Categories
High Cascades Hiking Mt. Hood Area Oregon Trip report

Horseshoe Ridge and Cast Creek Trail Loop

On Father’s Day we headed toward Mt. Hood for a loop hike on some lesser used trails. We planned on using the Horseshoe Ridge and Cast Creek Trails as well as a portion of the Zigzag Mountain Trail for a loop in the Mt. Hood Wilderness. Along the way we’d also visit Cast Lake and depending on visibility detour to the summit of East Zigzag Mountain.

We began our hike by parking along Forest Road 1825-380 at the bridge over Lost Creek near the Riley Horse Camp. The Horseshoe Ridge Trail began on the SW side of the road.
IMG_8679

The trail paralleled Lost Creek for the first 3/4 mile but didn’t get very close to the water until the trail crossed the creek. I had checked the Mt. Hood Forest Service for trail conditions before we left so we knew the bridge was “unusable”.
IMG_8682

IMG_8685

We looked around a bit and noticed a downed tree a little downstream that we could use to cross but it was wet and slick and not wide enough to comfortably walk across in those conditions. We faced the choice of scooting across or fording the creek. Considering the temperature was only in the upper 30’s we decided we’d rather scoot than get soaked.
IMG_8686

Halfway across we discovered that we weren’t the only ones using the log and had to creatively maneuver past a snail and small slug.

Beyond Lost Creek the trail climbed through the forest for nearly 4 miles to the Zigzag Mountain Trail. The climb was never too steep and near the end the trail entered a meadow with wildflowers and views of Mt. St. Helens.
IMG_8698

Columbine and paintbrush
IMG_8733

Beargrass
IMG_8720

Lupine
IMG_8723

Paintbrush
IMG_8719

Lousewort before blooming
IMG_8726

IMG_8728

IMG_8730

IMG_8735

We turned left on the Zigzag Mountain Trail passing through more beargrass meadows and gaining views of Mt. Hood and Mt. Jefferson.
IMG_8736

IMG_8737

IMG_8739

IMG_8744

IMG_8746

We followed the trail up to a ridge top where a rocky viewpoint added three Washington volcanoes to the view.
IMG_8752

Mt. St. Helens
IMG_8756

Mt. Rainier
IMG_8755

Mt. Adams
IMG_8754

The trail then crossed over the ridge and began descending along the north side of Zigzag Mountain. We had been on this section of trail in 2012 during a July 9th loop starting from the Burnt Lake South Trailhead. During that hike this portion of trail was still partly covered in snow. This time around there were only a couple of small patches remaining in the brush along the trail.
IMG_8778

We passed above Cast Lake passing a junction with the Devil’s Tie Trail to the Cast Lake Trail.
IMG_8781

IMG_8784

IMG_8790

A half mile hike along this trail brought us to Cast Lake.
IMG_8794

Snow melt and recent precipitation had left standing water on some of the trail and mud along portions of the shore on the SW side of the lake. We followed a path around the north side of the lake past several nice campsites. We turned around shortly after crossing Cast Creek flowing out of the lake. The one thing that the lake lacks is a good view of Mt. Hood, but rhododendron and beargrass were blooming along the shore making for a pretty scene.
IMG_8803

We left Cast Lake and continued our loop on the Zigzag Mountain Trail and quickly arrived at the Cast Creek Trail junction.
IMG_8806

We faced a choice here. We could turn left on the Cast Creek Trail and complete the loop or take another side trip by continuing on the Zigzag Mountain Trail to East Zigzag Mountain. With the weather being as nice as it was and knowing that there would be some flowers in the meadow below the summit we decided on one more side trip. After a short but decent climb we emerged from the trees in the meadow.
IMG_8809

The lower portion of the meadow was full of Phlox and yet to bloom lupine.
IMG_8815

As we climbed higher Mt. Hood came into view and the variety of flowers increased.
IMG_8821

IMG_8827

IMG_8830

IMG_8833

IMG_8840

IMG_8836

Several other Cascade peaks were visible from the ridge.
Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, and Mt. Adams to the north.
IMG_8854

Mt. Jefferson and Three Fingered Jack to the south.
IMG_8857

I left Heather at the summit and headed down into the meadow on the opposite side of the summit. The flowers seemed to be a little behind so I turned around after getting a few pictures including the obligatory Burnt Lake shot.
IMG_8866

