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Gunsight Butte-Badger Lake Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Mt. Hood from the Gunsight Butte ridge (bobcat)
Cascade mariposa lily (Calochortus subalpinus), Gumjuwac Saddle (bobcat)
Elephant's-head lousewort (Pedicularis groenlandica), Camp Windy Spring (bobcat)
Drummond's cinquefoil (Potentilla drummondii), Upper Badger Creek (bobcat)
Badger Lake (bobcat)
Route of the loop from Gumjuwac Saddle; Jean Lake diversion shown in green (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: National Geographic Topo
  • Start point: Gumjuwac Saddle TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End Point: Badger Lake
  • Trail Log:
  • Hike Type: Loop
  • Distance: 8.5 miles
  • Elevation gain: 2025 feet
  • High Point: 5,916 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: Summer into Fall
  • Family Friendly: No
  • Backpackable: Yes
  • Crowded: No

Contents

Description

From Gumjuwac Saddle, this loop takes the high ridge on the western edge of the Badger Creek drainage. It offers splendid views across to to Mount Hood and a series of wildflowers meadows and rock gardens. The return part of the loop takes you down the lush, little-travelled upper section of the Badger Creek Trail to Badger Lake and thence, via the Divide Trail past gushing springs and huckleberry patches back to Gumjuwac Saddle.

Note that the Gumjuwac Saddle Trailhead, on the notorious Bennett Pass Road, should not be attempted with low clearance vehicles. Longer hikes incorporating this loop can be done from the Gumjuwac Trailhead (add 4.8 miles round-trip and 1,600' elevation gain/loss) or from the High Prairie Trailhead (add 6.6 miles round-trip and 1,700' elevation gain/loss). Also, there is the option to do a short road walk and trail to access Jean Lake.

Strike out from Gumjuwac Saddle heading up the Gunsight Butte Trail #685 on the west side of the road going south along the ridge in silver fir/mountain hemlock forest with Engelmann spruce and some western white pine. Mountain bikes also use this track, causing some dust. The woods are dry and you pass through a small burn from 2006. Switchback up into the burn and then make two more switchbacks on a penstemon-lined trail. The crest of the andesite ridge appears to the right and there are excellent views of Mount Hood and the big Blue Grass Ridge burn, also from 2006, above Elk Meadows. Mountain sandwort, paintbrush and sulfur buckwheat brighten the open slope. Keep going up through a copse of shady mountain hemlock and then the trail switchbacks down to traverse a saddle. Switchback up and get a view to the left of Lookout Mountain. Pass over the wooded top of Gunsight Butte and note a knoll of fragmented andesite to the right which affords great views of Hood. Then the trail joins the Bennett Pass Road. A sign says to walk along the road for 400’ before rejoining the trail. There are views from the road down to Badger Lake and south to Mount Jefferson, the Three Sisters and Broken Top. At a rise, the trail heads back off the road to the right.

Note: An option here is to walk about 0.7 miles along the Bennett Pass Road to access the short Jean Lake Hike, a worthy diversion if you have the time.

The trail heads up to the ridgeline and then down close to the road. Some noble fir appear in the mix. Pass around the west side of an andesite outcrop with great views of Mount Hood to the right. The trail levels and then heads gradually up with two quick switchbacks. A spur to the right leads to the top with views of Mt. Hood, the Newton Creek drainage and debris flows, Mount Adams and Mount Rainier. Drop down in mountain hemlock woods and then rise to traverse past a rocky knoll and then along the ridge crest. The trail undulates in mountain hemlock, bear-grass, and huckleberry woods. Descend to a saddle and look carefully for the unsigned Gunsight Butte-Camp Windy Trail Junction (If you reach a road, you’ve gone too far).

The Camp Windy Trail #685B is not well-travelled nor well-maintained. Head down to the left, and soon meet the Bennett Pass Road next to a lovely spring with its own small lush meadow blooming with elephant’s-head lousewort, bog paintbrush, bog orchids, tofieldia, and saxifrage. We go left up the road for about 30 yards and see an old vehicle track leading steeply down the slope on the right. We pick up the somewhat overgrown continuation of the trail leading off to the left from the beginning of this track. Traverse the hillside swishing through huckleberry bushes and at times can see FR 4860 to the right. Head down in a mountain hemlock ridge forest, almost reaching the road, and then up over a pinemat manzanita-covered knoll blooming with Washington lilies. Descend and soon reach a pullout next to the road, the Badger Creek Upper Trailhead.

At the far end of the pullout, the Badger Creek Trail leads down past a wilderness sign through huckleberry, silver fir, and mountain hemlock woods. The slope is lush and blooming with arnica, heliotrope, lupine, and vanilla leaf. There are many seeps and springs but also lots of blowdown to negotiate. This end of the Badger Creek Trail is rarely hiked but has been maintained by a local horse group. Cross a small footbridge and continue to gradually traverse down. We’re under silver firs and Englemann spruce here. A creek uses the trail for a spell. Get a good view of Badger Lake below and continue crossing many more creeks and springs and maybe some blowdown. Mertensia, shooting stars, and two colors of monkey flower are blooming profusely. Descend into drier silver fir woods with Engelmann spruce, Douglas-fir and noble fir. Reach the Badger Creek-Divide Trail Junction. This will be your return route for completion of the loop. Finally, a spur leads right down to the lake to a good lunch spot by the dam wall.

Head back up the spur and then left back up to the Badger Creek-Divide Trail Junction leading up to the right from a large mountain hemlock. It’s 2.6 miles back up to the saddle. This trail is a gentle cruise rising gradually. The woods are composed of mountain hemlock, silver fir, Douglas-fir and noble fir. Cross lush seeps and then a rushing creek, the outlet from Jean Lake. There are small clearings with snowbrush and mountain ash. The trail meets the ridgeline and descends to cross a small creek. Pass through a thicket of white rhododendron and traverse, making a level or slightly descending path, striding along in mountain hemlock/silver fir/huckleberry woods with a few Engelmann spruce. The trail rises slightly as it crosses another bog and then drops again. See the Bennett Pass Road next to the trail and soon reach Gumjuwac Saddle.

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Share Gunsight Trail with mountain bikers

Maps

  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • Green Trails Maps: Mt. Hood, OR #462
  • 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

  • 105 Virtual Hikes of the Mt. Hood National Forest by Northwest Hiker
  • Hiking Oregon's Mount Hood & Badger Creek Wilderness by Fred Barstad
  • A Guide to the Trails of Badger Creek by Ken and Ruth Love (Trails described individually)
  • Pacific Northwest Hiking by Scott Leonard & Megan McMorris
  • Mountain Biking Oregon: Northwest and Central Oregon by Lizann Dungeon (Gunsight Trail)
  • Kissing the Trail by John Zilly (Gunsight Trail)

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.

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