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Horseshoe Ridge Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Rock outcropping on the south branch of Horseshoe Ridge (bobcat)
Siouxon Falls (bobcat)
Old growth western hemlock near the hunter's camp, Horseshoe Ridge (bobcat)
Trail descent, north branch of Horseshoe Ridge (bobcat)
The Horseshoe Ridge Loop (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: National Geographic Topo
  • Start point: Siouxon TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End Point: Horseshoe Ridge Hunter’s Camp
  • Trail Log:
  • Hike Type: Loop
  • Distance: 12.1 miles
  • Elevation gain: 3405 feet
  • High Point: 3,480 feet
  • Difficulty: Difficult
  • Seasons: mid-Spring into Fall
  • Family Friendly: No
  • Backpackable: Yes
  • Crowded: No

Contents

Description

The Gifford Pinchot National Forest’s Siouxon Roadless Area is part of the 1902 Yacolt Burn and the lush growth here is really a 100-year forest although much of it is younger than that because fires continued to erupt in the area until 1930 or so, when the Civilian Conservation Corps came in and built trails and firebreaks. This is a very popular dayhiking/overnight camping area, but this loop takes you up remote Horseshoe Ridge, which is just that - a horseshoe shaped ridge that cradles the drainage of Horseshoe Creek. The trail is far less traveled than the Siouxon Creek Trail and is not frequently maintained but is easy to follow. Much as with other ridges in the Old Cascades, stunted woodland and mossy, craggy outcrops alternate with broader saddles and a few steep, open meadows with very limited views. A venerable stand of old growth with a lush understory of huckleberry stands at the toe of the horseshoe and makes this rather rigorous seven-mile trail worth the effort.

From the parking area, hike fifty yards down to the Siouxon Trail #130 and go right. Descend in a lush slope forest of Douglas-fir and western hemlock with a carpet of oxalis and sword fern. Note the large snags from the period of the Yacolt Burn. Take the footbridge over West Creek and note the campsites below the trail in this area. Hike a level stretch of trail above lovely Siouxon Creek, pass another campsite, and then a false trail leading to the right. Keep to the main trail to reach the Siouxon-Horseshoe Ridge Trail West Junction.

Here go right on the Horseshoe Ridge Trail #140. Rise steeply and make the first of many switchbacks in 100-year woods of Douglas-fir and western hemlock sheltering a mossy carpet of mosses, Oregon grape, and sword fern. At a gully choked with blowdown, make another switchback and traverse up under a rocky prominence. Hike steeply up to reach the ridge crest and bend left to follow the crest on the south branch of the horseshoe. Among the hemlocks, there are now noble firs. Reach a rocky spine supporting bear-grass and salal. To the right, there’s a small viewpoint with manzanita bushes giving a partial view to the West Creek valley and West Point. Keep hiking up from here and then undulate along the spine of the ridge, dropping below mossy outcroppings, and then rising again. Reach an opening matted with common juniper and Martindale’s desert-parsley that offers more partial views. Continue along the crest and note the elk sign, mostly droppings, along the trail. Pass along two more common juniper/pinemat manzanita meadows and undulate along the crest some more. Switchback and exit the area of the Yacolt Burn. Drop through an understory of huckleberries with some large ridgetop Douglas-firs and even more impressive hemlocks. Silver firs grow thick in the understory. Pass the largest tree on the trail, a hemlock, and reach the Horseshoe Ridge Hunter’s Camp where FR 5700-320 reaches the trail (The road will be snow-covered to the end of May most years).

From the camp, make a short rise, and then drop to Road 320. Head left for 40 yards and hike up to the ridge crest on the north branch of the horseshoe. The trail has now entered the Burn area again and undulates along the ridge before making a steep descent that becomes a gentler traverse. Some blowdown will need to be negotiated on this slope. The path continues to make steep drops at times and switchbacks before traversing past two mossy springs. Cross a small creek, switchback again, and head down in lush woods to the Siouxon-Horseshoe Ridge Trail East Junction. If you’ve had enough hiking for the day, you can return from here the 2.9 miles back up the Siouxon Trail. If you wish to continue to some of the best waterfalls in the area, see the Siouxon Creek Hike for directions to Chinook Falls and Wildcat Falls. Visiting these and reconnecting to the Siouxon Trail via the ford at the Siouxon at Wildcat Creek Crossing will add about two miles to your day.

Otherwise, go left at the Siouxon-Horseshoe Ridge Trail East Junction for the three-mile jaunt back to the parking area. Very shortly, pass the Siouxon-Siouxon Crossing Trail Junction marked for the Wildcat Trail. Pass some campsites near the junction and rise gently above the creek before dropping to a lush bottomland. Note a side trail to a small waterfall on the creek as you ascend 20 feet above the Siouxon. Pass the top of Siouxon Falls and reach the rotting bench at the viewpoint. The creek here plunges noisily through a rocky cleft and forms a large pool which is great for a dip on a sultry summer day. Continue past more campsites in the woods to the left. Cross a small creek and reach the Siouxon-Horseshoe Creek Falls Trail Junction. This short trail leads down to some campsites on a bench near the creek and, from this area, you can get a more complete view of triple-tiered 60-foot Horseshoe Creek Falls.

Continuing on the main trail, cross Horseshoe Creek on a footbridge and come to a viewpoint which gives a good view of the falls’ upper tier. The trail undulates along, passing under a mossy face, and then detours where the creek has undercut the old trail alignment. Rise gently to the Siouxon-Horseshoe Ridge Trail West Junction and continue on for less than a mile to the parking area.


Fees, Regulations, etc.

Maps

  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • Green Trails Maps: Lookout Mtn, WA #396
  • Siouxon Roadless Area (USFS)
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument & Administrative Area
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Gifford Pinchot National Forest
  • National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map: Mount St. Helens - Mt. Adams

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Afoot & Afield: Portland/Vancouver by Douglas Lorain
  • Day Hiking: Mount St. Helens by Craig Romano & Aaron Theisen
  • Day Hiking: South Cascades by Dan A. Nelson & Alan L. Bauer
  • 33 Hiking Trails: Southern Washington Cascades by Don & Roberta Lowe
  • Exploring Washington's Wild Areas by Marge & Ted Mueller
  • 100 Hikes in Northwest Oregon & Southwest Washington by William L. Sullivan
  • Hiking the Gifford Pinchot Backcountry by the Columbia Group Sierra Club

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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