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Hiking Middle Santiam Old Cascades Oregon Trip report

Iron Mountain and the Meadows of Cone Peak

July means wildflowers in the Old Cascades, the eroded peaks that are now the western foothills of the Cascade Mountains. We were headed over to Bend, OR for the 4th of July weekend so we seized the opportunity to check out a couple of the hikes on the way over and back. On the way over to Bend we decided to revisit Iron Mountain, a hike we had done in 2010 during the final week of July. We missed the wildflower peak that year by a couple of weeks so we hoped we would be hitting the area at a better time this visit.

On our previous visit we did the loop clockwise by starting at the trailhead located on road 15 and heading up Iron Mountain first then through the meadows on Cone Peak. This time around we parked at Tombstone Pass and headed counter-clockwise in order to hopefully have the meadows to ourselves before the trail got crowded.
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We took a short detour on the Tombstone Nature Trail that circled around a meadow with flowers and a view of Iron Mountain.
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After finishing the nature trail we crossed Highway 20 and started climbing up the Cone Peak Trail. We started seeing flowers almost immediately. It seemed every open area had an assortment of different flowers.
Lupine, Columbine & Thimbleberry
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Wild Rose
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Columbine
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Larkspur
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Penstemon & Blue Gilia
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Cat’s Ear Lily
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Woolly Sunflower
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Flower variety
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Columbia Windflower
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Wallflower
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Paintbrush & Larkspur
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More variety packs
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We’d already lost count of the number of different flower types we’d seen by the time we got to the main meadow 1.2 miles from the highway crossing. In the meadow we found even more types of flowers as well as views of Cone Peak and Iron Mountain.
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Cone Peak
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Cone Flower
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Giant Blue-eyed Mary
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Iron Mountain
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Scarlet Gilia
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We’d been hearing some elk off and on while we were in the meadow and as we were exploring a rocky outcrop Dominique noticed some brown spots in a meadow up on Iron Mountain. There were 7 elk moving through the brush grazing on the vegetation as they went.
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We left the meadow and reentered the forest as we wound our way around Iron Mountain to the junction with the Iron Mountain Lookout Trail. There were still flowers everywhere and now we were starting to get views of the snowy Cascade Mountains.
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Mt. Hood
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Mt. Jefferson
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The Three Sisters
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At the site of the former lookout is a railed observation deck and bench which allowed for a relaxing rest as we took in the 360 degree view which spanned from Mt. Adams to Diamond Peak.
Mt. Adams & Mt. Hood
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Mt. Jefferson beyond Cone Peak and the top of Three Fingered Jack behind Crescent Mountain
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Mt. Washington
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The Three Sisters, Mt. Bachelor & The Husband
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Diamond Peak
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The view was so good even a hummingbird took a break from the penstemon to take it in.
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We headed back down to the trail junction and continued on our loop passing more flowers, recrossing Highway 20, and returning to Tombstone Pass on the Old Santiam Wagon Road.
Beargrass
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Bunchberry & Queens Cup
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The flowers had certainly been better than on our previous visit and it looked like they would be pristine for another week or two. It was a great way to start a holiday weekend. Happy Trails!

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Categories
Hiking Oakridge Area Old Cascades Oregon Trip report

Tire Mountain

June wildflowers and a “possible” waterfall were are goal for our recent trip to Tire Mountain near Oakridge, OR. Our guidebook showed a 7.6 mile hike starting from the Alpine Trailhead, linking up to the Tire Mountain trail, and turning around after reaching the summit of Tire Mountain. Looking at the forest service maps of the area I noticed that the Tire Mountain trail continued west beyond the junction with the summit trail to a trailhead on road 5824. Along that portion of the trail was a creek crossing where it appeared there might be a waterfall. Thinking that a 7.6 mile hike was a little short for a 2 1/2 hour drive I thought we could investigate the possible waterfall for a little extra exercise.

The Alpine trail started off uphill on a forested ridge where the path was lined with small rocks. The usual woodland flowers were present including vanilla leaf, solomonseal, candyflower, and bunchberry. We also spotted some wild ginger.
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Just a bit over half a mile in the trail entered the first of the meadows. The flowers did not disappoint and as an added bonus several cascade peaks were visible from this meadow.
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Diamond Peak
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Mt. Bachelor
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Broken Top
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The flower show continued as we passed through more meadows on the way to the junction with the Tire Mountain trail. Along the way The Three Sisters joined the view.
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At the 1.2 mile mark we found the Tire Mountain trail and turned right. We passed through several smaller meadows which were home to a variety of different flowers, some of which were unknown to us.
Columbine
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Plectritis & Larkspur
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Plectritis & Yellow Monkeyflower
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Camas
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Paintbrush
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Coastal Manroot & ?
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Cat’s Ear Lily
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Another unknown
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Possibly Oregon Sunshine
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Giant Blue-Eyed Mary, Plectritis & unknown
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Buttercups
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Wild Iris
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We were amazed at the number of flowers and we could see that there were even more higher up on the hillsides.
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After the series of smaller meadows the trail entered the largest meadow of the day. Here balsamroot joined the flower bonanza.
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Ookow
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Wallflower
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Unknown
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Blue Gilia
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When we left the meadow I remarked that we hadn’t seen any lupine at all. As soon as we hit the next small meadow that was no longer the case.
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From this meadow we also got a good view of Tire Mountain and Diamond Peak again.
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The trail then entered the forest before splitting. To the left was the 1/2mi path to the summit while the right fork headed down toward road 5824. We headed up to the summit to check out the former lookout site. The trail was nice despite there being a few downed trees to maneuver around.
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When we reached the brushy summit we found a number of additional flower types.
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Unknown
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Fawn Lily
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Unknown
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Wild onion
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Phlox
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Buscuitroot
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Despite being a former lookout site there was no view from the summit. In fact the lookout had been placed up in a tree in order to have a view of the surrounding area. We explored a bit before heading back down to the trail split and starting our search for the waterfall.

From the split, the Tire Mountain trail descended fairly quickly through a series of switchbacks. Several bridges crossed seasonal streams amid the large trees.
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It was a lot further down to the creek I was looking for than I had anticipated and we were all dreading the climb back up. We finally rounded a ridge end and spotted the bridge that crossed the creek I was looking for. There was indeed a waterfall but after seeing it we knew why the guidebook doesn’t mention continuing on to it. It was a pretty sad display lol.
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After soaking in the torrent we started our climb. We did our best to focus on the ever present bird song as we trudged along. Grey jays, varied thrushes, and at least one woodpecker flew from tree to tree. The woodpecker was the only one that stayed still long enough for me to get a picture.
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The meadows were just as impressive on the return trip. The only real bummer for the day was seeing a layer of smoke over the Three Sisters and Mt. Bachelor. Alas the fire season started early this year with the Two Bulls Fire burning near Bend, OR. 😦
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Hopefully it isn’t a sign of things to come. Happy (and fire free) trails!

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