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Bald Mountain from Lolo Pass Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Mount Hood spreads out before you from the summit of Bald Mountain. (Tom Kloster)
Mount Hood in late Fall from Lolo Pass (Tom Kloster)
Heavy frost coats the ancient noble fir canopy along the route to Bald Mountain (Tom Kloster)
  • Start point: Lolo Pass TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Bald Mountain
  • Trail Log: Trail Log
  • Distance: 6.6 miles round-trip
  • Elevation gain: 1400 feet
  • High Point: 4,591 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: July–November
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: Only on weekends, at the Timberline Trail junction

Contents

Description

This hike follows a surprisingly uncrowded section of the Pacific Crest Trail from Lolo Pass to the Timberline Trail, then a nearly forgotten lookout trail to the summit of Bald Mountain. From Bald Mountain, you'll not only be treated with a stunning view of Mount Hood, but will also see traces of an old fire lookout that stood here in the 1940s. You'll likely have the summit to yourself.

From the Lolo Pass Trailhead, follow the Pacific Crest Trail south through a recovering clearcut, then enter a handsome, mature forest, and begin climbing a steep ridge through a series of well-graded switchbacks. At the 1.6 mile mark, the trail traverses around the the north slope of the ridge, then switchbacks to the southwest side of the ridge, where a traverse eventually meets the ridge top, and descends briefly before reaching the junction with the Top Spur Trail at the 3 mile mark. Walk just a few feet beyond this junction, and immediately arrive at a confusing junction of four trails. In 2010 new signs were been posted at this junction, making it slightly less confusing (albeit missing basic mileage and directional arrows). The trail to the right, and downhill, is the continuation of the Pacific Crest Trail (#2000) and is marked with a sign to Timberline Lodge. The route to the left is the northward section of the Timberline Trail (#600), with a sign to Cairn Basin. The trail straight ahead, and uphill, is the southbound section of the Timberline Trail (#600), with a sign to the Muddy Fork, and is the route to Bald Mountain.

From the registration box at the junction, continue on the Timberline Trail toward the Muddy Fork for about 450 feet, and then watch for an unsigned trail heading left and uphill, between two large trees (ignoring another boot path just beyond the junction, near a large stump, that dead-ends in the brush). This is the historic Bald Mountain Trail. Follow this rustic path over a couple of logs as you climb parallel to the Timberline Trail, below. After a few hundred feet, switchback left, and soon reach the more open forest on the slopes of Bald Mountain. The tread is always obvious, though you'll step over a number of fallen logs that have accumulated over the decades since this trail was maintained. They present only a minor obstacle along the way.

As you approach the summit, you'll re-enter a band of huckleberries and false azalea, and the trail will quickly level off on the broad, forested top of Bald Mountain. Walk through an opening in the woods, where concrete blocks mark the location of the former lookout. Here, the 40-foot trees around you mark the time that has passed since the lookout stood here in the 1930s, and the summit was open. The final few yards to the viewpoint at the east end of the summit curves through a thicket of alder and mountain ash, then suddenly ends at a steep overlook of the Muddy Fork valley, and a stunning view of the west face of Mount Hood, towering above.

There are convenient rock outcrops at the viewpoint for sitting down and enjoying the spectacle, and photo buffs will want to time their visit for late afternoon, when the scene is most dramatic. From the viewpoint, you can also see a section of the Timberline Trail, just below, where the steady stream of hikers will pass your lofty perch, oblivious to your location.

To complete the hike, simply follow the same route back to the trailhead at Lolo Pass—and take a moment to clear twigs and brush from this beautiful old spur trail on your way down. This is the only maintenance that this abandoned trail gets, but it's just enough to keep it open for all to enjoy.

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Oregon Hikers Field Guide is built as a collaborative effort by its user community. While we make every effort to fact-check, information found here should be considered anecdotal. You should cross-check against other references before planning a hike. Trail routing and conditions are subject to change. Please contact us if you notice errors on this page.

Hiking is a potentially risky activity, and the entire risk for users of this field guide is assumed by the user, and in no event shall Trailkeepers of Oregon be liable for any injury or damages suffered as a result of relying on content in this field guide. All content posted on the field guide becomes the property of Trailkeepers of Oregon, and may not be used without permission.