campers.

Shellrock Lake
Shellrock Lake

We passed by the lake and began climbing at a sign for the Frazier Turnaround. This portion of the trail was fairly steep and rocky and also full of rough skinned newts. After 1.3 miles of climbing we arrived at Frazier Turnaround where we could have parked if we’d been willing to try the terrible access road.

From Frazier Turnaround the loop portion of our hike started. We followed a sign pointing to Serene and the Rock Lakes. Our first destination was Middle Rock Lake. We took the quarter mile path to the lake where we spotted numerous crawdads and a frog.

Crawdads in Middle Rock Lake
Crawdads in Middle Rock Lake
Frog in Middle Rock Lake
Frog in Middle Rock Lake

The trail continued along Middle Rock Lake and was supposed to take us to Upper Rock Lake. We ran into a little bit of an issue as we attempted to follow this portion of the trail when it appeared to veer away from the lake. We followed this faint path uphill where it was becoming increasingly overgrown until it finally disappeared at several fallen trees. Thinking the trees had blocked the path we worked our way around them and picked up what appeared to be the continuation of the faint path which quickly ended below a rock slide with no lake in sight. It was time to break out the Garmin (again) which revealed that we were too far to the right of Upper Rock Lake so we set off cross country through the wet brush. We passed a pair of scenic lily pad ponds before finally reaching Upper Rock Lake and finding a good trail leading to it’s shore.

Pond near Upper Rock Lake
Pond near Upper Rock Lake
Upper Rock Lake
Upper Rock Lake

We followed the good trail down and discovered the source of our confusion. A tree had fallen along the shore of Middle Rock Lake which had hidden the trail and obscured the view of the single pink flagging that indicated the correct path. We had turned right at the uprooted base of this tree on the only visible path to us at the time.

We had one more of the Rock Lakes to visit, Lower Rock Lake, which was on the other side of the loop trail so we returned the way we came and went down to visit this last one. There wasn’t much to see there, just a nice little forest lake so we quickly returned to the Serene Lake trail and continued our loop. The trail had dropped down to the Rock Lakes but now we were climbing up through a nice forest. After several switchbacks the trail leveled out and arrived at Serene Lake. This was the deepest lake of the day and was surrounded by rocky slopes and forest. Clouds drifted up over the hillsides surrounding the lake while we had a snack on it’s shore.

Serene Lake
Serene Lake

We left Serene Lake and headed for our last point of interest, Cache Meadow. The trail continued to climb as we continued on until finally leveling off on a plateau above Serene Lake. Here would have been the mountain views with Serene Lake below but the weather had not cooperated and only Serene Lake was barely visible below.

Serene Lake from the viewpoint
Serene Lake from the viewpoint

The rain began to pick up as we approached Cache Meadow. The meadow was larger than I had expected and the remains of a vast display of flowers covered the ground. Now only a few aster held some lingering petals. A small unnamed lake filled one end of the meadow but we didn’t explore much due to the increasing rain.

Cache Meadow
Cache Meadow

The next four plus miles was through the rain as we completed the loop back to Frazier Turnaround and then descended back to Shellrock Lake. The rain did let up as we left the wilderness area long enough for us to change into dry clothing before driving home. The only thing missing was a cup of hot chocolate 🙂 Happy Trails

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Clackamas Hiking Old Cascades Oregon Trip report

Timothy Lake

We reached into our bag of backup hikes this past weekend and grabbed what wound up being a decent little hike. We were needing something in the Portland, OR area because after the hike we were set to celebrate the upcoming birthdays of my Grandmother Zana (89) and our Son Dominique (18) at Gustav’s Our original plan was to hike up Cooper Spur on Mt. Hood but the forecast called for thunder storms so we decided to save that one for another time and went to plan B which was a loop around Timothy Lake.

I am a bit hesitant when it comes to hiking around a lake because loops like that can sometimes lack a scenic diversity, but Timothy Lake was in the right area and had an appealing distance and elevation gain (14.2mi & <1000'). We started our hike at Little Crater Lake Campground in order to visit Little Crater Lake before starting the loop. Little Crater Lake is the result of a cold spring that has removed soft soils over time leaving a clear blue pool of water.
Reflection in Little Crater Lake Reflection in Little Crater Lake
A pair of ducks floated on the small lake while the surrounding meadows were draped in a low layer of fog. Shortly after leaving the lake we arrived at a junction with the Pacific Crest Trail where we turned left for .3 miles to the start of the official loop.

We remained on the PCT heading south, crossing Crater Creek, and passing several small springs before reaching our first good view of Timothy Lake. A great blue heron flew by and landed in a tree a little further down the lake shore from where we stood.

Timothy Lake
Timothy Lake
Great blue heron
Great blue heron

For the next 2 miles the PCT stayed in the forest away from the lake shore. Numerous paths led from the trail toward the lake but we stuck to the PCT as I was on a mission to find a view of Mt. Hood.

We knew Hood was visible from the lake, but we didn’t know from which part of the trail, and we’d managed to forget both the guide book and a map. When we reached the Oak Grove Fork Clackamas River the trail split from the PCT and continued along the lake shore toward the first of several busy campgrounds. It was at the second of these campgrounds that Mt. Hood was finally visible.
The campgrounds reminded me of another reason I am leery of lake loops. Crowded, noisy, and often disappointingly dirty (Is it really that hard to throw your garbage away?) these types of campgrounds are diametrically opposed to the tranquil beauty of nature. I think it’s great that people want to go out and enjoy God’s creation, but it would be nice if more of them respected it enough to be good stewards as I believe God intended when he gave man dominion over it. End of rant and back to the trail ;).

We hurried our way through the first 3 campgrounds and then were faced with a fork in the trail. To the right a path led along the lake but the sign indicated the only allowed use was for bikes. The left fork showed open to horses, hikers, and bikes and since we had already commented on the bike tire marks on a hiker only portion earlier we went left. This fork crossed paved road 57 and continued through the forest parallel to the road until reaching the dam that created Timothy Lake.

Oak Grove Fork Clackamas River continuing on from the Timothy Lake dam.
Oak Grove Fork Clackamas River continuing on from the Timothy Lake dam.

After passing through yet another campground the trail once again became peaceful as it continued on to Meditation Point. Meditation Point is a peninsula with a small tent campground. We took the short .3 mile trial to the end of the peninsula which had a nice view despite no longer having a view of Mt. Hood.

Timothy Lake from Meditation Point
Timothy Lake from Meditation Point

Continuing on the loop after Meditation Point we worked our way around the lake to the NW side where the top of Mt. Jefferson was now visible.
Just a short while later we spotted a line of ducks floating on the lake. We headed down to the shore to get a closer look and as we were doing so an osprey had the same idea.

Osprey flying of ducks on TImothy Lake
Osprey flying of ducks on TImothy Lake

It was interesting to watch as the ducks began to huddle together while the osprey flew overhead. After a couple of passes the osprey flew off leaving the ducks in peace.

After that interesting encounter the hike was fairly uneventful. We went around one final campground before veering away from the lake for good and returning to the PCT. We stopped again to marvel at Little Crater Lake before returning to our car and completing the trip.

Reflections on Little Crater Lake
Reflections on Little Crater Lake

Happy Trails!

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