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Badger Creek Area Hiking Oregon Trip report

Fret Creek to Flag Point and Lookout Mountain – 10/16/2021

For the second weekend in a row we abandoned plans for a night in the tent in favor of day hike. Similar to the weekend before the forecast for was for a mostly sunny and warm Saturday followed by rain and/or snow moving in Saturday night through the end of the weekend. We decided on the Fret Creek Trail in the Badger Creek Wilderness. Our plan was to take that trail to the Divide Trail and visit the Flag Point Lookout to the east followed by Lookout Mountain to the west. While we had been to Lookout Mountain twice before (2014, 2019) we had not visited the Flag Point Lookout nor had we hiked the lower portion of the Fret Creek Trail. We were hoping to get some good views and see some of the areas Western Larch trees as they began to turn color.

The Fret Creek Trail starts between Fifteen Mile Campground (post) and Fret Creek along Forest Road 2730 across from a trailhead sign at a pullout on the left.
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IMG_6187A few larches along Road 2730

IMG_6188Fret Creek Trail across from the pullout.

For the first third of a mile the trail climbed fairly steeply above Fret Creek.
IMG_6193Entering the Badger Creek Wilderness.

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The trail eventually leveled off crossing Fret Creek several times before once again launching steeply uphill before arriving at Oval Lake just under 2 miles from the trailhead.
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IMG_6221Starting to climb again.

IMG_6240Sign for Oval Lake.

The small lake is just off the trail but has several campsites in the surrounding forest.
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We’d visited the lake briefly in 2014 during our first ever backpacking trip and it looked quite a bit like we’d remember but with less water given the time of year.
Oval LakeJune 28, 2014

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After checking out the lake we continued climbing on the Fret Creek Trail for 0.2 more miles to its end at the Divide Trail.
IMG_6243A bit of snow left from the recent snowfall.

IMG_6245The Divide Trail.

We turned left on the Divide Trail and climbed for 0.3 miles to a ridge crest where we took a side trail out to Palisade Point. This rock outcrop has a nice view south across the Badger Creek Wilderness to Mt. Jefferson and the Three Sisters.
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IMG_6250Some snow near a switchback along the trail.

IMG_6255Mt. Adams starting to peak over a ridge to the north.

IMG_6263Mt. Adams with some larch trees in the foreground.

IMG_6269Lookout Mountain from the Divide Trail (The bare peak in between the two bare snags. Just to the right of the left snag.)

IMG_6272Side trail to Palisade Point.

IMG_6281Broken Top, The Three Sisters, Mt. Washington, Three Fingered Jack (just the very top), Mt. Jefferson, and Olallie Butte (post) were visible in the distance.

IMG_6283Mt. Jefferson with the tip of Three Fingered Jack to the left and Olallie Butte to the right.

IMG_6275Mt. Hood peaking up over the rocks.

IMG_6288_stitchPanoramic view with Badger Creeks valley below.

IMG_6302Rocks below Palisade Point.

After the stop at Palisade Point we continued east along the ridge for 1.2 miles losing a little over 300′ to Flag Point Lookout Road (NF 200). Occasional views opened up along the way.
IMG_6317We ran into this jumble of downed trees shortly after leaving Palisade Point but fortunately it was the worst of the obstacles.

IMG_6323Flag Point Lookout from the trail.

IMG_6328A small meadow that was full of flowers a couple of months ago.

IMG_6332A stand of larches.

IMG_6337A better view of Mt. Hood.

IMG_6343Zoomed in.

IMG_6351Looking back through larches at a Badger Creek Wilderness sign near Road 200.

IMG_6354Looking back at the Divide Trail.

We had been to this junction on our 2014 backpacking trip where we turned off the Divide Trail here onto the Badger Creek Cutoff Trail to hike down to Badger Creek. This time we took Road 200 which led to the Flag Point Lookout in 0.8 miles.
IMG_6355Road 200

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IMG_6360Chipmunk

IMG_6361Nearing the lookout.

The lookout is staffed in the Summer and used to be available as a rental during the Winter but the Forest Service discontinued that a few years ago.
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A gate blocks access to the platform and tower but climbing the stairs below the gate provided for some more excellent views.
IMG_6368Mt. Rainier and Mt. Adams to the north.

