August 19, 2012

An easy hike to the highest point in Badger Creek Wilderness

Mt. Hood from High Prairie
In a perfect world, every hike would be a loop. As it is, a huge percentage of hikes must be walked one way and then repeated in the opposite direction - especially if you're hiking solo. Don't get me wrong, hiking one way and back the other is a great way to see the same landscapes from a different viewpoint, but loops afford hikers new experiences throughout the hike. Also, the shorter the hike the less likely it will be a loop. In other words, it is a lot easier to make a loop during a backpacking trip than a day hike. Here is a hike that is relatively easy, not long (3 miles) and one of those rare loops.

This loop leaves a place called High Prairie; travels along a ridge and steep, rugged slope that offers great views; gives a hiker the opportunity to summit the highest point in the Badger Creek Wilderness; and then retreats back to the trailhead through forest and meadows.
 Mt. Hood from trail

The trail starts at High Prairie, a sparsely treed flat in the northwestern portion of the Badger Creek Wilderness. I traveled the trail in mid August and the meadows were heaped with flowers. Half of the route follows a trail, the other half the remnants of a narrow road leading to the summit of Lookout Mt. The road heads straight from the trialhead. The trail heads right after a few paces from the trailhead.

In a short distance the trail follows a ridge, which begins to open up to views of Mt. Hood and the Highway 35 corridor. When I hiked the trail the sky was hazy, hiding any other Cascade peaks that can be otherwise spotted on a clear day. Several good viewpoints reward hikers where rock outcroppings rise from the ridge. From dirt to forest floor, the trail then turns to cinder rock at each of these scenic rock outcroppings.

Badger Butte (right), Gunsight Butte (left)
Further up the trail, views turn from westward to eastward within only a few steps, as the trail makes a left turn.  From a small saddle a little further up the trail, the road leading to the top of Lookout Mt. can be seen. This short side trip offers 360 degree views of the wilderness and beyond. A former fire lookout site, the foundations of two buildings at the summit of Lookout Mt. remain.
View east from Lookout Mt. through wildfire haze

Heading back to the trailhead, the old road descends through hemlock forest. Along this portion of the loop, there are no more distant views, but the forest does open up flower filled meadows.
Enhanced by Zemanta