Hiking Indian Heaven Trip report Washington Washington Cascades

Grassy Knoll & Big Huckleberry Mountain – 7/06/2019

It has been an interesting couple of months where the weather is concerned. We have spent a lot of time checking forecasts trying to find the most favorable hiking conditions. It seems that in years past when the forecast hasn’t been good it hasn’t been good anywhere within our driving range but this year has been different. For the most part we have been able to find at least one location with the possibility of “partly sunny” conditions. For our most recent hike that location was Grassy Knoll in Washington.

A quick scan of forecasts the night before our hike showed that the forecast for Grassy Knoll was partly sunny skies moving to mostly sunny later in the day. Nearby Big Huckleberry Mountain, which was to be our turn around point, was a little less favorable but mostly cloudy to partly sunny didn’t sound too bad.

We followed the directions to the Grassy Knoll Trailhead from the field guide. While the forecast had been good the roads were not. The roads weren’t the worst we’d been on, but they did take home the award for most unavoidable potholes. High clearance was helpful and driving was slow at times but we arrived at the trailhead in one piece.

We had driven through quite a bit of drizzle between Portland and Cascade Locks but had been encouraged by the sight of the edge of the cloud cover to the east. Unfortunately the break was further east than we were so we set off on the trail under a full cover of clouds.

The trail started off in a past peak wildflower meadow but there were still a few flowers blooming.
IMG_2729Arrow leaf buckwheat

IMG_2730Blue-head gilia, stonecrop, wild onion, and arrow leaf buckwheat

IMG_2735Farewell-to-spring waiting for the Sun (just like us)

After climbing through the meadow the trail entered the forest and continued to climb fairly steeply at first.

There were a surprising number of flowers blooming amid the bushes and trees along the forested ridge.
IMG_2746Tiger lily

IMG_2765Twin flower




IMG_2793Patinbrush and penstemon


IMG_2803Lots of arnica

The trail passed what we took for two viewpoints, but with the cloudy conditions we couldn’t tell what the view should have been.
IMG_2784First viewpoint approximately 1 mile in.

IMG_2774First viewpoint

IMG_2807Second viewpoint, about 1.5 miles in. The hillside was covered in cat’s ear lilies.


IMG_2811Penstemon and cat’s ears

IMG_2824Cat’s ears and wild onion

Beyond the second viewpoint the trail alternated between forest and wildflower meadow for a quarter mile before starting a fairly steep climb up the open hillside of Grassy Knoll.


IMG_2834Two kinds of paintbrush



20190706_081510Looks to be some sort of orchid

IMG_2848Blue-head gilia and an unknown yellow flower.

IMG_2852Arrow leaf buckwheat and blue-head gilia

IMG_2857A bunch of flowers

IMG_2862Starting up Grassy Knoll

We were a little late for peak flowers but the hillside still had a lot to show us.




After just two miles of hiking we came to the site of the former lookout tower atop Grassy Knoll. It wasn’t even close to partly sunny by the way.

With no view to speak of we continued on hoping that the clouds would start breaking up soon, or at least by the time we were passing back by. The trail leaving Grassy Knoll was a bit brushy at first but then cleared up. There were plenty more flowers to see as we continued along a somewhat level ridge.


IMG_2894A little better view down for a moment.




A little under a quarter mile from the lookout site we entered the first in a series of impressive wildflower meadows along the ridge.

This first meadow had a bit of a beetle infestation.










IMG_2926Phlox and a cat’s ear lily







IMG_2952Another type of penstemon







IMG_2996Not sure what this is either, it’s the first time we recall seeing it.





Finally, after nearly one and a quarter miles of wildflower bliss the trail veered off the ridge to the left and entered the forest.


It was a nice forest with a bright green understory.


Around the 3.75 mile mark we arrived at Cold Springs Camp


A spur trail led down to what we presume was Cold Spring but it was hidden in brush. The unofficial (but signed) Alway Trail led downhill on a faint path to FR 68 from the camp as well. Just beyond this camp was another sign for Hilltop Camp, but unlike Cold Springs Camp this one looked to no longer be used.


The trail was part of the Cascade Crest Trail which was the precursor to the Pacific Crest Trail. The current route of the PCT is further to the west but it does pass Big Huckleberry Mountain and we would briefly be on it later.

From the camps the trail lost some elevation as it passed beneath a rock outcrop which looked to have a pretty good sized cave or at least a big overhang at its base.


We arrived at the PCT five and a quarter miles from the trailhead.


From here we were about five miles south of the trailhead where we had set off on the PCT on our 2018 hike to Indian Racetrack in the Indian Heaven Wilderness (post). We turned right, took a couple of steps, and veered right again following the pointer for Big Huckleberry Mountain. A .2 mile climb brought us to the open summit where the forecast was right for the first time today, it was mostly cloudy.


Big Huckleberry Mountain was also home to a lookout at one time but now aside from a few remains the summit was just occupied by wildflowers.







A fairly long rocky spine extended east from the former lookout site with a couple of pockets of trees separating the open areas where the flowers were prevalent.





The slope eventually steepened enough to make for a good stopping point.

The end here was just a little further beneath the clouds which allowed for a good view of the Big Lava Bed which lay between Big Huckleberry Mountain and Mt. Adams but not for much else.

There was also a view south where the Bridge of the Gods could be seen (barely) spanning the Columbia River.


After exploring the summit and also resting a bit we headed back. There were some encouraging signs that the clouds might actually move on as we made our way back through the wildflower meadows.


IMG_3146Snowy flank of Mt. Adams through the clouds.



Back at Grassy Knoll the conditions were better than they had been earlier in the morning but they still weren’t great.