IMG_6369Mt. Rainier and Mt. Adams

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IMG_6384Three Fingered Jack, Mt. Jefferson, and Olallie Butte

IMG_6389View east to the hills above the Columbia River.

We spent quite a while admiring the views and then more time attempting to spot one of the pikas that we could hear in the rock field below the lookout. Alas none of the little rock rabbits wanted to make an appearance but several robins did.
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We headed back to the Divide Trail and stayed straight at the junction with the Fret Creek Trail. It was just 1.6 miles to Lookout Mountain and on such a beautiful day we couldn’t pass up the chance of another spectacular view.
IMG_6434Passing the Fret Creek Trail.

IMG_6438We did need to gain almost 800′ of elevation to reach Lookout Mountain which at times was a fairly steep climb.

IMG_6440_stitchAnother viewpoint along the way where Badger Lake was visible.

IMG_6447Badger Lake

We had seen our first fellow hikers on our return from Flag Point and now we were seeing more of them as well as a little more snow.
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IMG_6474The final pitch to the summit, there is at least one hiker visible up top.

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IMG_6483Looking back to Flag Point.

IMG_6484Looking NE toward The Dalles and the Columbia River.

IMG_6486Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, and Mt. Adams

IMG_6494View south past Badger Lake to Mt. Jefferson.

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After another nice break we headed back, but just under half a mile from the summit we turned right on a side path to what Sullivan labels the Helispot. Several campsites were located here and yet another amazing view.
IMG_6515Flag Point from the Helispot.

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IMG_6518And of course Mt. Hood again.

After exploring the Helispot area we hopped back onto the Divide Trail and returned to the Fret Creek Trail. We made a final quick stop at Oval Lake before returning to our car and heading home.
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IMG_6542Fret Creek from the road near the trailhead.

The hike was just over 13 miles with approximately 2800′ of elevation gain. A number of shorter options could be done and longer trips are also possible with the numerous trails in the Badger Creek Wilderness.

It was great to see the mountains with fresh snow and nice to have some snow on the ground after the dry Spring and Summer. They are calling for a La Nina Winter which could mean plenty of precipitation. After this year we would welcome it. Hopefully it will be in the form of snow for the mountains and not rain though. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Fret Creek to Flag Point

Categories
Badger Creek Area Hiking Oregon Trip report

Lookout Mountain and Gunsight Butte – 10/14/2019

With a day off and a mostly sunny forecast we looking for a viewpoint hike for our 50th outing of the year. There were two hikes left on our 2019 schedule that fit the bill and it came down to which one kept us out of Portland’s traffic (since it was a weekday) and that was the hike to Lookout Mountain and Gunsight Butte east of Mt. Hood. We had been to the top of Lookout Mountain in the Badger Creek Wilderness Area during our inaugural backpacking trip (post) but there had been no view that day.

On that previous visit we had started from High Prairie which is less than a half mile from the summit of Lookout Mountain, but this day we chose to start from Highway 35 at the Gumjuwac Trailhead.
IMG_0819Gumjuwac Trail at Highway 35.

From Highway 35 the Gumjuwac Trail wasted no time in heading up hill toward Gumjuwac Saddle.
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The lower portion of the trail climbed via a series of switchbacks before straightening out a bit gaining almost 1900′ in just over two and a half miles to the saddle. There were brief glimpses of Mt. Hood, Mt. Adams, and Mt. Rainier through the trees which improved as we climbed.
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IMG_0839Mt. Hood in the morning Sun.

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IMG_0871Mt. Rainier and Mt. Adams

IMG_0866Mt. Adams

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IMG_0884Finally an unobstructed view of Mt. Hood.

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IMG_0896Gumjuwac Saddle

From Gumjuwac Saddle we turned left onto the Divide Trail which briefly paralleled Bennett Pass Road.
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The Divide Trail soon entered the Badger Creek Wilderness.
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We had been on this stretch of trail while returning to our car during the backpacking trip so it was a little familiar, but that trip had been in late June so much of the vegetation looked different as we passed from forest into a series of meadows.
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The wildflowers were long gone but we did get a view of Mt. Hood that hadn’t been there on the previous visit.
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A pair of raucous ravens provided a bit of entertainment as they harassed an unwelcome hawk.
IMG_0911The hawk.

