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Eagle Creek Cutoff Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Looking upstream from the ford on Eagle Creek (bobcat)
New trail sign, Eagle Creek Cutoff Trail (bobcat)
Roundleaf violet (Viola orbiculata), Eagle Creek Cutoff Trail (bobcat)
Along the ridge, Eagle Creek Cutoff Trail (bobcat)
The steep hike down to Eagle Creek (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo
  • Start point: Old Baldy West TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End Point: Eagle Creek Ford
  • Trail Log:
  • Hike Type: Out and Back
  • Distance: 4.8 miles round-trip
  • Elevation gain: 2040 feet
  • High Point: 4,050 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: Summer into Fall
  • Family Friendly: No
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: No

Contents

Description

A short, steep downhill trail is not everyone’s idea of a pleasant day hike, particularly since the Eagle Creek Cutoff Trail #504 was built in the days when switchbacks were switchbacks and not lazy meanders along a slope: the 20+ tight switchbacks on this trail could easily translate into 40 or more (or 20 much longer switchbacks) on a modern trail gradient. In the good ol’ days, before logging roads came up to the South Fork Saddle, this was a connector from the Old Baldy Trail to the pristine bottomlands of Eagle Creek. You can hike down and ford the creek to reach campsites in the upper Eagle Creek area (see the Eagle Creek (Salmon-Huckleberry) Hike), use it as an extension to the Old Baldy Hike, or do a hike/bike (leave the bike at the Old Baldy West Trailhead) with the Fanton Trail to Tumala Mountain Hike. Rhododendrons bloom here in late June, a viewpoint offers a glimpse into the trailless upper Eagle Creek valley, and a number of springs near the beginning of trail support lush mid-elevation bogs. You can also begin this hike at the Upper Fanton Trailhead or the Fanton Trailhead to make it longer.

Note: I have classified this trail as 'moderate,' but it doesn't easily fit into a category. By length, it would be 'easy.' By elevation gain/mile, it would be 'difficult.' Hence the compromise.

Head in the from the trailhead and go right on the Old Baldy Trail. After 70 yards, where the trail begins to rise, reach the Old Baldy-Eagle Creek Cutoff Trail Junction and go left. Drop into an alder-shaded spring area with marsh-marigolds, false hellebore, and dense clumps of stink currant. Traverse along a slope in an old growth woodland of Douglas-fir, silver fir, noble fir, and western hemlock. The trail rises to another lush opening with springs and salmonberry thickets. Drop and then rise along a ridge crest of rhododendron thickets, the rhodies in full bloom towards the end of June. The ridge becomes narrower, and about three-quarters of a mile into the hike, you reach a clifftop viewpoint over the upper Eagle Creek drainage. Most of what you see here is untrammeled wilderness.

Undulate along the ridge crest before dropping off to the left and heading steeply down. The gradient becomes gentler as you descend through a bear-grass carpet. Hike through a rhododendron thicket under noble and silver firs and then drop down to the left. Make five switchbacks down to a sloping bench and then wind down under hemlock, Douglas-fir, and red-cedar. Then make fifteen steep, tight switchbacks down the slope on a stony tread. Ignore a trail leading left and switchback, traverse, and switchback again down to the Eagle Creek Ford. Across the shallow creek, you can see the Eagle Creek Trail, overgrown in the spring; you can ford the creek at almost any time of year (Use poles for stability: see Tips for Crossing Streams) and hike down the Eagle Creek Trail to campsites in cedar bottomlands.


Maps

  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • Eagle Creek Cutoff Trail #504 (USFS)
  • Green Trails Maps: Fish Creek Mtn, OR #492 and Cherryville, Oreg #460
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness, Bull of the Woods Wilderness, Opal Creek Wilderness, Opal Creek Scenic Recreation Area
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Zigzag Ranger District
  • Discover Your Northwest: Mt. Hood National Forest North: Trail Map & Hiking Guide
  • 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 hike

  • Afoot and 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.