IMG_8868

Burnt Lake below Mt. Hood
IMG_8861

I returned to the summit and we headed back to the Cast Creek Trail. We had accidentally taken this trail in 2012 mistaking it for the Cast Lake Trail (we obviously didn’t read the sign well). The Cast Creek Trail begins with a little climb past some decent viewpoints before beginning its decent into the forest.
IMG_8879

Mt. Hood

The rhododendron bloom along the upper portion of the trail was one of the best we’ve witnessed.
IMG_8876

IMG_8882

IMG_8886

The forest along the Cast Creek Trail was quite different from what we had encountered coming up on the Horseshoe Ridge Trail. There was much less underbrush leaving the forest with a more open feeling.
IMG_8890

We kept expecting to see a deer or other larger animal below us through the trees but we never did. What we did see was a garter snake enjoying a patch of sunshine along the trail.
IMG_8894

IMG_8892

According the the Forest Service website neither the Cast Creek nor the Horseshoe Ridge Trail had been maintained since 2014 but they were both in pretty good shape. There were a few downed trees but nothing difficult to maneuver around. We did see one sign of more recent maintenance on the lower portion of the Cast Creek Trail which left us scratching our heads. A small tree had come down across the trail. The top end of the tree had been sawed off, but not the portion that was across the trail. There was a saw mark along the trunk where someone had started a second cut to remove the portion of tree hanging over the trail, but they hadn’t finished it for some reason.
IMG_8917

The Cast Creek Trail ended at a day use area at the far end of Riley Horse Camp.
IMG_8920

We had intended to park here, but failed to find it due to a lack of signage and having turned out of the horse camp before going all the way to the end.
We walked through the horse camp to the road then continued a tenth of a mile back to our car. Both of our GPS devices had the hike at a little over 16 miles which made it pretty long for a day hike, but spending the night at Cast Lake would make it a nice overnight trip. Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157669434295252

Categories
Columbia Gorge North Hiking Trip report Washington

Beacon Rock State Park – The Return to Hamilton Mountain

Almost two years ago we traveled to Beacon Rock State Park to hike the Hamilton Mountain Trail. https://wanderingyuncks.wordpress.com/2013/05/ It was and still is the worst weather that we have ever encountered during a hike. Well enough time had passed and it was time for us to give this hike a second chance. We double checked the weather forecast before heading out which showed some morning clouds clearing up by mid-morning with little to no chance of rain and calm winds. That was good enough for us to give it a go so we got in the car and headed up to the Columbia Gorge once more. For most of the drive we were under a solid mass of clouds but as we headed east along Highway 14 toward Beacon Rock State Park rays of sunlight were shining down on the Columbia River in the distance. The edge of the clouds was just a bit further east than Hamilton Mountain so we decided to warm up on another trail in park, the .8mi Beacon Rock Trail, hoping to give the clouds more time to lift.

Parking for this trail is right along the highway and requires a Discovery Pass which can be purchased at the trailhead (currently $10/a day per vehicle). The trail begins almost directly below Beacon Rock itself.
Beacon Rock Trailhead

After a very short walk through woods the trail begins to switchback up Beacon Rock.
IMG_1584

IMG_1586

In fact the trail switchbacks 52 times on its way up to the top of the rock. (I lost count but that is the number that was on one of the signs at the trailhead.)
Beacon Rock Trail

IMG_1590

When we reached the summit the edge of the clouds was still to the east above Bonneville Dam.
IMG_1593

IMG_1599

We could also see that Hamilton Mountain still had a cloudy top making us wonder what the conditions would be by the time we got up there.
IMG_1600

On the way back down we watched a number of Turkey Vultures circling above the river as well as a lone Bald Eagle.
IMG_1605

IMG_1609

After completing our warm-up we hopped back in the car and crossed the Highway following a campground sign to the trailhead parking area. The trail sets off at a signboard behind the restrooms.
Hamilton Mountian Trailhead

After a gradual .5 mile climb through forest the trail emerges to views of Hamilton Mountain from under some power lines.
IMG_1623

