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.
Wildcat 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.
Huge mushroom along the downhill.
Fanton 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.
Three Fingered Jack and the Three Sisters even further south.
Looking west into the cloud covered Willamette Valley.
We joined a chipmunk and took a snack break before exploring the old lookout site.
Stairs to the former lookout.
Mt. 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