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Flag Point via Lookout Mountain Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Mt. Hood from Lookout Mountain (bobcat)
Clouded sulphur (Colias philodice), Sunset Spring Trailhead (bobcat)
View to Flag Point and West Point from Palisade Point, Divide Trail (bobcat)
Flag Point Lookout tower (bobcat)
Hike route shown in red (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: National Geographic Topo
  • Start point: High Prairie TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End Point: Flag Point
  • Trail Log:
  • Hike Type: In and out
  • Distance: 11.4 miles
  • Elevation gain: 2340 feet
  • High Point: 6,525 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: Summer into Fall
  • Family Friendly: No
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: No

Contents

Description

The high ridge between Lookout Mountain and Flag Point, on the northern edge of the Badger Creek Wilderness, offers a panoply of attractions: magnificent views of wilderness and the Cascade Range, wet and dry wildflower meadows, exotic rock formations, and a working lookout tower at Flag Point. While you can almost drive to the latter via a rough road, a shorter drive gives you a real hiking experience. One more access option to Flag Point that involves a hike is by using the Fret Creek Trail (see the Palisade Point via Fret Creek Hike for a description of part of this route). This is a great hike in the summer but is also a revelation in the fall (end of October - early November) when the larches blaze in golden glory before dropping their needles.

From the High Prairie Trailhead, cross Road 4410 and take the High Prairie Trail #493: this is the short loop trail to the summit of Lookout Mountain. Go right at the trail sign and begin a traipse across High Prairie’s lush meadows of arrow-leaf groundsel, heliotrope, lupine, arnica, and subalpine daisy. The trail swings left at a decommissioned spur to an old trailhead on the Bennett Pass Road. Wind gently up in mountain hemlock forest carpeted in patches by lupine, grouseberry, and woodrush. Stay right at the unsigned junction for the short tie that leads to the lookout road. Pass a viewpoint above a red cinder slope to Mount Hood and Elk Mountain. Then reach a pointed rock outcrop which also offers excellent views west. The trail turns up the ridge in a matted carpet of pinemat manzanita, and you will get your first views of Mount Jefferson and the Three Sisters. Reach the Divide-High Prairie West Trail Junction, and go left.

Pass a campsite on Lookout Mountain’s west summit with a view back to the volcanoes of the Washington Cascades. Keep up the ridge on the viewpoint trail as the Divide Trail runs parallel below you to your left. At a saddle, reach the Divide-High Prairie East Trail Junction where the old lookout access road comes up the slope. Head up through scattered whitebark pines to the lookout site to get more expansive views in every direction.

Now head southeast along the ridge, dropping into a lupine meadow. Before entering mountain hemlock ridge forest, look to the left for the short, indistinct trail leading down to Senecal Spring, the former lookout’s water source. Continue along the ridge below a rock outcrop. Various paths lead to the rim for more views. Soon, the trail drops to the north side of the ridge in silver fir/mountain hemlock forest with a huckleberry understory. Rise to the Fret Creek-Divide Trail Junction and continue up more steeply to the ridge at Palisade Point. The weathered outcroppings in the Palisades area are worth exploring if you have the time. To the right is the highest point. Clamber around here and you will find an interesting rock arch. Continuing along the Divide Trail, there are a couple more Palisade viewpoints over the Badger Creek Wilderness. Badger Lake gleams in the distance. Look down below the cliffs for some spectacular needles. From here, the trail drops through woodland and manzanita-carpeted meadows. Ponderosa pines enter the forest mix. From a saddle, rise in dry woods and then drop again among fragrant snowbrush and more parklands. The trail reaches dusty FR 2730-200, which access the Flag Point Lookout tower, at a meadow and the Sunset Spring Trailhead, where four trails meet.

From here, you can hike about half a mile up the road, passing a locked gate, to the Flag Point Lookout, which is staffed in the summer (November 1st through May 31st the lookout is available for rent to the public, but you will usually have to ski up the access road). The lookout staff usually welcomes visitors. There is also an A-frame cabin and outhouse here. For further exploration, go south from the lookout tower and, west of the sign for the Douglas Cabin Trail, find the tread leading out to West Point, which offers commanding views from its rocky prominence to Mount Hood, Lookout Mountain, Badger Lake, and south to Mount Jefferson and the Three Sisters area. The rock gardens here are spectacular in June.

On the return trip, you can make some diversions if you wish. Sunset Spring lies near the 200 spur between the Little Badger and Tygh Creek Trails. Oval Lake is just a short distance down the slope from the Fret Creek-Divide Trail Junction. Find the short trail to Senecal Spring from the saddle just east of Lookout Mountain's summit.

When you reach Lookout Mountain, take the old lookout road from Divide-High Prairie East Trail Junction on the saddle west of the summit. This will make a wide loop down through montane woodland of noble fir, silver fir, mountain hemlock, and western white pine. After the second sharp curve in the road, descend into woods and then reach a lush meadow. Pass through another band of forest and reach the meadow, dominated by false hellebore, where the old guard station once stood. Only a telephone pole remains here. See the Badger Creek Wilderness sign and then pass through another band of trees. Finally, reach the third lush meadow that leads to the trailhead.

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • none

Maps

  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • Green Trails Maps: Mt. Hood, OR #462 and Flag Point, OR #463
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Columbia Wilderness and Badger Creek Wilderness
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Barlow 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
  • Adventure Maps: Hood River, Oregon, Trail Map

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this destination

  • A Guide to the Trails of Badger Creek by Ken and Ruth Love
  • Off the Beaten Trail by Matt Reeder (via Fret Creek)

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.