The summit was still in the clouds but they did seem to be breaking up and we still had over 2.5 more miles to climb before reaching the top. After another half-mile a sign announces a viewpoint for Hardy Falls. A narrow path leads down a ridge to a platform that has no view of Hardy Falls at all. The only views are along the ridge prior to reaching the platform, and they are not great.
IMG_1632

The disappointing viewpoint of Hardy Falls is quickly forgotten after just another tenth of a mile on the trail. Here another sign points up to Pool of the Winds.
IMG_1636

This short path leads to another railed viewpoint, but this time there is really something to see. The upper portion of Rodney Falls splashes into a rock enclosed splash pool. The force of the water falling into the pool combined with the narrow opening in the rocks causes wind to funnel out giving the pool its name.
Pool of the Winds

IMG_1655

The view down is also nice as the trail crosses the creek on a footbridge below Rodney Falls.
IMG_1650

After spending some time enjoying the pool we continued on the trail passing below the falls. Rodney Falls is one of the more complicated falls we have seen. With the Pool of the Winds at the top followed by several smaller sections and then fanning out at the bottom it just has a lot going on. It also changes directions a couple of times which makes it difficult to capture it all well in a photo.
IMG_1665

Just over a quarter mile from Rodney Falls the trail splits allowing for a loop over Hamilton Mountain.
IMG_1680

We headed right which is the shorter but steeper way to the summit. We tend to prefer to go up rather than down steeper trails because it’s easier on our knees. Heading up the right fork the trail passes an increasing number of meadows where we were met with views and wildflowers. In 2013 the views consisted almost entirely of clouds so much of this we were seeing for the first time.

Beacon Rock from the trail.
IMG_1684

Larkspur
IMG_1683

Chocolate Lily
IMG_1686

Indian Paintbrush
IMG_1687

Phlox
IMG_1690

A side trail to the right leads to a rocky outcrop with even more views.
IMG_1702

Then the trail passes behind a knoll where more trees await.
IMG_1710

Larkspur along the Hamilton Mountain Trail

After making its way around the knoll the trail crosses a ridge between the knoll and Hamilton Mountains summit which looms ahead.
Hamilton Mountain

The view of the Columbia River along this ridge is very nice.
IMG_1718

The trail then begins its final ascent switchbacking up through open meadows of flowers. Larkspur and Chocolate Lilies were the predominate flowers blooming at this time of the year.
Chocolate Lilies

IMG_1723

IMG_1727

As we continued to climb the clouds continued to burn off and Mt. Hood suddenly appeared across the river.
IMG_1735

IMG_1738

To reach the actual summit take a side path to the right near the top of the mountain. Here the view was vastly different from our previous visit.

2013
151

2015
Mt. Hood from the summit of Hamilton Mountain

There were only a few bands of clouds left when we arrived at the summit and in addition to the view of Mt. Hood to the south Table Mountain and some of Mt. Adams were visible to the east.
Table Mountain and Mt. Adams from the summit of Hamilton Mountain

Mt. Adams

We took a short break and watched the clouds as they passed by. A few hikers and some other critters kept us company.
IMG_1785

We continued on the loop looking forward to reaching an exposed ridge that was the site of my infamous poncho battle in 2013. Wind and rain were whipping up and over the ridge on that visit but this time it was just sunshine and flowers.
IMG_1798

IMG_1799

At the far end of the ridge we looked back to soak in the view that we missed the first time.

2013
158

2015
Hamilton Mountain trail

Several paths lead off from the far end of the ridge, but we simply took a sharp left and headed down an old road toward Hardy Creek.
IMG_1809

The road leads downhill for a mile to Hardy Creek.
IMG_1810

IMG_1811

Signs at Hardy Creek point to the 1.1 mile hiker-only trail that completes the loop .3 miles from Rodney Falls. By the time we arrived back at the falls a steady stream of people were coming up from the trailhead. We were once again glad we’d gotten an early start and made our way past a traffic jam at the footbridge. With the number of hikers and dogs coming up the trail we were surprised when Heather spotted a garter snake on the path. It took cover in a stump but then came out to take a closer look at us.
IMG_1817

IMG_1821

We were really happy with the way this hike turned out. We had gotten the views we’d missed out on during our previous visit and the Beacon Rock warm-up was entirely new. Another great day in the Pacific Northwest. Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/sets/72157652309236702/