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Battle Ax Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Elk Lake and Mt. Jefferson from Battle Ax (bobcat)
Tarn below Battle Ax, Bagby Hot Springs Trail (bobcat)
Gorman's aster (Eucephalus gormanii), Battle Ax (bobcat)
Mt. Beachie's rugged northeast ridge from Battle Ax (bobcat)
Column on the west face of Battle Ax (bobcat)
The Battle Ax Loop shown in red (not a GPS track) (bobcat)
  • Start point: Elk Lake Junction TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End Point: Battle Ax
  • Trail Log:
  • Hike Type: Loop
  • Distance: 6.0 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1765 feet
  • High Point: 5,558 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: Summer into Fall
  • Family Friendly: No
  • Backpackable: Yes
  • Crowded: No

Contents

Description

The loop to the top of Battle Ax is probably the most scenic short loop in the Bull of the Woods Wilderness. You just have to endure the slow, rocky, potholed road up to Elk Lake in order to partake of the visual feast. You will pass a series of lush tarns, which harbor mosquitoes late into the summer, before gaining incredible views, from Mount Rainier to the Three Sisters as you switchback up to the old lookout site on Battle Ax’s summit ridge. Coming down the north ridge, you’ll get a glimpse of the formations on the mountain’s rugged west face as well as across to Mount Beachie’s spectacular northeast ridge.

Walk up the road in shady Douglas-fir, mountain hemlock, noble fir, and silver fir woods. In just over one-third of a mile, reach the Bagby Trailhead for Trail #544 and head up this trail. There’s a wilderness permit box here, but as of 2014 it was broken and out of use. Cross a small steam and switchback twice in a vine maple thicket. Traverse up the slope and switchback again to get a glimpse of Elk Lake below. Pass through a Sitka alder slide area, head up in a huckleberry/bear-grass understory, and switchback at another window in the forest, this view extending to Olallie Butte and Mount Jefferson. The trail levels at a tarn studded with bright yellow water lilies in the summer. Alaska yellow-cedar, noble fir, mountain boykinia, Sitka alder, and willow rim this quiet pond. Keep rising and spot a tarn meadow down to the right surrounded by large noble firs. The trail here is lined with sickle-top lousewort. Pass below a talus slope in a lush old growth noble fir/silver fir forest riddled with mountain beaver burrows. Wade through an extensive salmonberry thicket below a series of springs and cross a talus slope colonized by pikas. Soon cross another small talus slope, and reach the ridge crest in silver fir/noble fir woods. Wind down and cross a footbridge between two tarns. Pass a tarn meadow below the east slope of Battle Ax and make an extensive traverse on a talus slope, getting views of Mount Jefferson and Three-fingered Jack before rising to the four-way Bagby Hot Springs-Battle Ax Mountain Trail Junction. There’s a campsite and view to Mount Jefferson to the right – the water source for the campsite is a trickling brook straight ahead on the Bagby Hot Springs Trail.

To ascend to the summit of Battle Ax, go left on the Battle Ax Mountain Trail #3340. Recross the big talus slope, taking in the views once again, and head up through the huckleberries. Cross a small talus slope and make a level traverse above a bowl cluttered with andesite boulders. The trail rises from here among stunted mountain hemlock and noble fir to a many-faced rock outcrop. Mount Hood peers above the Big Slide Mountain ridge. Traverse the steep slopes of Battle Ax and make four switchbacks up before traversing again among mountain hemlocks, boxwood, and huckleberry. You are now getting more expansive views all the way to the Washington Cascades. Two more switchbacks take you to the summit ridge. Hike along the ridge to the old lookout site, where a few concrete foundation pillars are all that remain. A spur trail just past the lookout site takes you down a ridge of platy andesite to a stunning viewpoint over Elk Lake. From the summit of Battle Ax, you can see all the way from Mount Rainier to the Three Sisters and west to the Coast Range.

From the summit, switchback down six times on an open slope of platy andesite dotted with mountain hemlock, Alaska yellow-cedar, and the odd whitebark pine. Common juniper and pinemat manzanita form clumps on the rocky slope. As you descend, the forest cover becomes denser although there are still open views to the south. Traverse down to a saddle of fused cinders, switchback, and get a full-on view of Mount Jefferson. Switchback again in a thicket of Alaska yellow-cedar and Sitka alder. Make a descending traverse, getting views of Mount Beachie’s rugged northeast ridge. Switchback twice below a rocky face and traverse below large overhanging boulders. Make two more switchbacks and descend on a brushy slope of boxwood, snow brush, chinquapin, and Scouler’s willow. Switchback at a viewpoint to a remarkable column on Battle Ax’s east face and get a vista over upper Battle Ax Creek. Traverse and switchback before making a long traverse down in shady woods and across a pile of boulders to the Beachie Saddle Junction.

Go left on the old road bed. The rubbly tread narrows as Sitka alders encroach on the trail. Soon you’re descending in a shady forest dominated by Douglas-fir. Part of the road bed is now an eroded ditch. Pass a dripping spring overhung by maidenhair fern on your left. The gullied track keeps dropping and then levels to cross a washed out culvert and reaches a small turnaround. Descend this section of the road, which is still usable for some vehicles, to pass the Bagby Trailhead and reach your car.


Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Self-issued Wilderness Permit

Maps

  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • Bagby Trail #544 (USFS)
  • Green Trails Maps: Battle Ax, OR #524
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness, Bull of the Woods Wilderness, Opal Creek Wilderness, Opal Creek Scenic Recreation Area
  • Geo-Graphics: Bull of the Woods and Opal Creek Wilderness Map
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Mt. Hood National Forest: Clackamas River Ranger District
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Mt. Hood National Forest
  • National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map: Mount Hood

Trip Reports

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Guidebooks that cover this destination

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Page Contributors

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.