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Chetwoot Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

A section of the Chetwoot Loop Trail (Jamey Pyles)
One of Basil Clark's hand-crafted trail signs (Tom Kloster)
Perham Creek along the Chetwoot Loop Trail (Jamey Pyles)
Falling
Poison Oak
Ticks

Contents

Hike Description

NOTICE: Most trails on the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge are closed until further notice because of damage from the Eagle Creek Fire. The closure involves ALL trails between Rooster Rock State Park and Hood River. It is anticipated that most of these trails may not reopen until Spring or Summer 2018. Please check the list of Columbia Gorge trail closures before you plan for a hike.

WARNING: As of 2015, the Chetwood Loop Hike should be considered an off-trail adventure as much of the tread has been lost to slides and the rest is overgrown. The "long footbridge" over Perham Creek on the Wygant Trail has also been washed away.

The trip begins at the Mitchell Point Trailhead, located at exit 58 on Interstate-84 eastbound. Park at the south end of the large parking area, where a paved path heads into the trees. Take the entry drive downhill until you see a Wygant Trail sign on the left at a gate guarding an abandoned section of the Historic Columbia River Highway. The trail follows the old highway for a quarter mile before a short segment veers off the highway grade to the left, crossing Mitchell Creek on logs, then curves back to follow another abandoned highway stretch. After nearly a half-mile along this second piece of historic road, the trail leaves the road grade for good, turning left into a dramatic, cliff-lined draw. From this point forward, you will be coping with overgrown brush and plenty of poison oak - so take your time, and watch for those "leaves of three".

After climbing up the draw and exiting by way of a couple of switchbacks, the trail travels through open Douglas fir forest briefly, then arrives at the east junction with the Chetwoot Loop Trail and a few feet beyond, the edge of Perham Creek canyon. Continue on the Wygant Trail, following a sign that points to Perham Creek, and descending through a grove of gnarled Oregon white oak. Soon, you will enter the shady, green oasis formed by the creek - a sharp contrast to the dry oak savanna on the east canyon wall. Fill your water bottles here, if needed. This is the last water source until you return.

Cross the creek on a long footbridge, and begin a gentle climb of the shady west wall of the canyon, soon passing a tree-framed view of Mitchell Point, then arriving at an unmarked junction, where the main trail goes right, and the spectacular Lower Wygant Viewpoint is straight ahead, where the route squeezes between a couple of big firs. The Lower Wygant Viewpoint is a good stopping point for a short hike, with a round trip of 3.2 miles and an elevation gain of a couple hundred feet. The flat, moss-covered bluff is a nice picnic spot that provides views from White Salmon, Washington and Mitchell Point on the east to Table Mountain and Cascade Locks, to the west.

If you would like to see more, retrace your steps back to the main trail, turn right, and continue under the set of powerlines that have paralleled the route thus far. The trail curves east, climbing above the powerlines and up the shoulder of Wygant Peak. Climb a series of short switchbacks, then a longer set. Make sure to stop by the Middle Wygant Viewpoint (located by taking a short spur trail before reaching the west junction with the Chetwoot Loop. Now that you've seen Perham Creek, you can decide if you want to take this route back, and make the upstream ford that is required.

The Chetwoot Loop Trail is an informal alternate route along the Wygant Peak Hike that swings further south into Perham Creek Canyon, then rejoins the main Wygant route. The trail was built by Portlander Basil Clark and other volunteers in the 1970s and is a more rustic route than the main Wygant Trail. Note that the map on the Wygant Peak Hike also shows the Chetwoot Loop Trail. Watch for poison oak on this lightly maintained route, as it crowds the trail in several spots. There are also spots where the tread has eroded, making for potentially difficult travel for less experienced hikers. Please use caution when exploring this path!

Beginning at the west Chetwoot junction, marked by a deteriorating sign, go left onto the obviously less traveled loop trail. The trail is more faint than the Wygant Trail, but was well made, so you'll have no trouble following the route. The trail rounds a bend, then starts descending into the Perham Creek Canyon. In this section, the trail passes several blowdowns, but all are easily passed. Soon, the trail comes to a few exposed cliff sections, pictured on this page.

As the trail nears the creek, watch for poison oak. Soon, reach the bridgeless crossing, and take a moment to explore the creek. The area is very photogenic, with a mossy dripping wall a hundred feet downstream from the trail. The loop route crosses Perham Creek, then parallels the stream before passing a slide, and climbing out of the canyon. Soon, the forest opens among huge firs, and the route stays almost level for a third of a mile, before dropping steeply to meet the powerline corridor. Here, the route is overgrown as it passed under the powerlines, then reaches the dirt powerline access road. Turn right, and look for the resumption of the trail about 100 feet to the east. The trail continues descending until it hits the main Wygant Trail. Follow the Wygant Trail back to the trailhead.

Regulations or Restrictions, etc.

  • None

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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.