IMG_3212Wind Mountain and the Columbia River

The same was true for the other viewpoints.
IMG_3227Little Huckleberry Mountain and Big Lava Bed

IMG_3229A bit of Mt. Adams again.

It was a little frustrating to be able to see clear blue sky beyond the edge of the clouds, but what can you do. The flower show had been more than entertaining and to cap the hike off the farewell-to-spring near the trailhead had started to open up despite the lack of sunshine.


Missing out on the view will put this 11.8 mile hike toward the front of the list for a revisit, although the roads might hold it back just a bit. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Grassy Knoll and Big Huckleberry Mountain

Columbia River Gorge South Hiking Oregon Trip report

Dry Creek and Pacific Crest Falls

Despite what the weather thinks we are approaching our hiking season which means we will be hitting the trails much more often over the next 6 months. As we work our way into hiking shape we jumped on a chance at a rain free morning and headed to the Columbia River Gorge to check out a pair of waterfalls. Several trails in the gorge remain closed due to fire damage from the 2017 Eagle Creek Fire and others that had been reopened are again closed due to rock fall and slides caused by our recent weather combined with the fire damage. Please remember to check on the current status and conditions of trails before heading out.

Our sights were set on a section of the Pacific Crest Trail from Cascade Locks to Pacific Crest Falls. We had visited Pacific Crest Falls coming from the other side in October of 2015 (post) but at that time of year there wasn’t much water flowing so we thought a return visit was in order, especially after our recent rains.

We began our hike at the Bridge of the Gods Trailhead in Cascade Locks.
Bridge of the Gods Trailhead

From the trailhead we took the Pacific Crest Trail south.
Pacific Crest Trail sign in Cascade Locks

Pacific Crest Trail at Cascade Locks

The PCT briefly follows Harvey Road as it passes under I84 to a second possible trailhead.
Short road stretch on the PCT

Pacific Crest/Gorge Trail

From the Harvey Road Trailhead the PCT climbed gradually through the fire scarred forest. It was encouraging to see that many if not most of the trees along this section had survived. There was also quite a few early Spring flowers blooming.
Pacific Crest Trail in the Eagle Creek Fire scar

Eagle Creek Fire scar along the Pacific Crest Trail

Violets and snow queenSnow queen and violets


Just under a mile from Harvey Road the PCT once again briefly shared a gravel roadbed as it passed under a set of power lines.
Another short stretch of road along the Pacific Crest Trail

The trail leveled out shortly after passing the power lines and traversed along a sometimes steep hillside for three quarters of a mile to a signed junction near Dry Creek.
Pacific Crest Trail

Forest along the Pacific Crest Trail

Pacific Crest Trail

Dry Creek Falls Trail

Here we detoured away from the PCT and followed the pointer for Dry Creek Falls. This trail followed an old roadbed along Dry Creek just over a quarter of mile to Dry Creek Falls.
Approaching Dry Creek Falls

Dry Creek with Dry Creek Falls in the distance

Dry Creek Falls

Dry Creek Falls

Dry Creek Falls

After a nice little break at the base of the falls we headed back to the PCT where we turned right and crossed Dry Creek on a footbridge.
Footbridge over Dry Creek

Dry Creek

We had been discussing the fact that hikers were starting to post picture of fairy slippers (Calypso bulbosa) one of our favorites. We weren’t sure if any would be blooming yet in this area but we managed to spot a few as we continued south on the PCT.
Fairy slipper

Approximately 1.25 miles from Dry Creek the PCT crossed a talus slope.
Pacific Crest Trail

At the beginning of this section we spotted group of yellow flowers which turned out to be glacier lilies.
Glacier lilies

Glacier lilies

Glacier lilies

This section also provided the best, albeit limited, view across the Columbia River during this hike.
Columbia River

A half mile beyond the talus we passed the Herman Creek Pinnacles. We detoured briefly to get a closer look at the basalt formation and the cute little monkeyflowers blooming amid the rocks.
Herman Creek Pinnacles

Herman Creek Pinnacles

Chickeweed monkeyflower

Chickweed monkeyflower

After exploring the pinnacles we continued on and in less than a quarter mile arrived at Pacific Crest Falls.
Approaching Pacific Crest Falls

Pacific Crest Falls

The amount of water flowing over the falls was noticeably more this time around.
Pacific Crest FallsOctober 2015

Pacific Crest FallsApril 2019

We turned around here and headed back along the PCT to the junction near Dry Creek. Instead of returning to Cascade Locks via the PCT we turned downhill on the old road and followed the creek downhill.
Old roadbed back to Cascade Locks

Dry Creek

Dry Creek

After approximately 1.25 miles we passed some sort of a structure followed by a gate.
Dry Creek Road

Beyond the gate Dry Creek Road was open and well graveled.
Dry Creek Road

After passing a few logging roads and swinging quite a ways east we passed under I84 by turning left on SW Ruckle St which we followed to its end at SW Adams Ave. We turned left on Adams which brought us to a school.
Cascade Locks

We passed behind the school (and library) and made our way to Highway 30 where we turned left again towards the Bridge of the Gods.
Heading through Cascade Locks

Cascade Locks

Bridge of the Gods

We arrived back at our car as the rain was arriving. The hike was approximately 9.5 miles (I had some battery issues with the GPS) with a little under 1000′ of elevation gain. Hiking through Cascade Locks at the end was definitely not the most exciting end to a hike and unless you’re like us and specifically seek out alternate return routes I’d recommend just returning as you came. That being said the upper portion of the road walk along Dry Creek was nice.

I want to take a moment to thank the volunteers that have worked so hard to restore the trails affected by the fire. In particular the PCTA and Trail Keepers of Oregon (TKO) have been hard at work and doing an excellent job. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Dry Creek and Pacific Crest Falls