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Clear Lake via Blue Box Trail Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Old sign, Blue Box Trail (bobcat)
Mt. Hood from the Blue Box summit, Blue Box Trail (bobcat)
Clear Lake Butte from Clear Lake (bobcat)
Tall Douglas-fir, Blue Box Trail (bobcat)
The Blue Box Trail #483 to Clear Lake (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo
  • Start point: Frog Lake Sno-ParkRoad.JPG
  • End Point: Clear Lake
  • Trail Log:
  • Hike Type: In and out
  • Distance: 8.0 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1815 feet
  • High Point: 4,605 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: Summer into Fall
  • Family Friendly: No
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: No

Contents

Description

If there is one feature that encapsulates the spirit of the Blue Box Trail, it is old growth. Most of the trail is through old growth forest, with some substantial noble firs and Douglas-firs on the up slope and crest and then more massive Doug-firs and western hemlocks down towards Clear Lake. The trail passes through two small clearcuts on the crest, where you can go off-trail to get a view of Mount Hood from one and Frog Lake Buttes from the other. The trail also passes close to other clearcuts, but does an admirable job of keeping you mostly in unlogged forest. The trail is usually logged out and seems to be well-maintained. It may get more horse than hiker traffic, but probably very little of either.

To the left of the restrooms, trail signs point you past a shaded picnic table to a junction with the Pacific Crest Trail. Go left here and walk 75 yards to Highway 26. Cross carefully, looking both ways (Traffic is going at least 60 mph!) and enter the shady coniferous forest on the other side. Drop about 100 yards to the Pacific Crest-Blue Box Trail Junction, and go left on the Blue Box Trail #483.

This trail, usually maintained, rises gently in a woodland of Douglas-fir, western hemlock, noble fir, and silver fir. There’s a mossy carpet in an open understory with low huckleberry bushes, bear-grass, and pipsissewa. As the slope steepens, you will notice larger trees, especially noble fir and Douglas-fir. The noise from the highway also begins to abate. Cross the gravel FR 6620-220 spur at a campsite. There’s a Trail #483 sign posted on a large noble fir here.

The trail reaches a broad crest and drops gradually before rising into a clearcut regenerating with Douglas-fir, noble fir, western white pine, and western larch saplings. Past the halfway point in this clearcut, leave the trail and hike to the right to where the slope begins to drop. Here you will get the best view of Mount Hood on this hike. Back on the trail, reenter old growth forest and hike across the broad Blue Box Summit to enter a second clearcut. From here, you will get a view to Frog Lake Buttes through the trees.

Now descend past trees marked with red paint stripes and encounter openings of chinquapin and boxwood in the old growth ridge forest. Pass between a jumble of mossy boulders into the majestic realm of large western hemlock, Douglas-fir, and noble fir. There’s a field of small boulders and then a short rise past a thicket of vine maple, chinquapin, and boxwood. Continue along the ridge crest and drop down a rock pile through a vine maple thicket. Reach an old logging track sporting dense regrowth before you begin to encounter the biggest trees (Douglas-firs and hemlocks) of the hike. Pass another rock outcropping, where there used to be a viewpoint, and hike down steeply through vine maples to FR 2660, signed on both sides for the Blue Box Trail.

From here, descend into more marvelous old growth. Cross paved FR 2630 and drop past a clearing populated by young larch trees that glow yellow in the fall. There’s a campsite to the left before you reach a primitive road. Go left 20 yards and find passage to the shore of Clear Lake, no longer a natural body of water surrounded by a lush meadow since the Wasco Dam raised its surface in 1959. Unfortunately, Clear Lake’s shoreline and the dispersed campsites around it exhibit many countless weekends of summer "fun" in the form of discarded beer cans, plastic water bottles, aluminum foil, and toilet paper flowers. Still, from the water’s edge, you can sit on a rock and enjoy the view across the sparkling expanse to the low profile of Clear Lake Butte.


Fees, Regulations, etc.

Maps

  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • Blue Box Trail #483 (USFS)
  • Green Trails Maps: Mt. Wilson, OR #494
  • Discover Your Northwest: Mt. Hood National Forest North: Trail Map & Hiking Guide
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Hood River Ranger District
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Mt. Hood National Forest
  • National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map: Mount Hood
  • Adventure Maps: Mt. Hood Area

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this destination

  • Afoot & Afield: Portland/Vancouver by Douglas Lorain

More Links


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.