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Fifteenmile Creek Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Rockpiles, Cedar Creek Trail (bobcat)
Trail through parklands, Cedar Creek Trail (bobcat)
Slender godetia (Clarkia gracilis), Cedar Creek Trail (bobcat)
Fifteenmile Creek, Fifteenmile Creek Trail (bobcat)
Andesite outcropping at Pats Point, Fifteenmile Creek Trail (bobcat)
Thompson's paintbrush (Castilleja thompsonii), Pats Point, Fifteenmile Creek Trail (bobcat)
Map showing the Fifteenmile Creek Loop (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo
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Contents

Description

One of the gems of the Mt. Hood National Forest’s Barlow District, this classic loop through the Mt. Hood National Recreation Area, created in 2009, is a glorious lope through glades and meadows and rock gardens, mostly on ridges, but also in the cool bottomlands of Fifteenmile Creek. The two trails, Cedar Creek Trail (which actually runs along a ridge for its entirety) and Fifteenmile Creek Trail (also partly on a ridge), are used by mountain bikers more than hikers and, even though there is winter blowdown in stretches of diseased forest, the routes get logged out early and are well-maintained. The area is in the transitional zone from east to west, and thus you’ll see more conifer species here than just about anywhere else in our area, with even a few western junipers clinging to the rims. Also, you’re getting into a different wildflower zone, with a mix of slope, creek, and grassland species. In late spring, the balsamroot is at its prime and lupine is blooming at all but the highest elevations. Bitterroot and death-camas flower in open areas on the Cedar Creek Ridge, and green-banded mariposa lilies come out in early summer. The highly weathered andesite outcroppings are typical of the Barlow area; various rocky viewpoints invite exploration and add an extra delight to the trail.

Find the trail leading off to the left just below the parking spot. After 30 yards, come to a junction, and keep right on the Fifteenmile Creek Trail #456. The trail descends gradually in somewhat diseased forest of mountain hemlock, lodgepole and ponderosa pine, grand fir and Engelmann spruce. Soon reach the Fifteenmile Creek-Cedar Creek Trail Junction, and go right down to Fifteenmile Creek.

Cross the creek on a footbridge and traverse up through an understory of vanilla leaf, twin flower, and huckleberry. The trail here is logged out in early spring every year as there is usually significant winter blowdown. Reaching the ridge, you will find yourself hiking on a gradually descending trail among old growth Douglas-fir, grand fir, and ponderosa pine. Get views across the valley to rocky outcrops on the opposite ridge. In shady woods, switchback down twice and drop off the ridge crest. Pass a rocky viewpoint on your left with a view north. Now you’ll wander through a series of glades carpeted with pinemat manzanita, spreading phlox, and spurred lupine. The first of these is Onion Flat. In late spring, find the beautiful blooms of bitterroot (Lewisia rediviva) coming up in what seems to be bare rock, the basal leaves already withered and gone. By late June, thousands of purple-red taper-tip onions (Allium acuminatum) carpet another area of the meadow. Head about 120 yards down the slope to the right and you will reach Cedar Creek itself. From another meadow, a spur to the left leads through bitterbrush, manzanita, and woolly sunflower to a knoll of platy andesite. Here you will see your first western juniper, a sign that you truly are in central Oregon! The trail descends below a large block of weathered andesite to reach an open parkland. Get a view of Frailey Point to the right across the Cedar Creek valley (The Cedar Creek Trail is a 1970s revamp of the abandoned Frailey Point Trail). Skirt a meadow that blooms with death-camas in the spring and then reach another meadow dominated by little white sprays of mountain sandwort. Take a short spur to the left through manzanita bushes to another viewpoint looking south. Hike up past rock formations to a wide, rocky flat that blooms with bitterroot and taper-tip onions in early summer.

The trail veers left through a jumble of rocks, swings below an andesite outcrop, and switchbacks to cross an old logging road. Head around the nose of the ridge below another outcropping and down through a thicket of grand fir, vine maple, and ocean spray. Head up again as the ridge crest narrows and then drop on a steeper, rubbly trail. Oak woods appear on the slope leading down to Cedar Creek and grassy expanses bloom with balsamroot, small-flowered penstemon, bitterbrush, woolly sunflower, and slender godetia. Get views ahead of the lower Cedar and Fifteenmile Creek valleys. Eventually reach a shady bottomland of Douglas-fir and western red-cedar and cross a footbridge over Fifteenmile Creek to the campsite in Little Strawberry Meadow at the Fifteenmile Creek-Cedar Creek-Underhill Trail Junction (The Underhill Trail is unsigned and begins almost invisibly behind the campsite).

Go left there to begin heading up Fifteenmile Creek passing through leafy glades, an almost continuous carpet of vanilla leaf, and woods of cedar, Douglas-fir, Engelmann spruce, and even the odd cottonwood. The path passes close to the creek, and then diverges from it. Drop to cross a dry, mossy creek bed, and then hike gradually up to hop across a running stream. Climb higher on the slope and switchback. Traverse up and switchback again to the ridge crest. Find yourself next to a logging road and hike up through a parkland of manzanita and ponderosa pine into shady Engelmann spruce/cedar forest. Cross Marion Creek and reach an old road bed at a signposted junction.

Go left along the road bed, now an avenue of young Douglas-fir and grand fir. Leave the road bed and ascend to a boulder ridge crest. Walk along a gravelly bench between the weathered andesite walls of Pats Point. From here, drop into Douglas-fir woods, traverse down and cross Foster Creek on a footbridge. Hike on the level out to an open point and then reenter the forest, once again on a level tread. The trail soon rises up along Fifteenmile Creek. Cross a footbridge over another tributary in cedar/silver fir/hemlock forest and hike above rushing, log strewn Fifteenmile Creek and reach the Fifteenmile Creek-Cedar Creek Trail Junction. From here, hike up the creek to your car.

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Mountain bikers share the trail

Maps

  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • Fifteen Mile Trail #456 (USFS)
  • Cedar Creek Trail #457 (USFS)
  • Green Trails Maps: Flag Point, OR #463
  • Discover Your Northwest: Mt. Hood National Forest North: Trail Map & Hiking Guide
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Mt. Hood National Forest
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Barlow Ranger District
  • National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map: Mount Hood
  • Adventure Maps: Mt. Hood Area
  • Adventure Maps: Hood River, Oregon, Trail Map

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks

  • Best Old-growth Forest Hikes: Washington & Oregon Cascades by John & Diane Cissel
  • Off the Beaten Trail by Matt Reeder
  • A Guide to the Trails of Badger Creek by Ken & Ruth Love
  • Mountain Biking Oregon: Northwest and Central Oregon by Lizann Dunegan
  • Kissing the Trail by John Zilly

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.