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Boulder Lakes Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Boulder Lake (Tom Kloster)
Bonney Meadows and Mount Hood (Tom Kloster)
Little Boulder Lake (Tom Kloster)
Little Boulder Viewpoint (Tom Kloster)
Boulder Lake from Echo Point (Tom Kloster)
  • Start point: Boulder Lake TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End Point: Boulder Lake Trailhead
  • Trail Log: Trail Log
  • Hike Type: Loop
  • Distance: 6.3 miles round-trip
  • Elevation gain: 1,070 feet
  • High Point: 5,409 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: Late June through October
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable: Yes—camping at Bonney Meadows, Boulder Lakes
  • Crowded: Never

Contents

Description

The Boulder Lakes are in a forgotten corner of the Mount Hood region, yet remain close enough to Portland to be a day hike destination. There are good campsites at Boulder Lake, Little Boulder Lake and Bonney Meadows, so this loop hike could work as an overnight backpack. Note that the alternate approach to this loop is described in the Bonney Meadows to Boulder Lakes Hike, and features a developed campground at the trailhead. Also, please note that 0.8 miles of the loop follows a little-used logging spur—you will be unlikely to encounter vehicles, but should keep an eye out for them, nonetheless.

The hike begins after a somewhat bumpy drive on gravel roads to the Boulder Lake Trailhead. From the signed trailhead at wide shoulder of the road, the trail disappears into a thicket of alder and willow, then heads up the ravine holding the seasonable outlet stream from Boulder Lake. Climb steadily, passing tiny Spinning Lake before reaching the well-signed Boulder Lake-Little Boulder Lake Trail Junction at 0.3 miles. The lake has several fine campsites along the east and south shores, and even a picnic table, but because of the short access trail, you should expect campers here on summer weekends. A loop trail circles the lake. If you're planning a backpack, you could set up camp here, and continue the rest of the loop as a backpack—but plan to carry water back from Bonney Meadows or boil water from the lake, as there are no reliable streams near the lake.

To continue the loop from the signed junction near the lake outlet, turn left (south) and follow the Little Boulder Lake Trail (No. 463A) as it begins climbing the shoulder of the steep ridge abutting Boulder Lake. The trail soon curves around the ridge and makes a gentle descent to the basin that holds Little Boulder Lake. You will reach the northeast lake shore at the 1.0 mile mark, and there are campsites located along the east side of the lake. While not apparent, a little-used logging spur circles to the east of the lake, along the rim of the Boulder Creek Valley. Look for a short, unmarked trail from the northeast corner of the lake that leads to the road, then turn right and follow the road uphill for 0.8 miles past many sweeping views across the valley to Grasshopper Point before cresting a ridge and reaching Trail 473 at the 1.8 mile point.

Turn onto the signed Forest Creek Trail (No. 473), and head briefly into forest before emerging in the first of six recovering clear cuts traversed by the trail. Just under a mile from the road junction, and after crossing the edge of the third clear cut, watch for a rugged viewpoint overlooking Little Boulder Lake, far below, and Grasshopper Point on the far side of the Boulder Creek Valley. At 2.7 miles, this makes for a nice lunch spot for day hikers, with plenty of flat rocks to relax on and enjoy the view.

From here, the route continues climbing north toward Echo Point, passing three more clear cuts before entering deep noble fir forests for the rest of the hike. At 3.9 miles, the trail suddenly crests Echo Point, forested on the west, but open to the east. Look for a short side loop that passes across the steep meadows on the east face where the main trail stays in the trees on the west side of the crest. From here, the Boulder Creek Valley unfolds below, and Mount Hood can be seen peeking through the trees to the northwest. Lookout Mountain and Flag Point in the Badger Creek Wilderness are visible on the horizon (see the Echo Point panorama view at the bottom of the page). This is the high point of the hike and another good lunch spot for day hikers.

From Echo Point, the trail drops quickly to the signed loop trail around Bonney Meadows. If you have time, consider turning left (south) and exploring the southern portion of the loop, where Mount Hood can be seen from a couple ponds along the meadow fringe. Otherwise, turn right at the Hidden Meadows-Forest Creek Trail Junction, and follow the remainder of the Forest Creek Trail north for 0.2 miles to the Boulder Lake-Hidden Meadows Trail Junction. For water or restroom, go left here for 0.2 miles to the Bonney Meadows Campground. Bonney Creek is even closer, just a few dozen yards to the left of the trail, and the only reliably flowing stream along this circuit.

To continue the loop hike, turn right at this junction, climbing gently for a short distance, then veer north as you begin a well-graded traverse into the Bonney Creek Valley. The trail switchbacks south, then passes below a series of rugged talus slopes that drape below Echo Point. Badger Butte appears to the east, across the Boulder Creek Valley. Pass tiny Kane Springs (not a reliable water source) just beyond the last of the talus slopes, then pass over a low saddle, where the trail turns sharply left, descending to the east shore of Boulder Lake at the 6.0 mile mark. Turn left here, and follow your footsteps back down the initial 0.3 miles to the trailhead.

Maps

  • Adventure Maps: Hood River, Oregon, Trail Map
Echo Point Panorama (click to enlarge) (Tom Kloster)
Boulder Lakes Hike Map (click to enlarge)

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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.

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