IMG_0913A less than thrilled raven.

There was another thing that we were hoping to see and that was larch trees turning color. Larches are a deciduous conifer whose needles turn a yellow/gold in the Fall. We were hoping that the recent cold temperatures had helped start the process early and there were a few larches scattered about on the distant hillsides in the process of turning.
IMG_0912Light green to yellow larches on the hillside behind the raven.

The trail left the meadows and began a series of switchbacks on the forested flank of Lookout Mountain where we ran into a little snow left over from the week before.
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As we climbed we got another good look at Mt. Hood and Mt. St. Helens as well as a number of Cascade peaks to the south.
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IMG_0930Mt. St. Helens

IMG_0922View south.

IMG_0923From L to R: Broken Top, The Three Sisters, Mt. Washington, and Mt. Jefferson.

We had expected to run into the High Prairie Loop Trail about 2 miles from the Gumjuwac Saddle but we missed the final switchback and ended up following a deer trail uphill to rejoin the official trail. We came to a rocky viewpoint where we could see the summit to the east and had a great view south.
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IMG_0946Mt. Jefferson

Beyond the viewpoint the trail passed over to the north side of the ridge into the trees where a little more snow remained.
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There were a number of birds in the area, many of them varied thrushes which you might know are a nemesis of mine. We see them a lot but rarely can I get even a semi-decent picture. On this hike though I lucked out and one landed on a limb that I was already focused on and I was able to get an only slightly blurry photo.
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As we neared the summit we came to the other end of the High Prairie Loop.
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We stayed right on the Divide Trail which passes just below the summit where a short spur trail brought us the rest of the way.
IMG_0964Approaching the summit.

IMG_0965Lookout on Lookout Mountain.

IMG_0968Flag Point Lookout in the distance.

IMG_0969Flag Point Lookout

As we came around to the summit we could see that the larches further east in the wilderness were a bit further along than those we’d seen so far.
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The view was excellent, making up for the clouds on our first visit. A total of 10 Cascade peaks were visible with Mt. Hood being front and center.
IMG_0980Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Adams, and Mt. Rainier

IMG_0988Mt. St. Helens

IMG_0985Mt. Rainier

IMG_0983Mt. Adams

IMG_0993Mt. Hood

IMG_0997Mt. Jefferson followed by Mt. Washington, The Three Sisters, and Broken Top

IMG_1001The Three Sisters

After a long break we started to get a little chilly just sitting up on the summit so we started back down. This time we stayed on the official trail and found the end of the High Prairie Loop that we’d missed on the way up.
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We had stopped briefly near a small talus field as we descended the switchbacks and Heather spotted a pika that was gathering tree bits, presumably getting ready to spend the winter underground.
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The pika wasn’t the only critter running around on the rocks.
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We made our way back through the still frosty meadows and returned to Gumjuwac Saddle.
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The saddle can be a bit confusing as several trails converge at Bennett Pass Road here. The Gumjuwac Trail coming up from Highway 35 crosses the road and continues down the other side to the Badger Creek Trail, the Divide Trail crosses the Gumjuwac Trail and descends to Badger Lake (we came up this way on the backpacking trip). We nearly started back down that trail this time before realizing that the trail to Gunsight Butte (the aptly named Gunsight Butte Trail) was on the other side of Bennett Pass Road.
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We headed up this trail which began a gradual climb through trees which included a few larches.
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The trail emerged from the forest into a burn scar along a rocky ridge with a view.
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IMG_1088Lookout Mountain from the Gunsight Butte Trail.

IMG_1062Clark’s nutcracker

After a mile and a half we found ourselves crossing over the forested summit of Gunsight Butte. Another .1 miles, slightly downhill, brought us to a rock pile with yet another view of Mt. Hood.
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It wasn’t quite as impressive a view as Lookout Mountain but it was still pretty good. We returned to Gumjuwac Saddle and then turned down the Gumjuwac Trail for the final 2.5 miles of the day.
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We took our last looks at Mt. Hood from the trail then enjoyed the signs of Fall as we descended.
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This was a 13.2 mile hike with around 3600′ of elevation gain making it a pretty good workout. This may have been our last viewpoint hike for the year, and if it is, it was a great one to end on. Happy Trails!

Flirck: Lookout Mountain and Gunsight Butte