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Indian Mountain Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Mt. Hood from Indian Mountain (bobcat)
Wahtum Lake (bobcat)
Chindere Mt. from the Indian Springs Trail (bobcat)
California hairstreak (Satyrium californium) on heliotrope, Indian Springs (bobcat)
Wild ginger (Asarum caudatum), Waucoma Ridge (bobcat)
The loop to Indian Mountain (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo
  • Start point: Wahtum Lake TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Indian Mountain
  • Trail Log:
  • Hike Type: Loop with spur
  • Distance: 11.5 miles
  • Elevation gain: 2640 feet
  • High Point: 4,865 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: Summer into Fall
  • Family Friendly: No
  • Backpackable:Yes
  • Crowded: No

Contents

Hike Description

It's about nine miles round-trip to Indian Mountain, a prominence and former lookout site on Waucoma Ridge, from the Wahtum Lake Trailhead using the Pacific Crest Trail. However, for a couple extra miles you can make a loop and enjoy the old growth forest at the head of the East Fork Eagle Creek drainage and the little-used Indian Springs Trail. The spur trail to Indian Mountain itself provides expansive views and an open field of wildflowers, so this hike has a little of everything, including a mountain lake, gushing springs, viewpoints, blooms, and big trees. Note that the loop option considerably increases the elevation gain, so for an easier amble, you may want to do the in and out on the Pacific Crest Trail.

Head down the trail from the Wahtum Lake Trailhead and get to a map board and wilderness permit box. From here, a horse trail leads down to the right, but you should take the Wahtum Express Trail #406J on the left. Descend on scores of steep steps in old growth noble fir/silver fir forest. Come to the junction with the horse trail and go left. Reach the lush shore of Wahtum Lake and the junction with the Pacific Crest Trail, and go left. Goat’s beard, arnica, false bugbane and anemone bloom in the thickets trailside. Near the end of the lake, reach the Pacific Crest-Eagle Creek Trail Junction, and keep right on the the Eagle Creek Trail #440 if you're doing the loop described below.

In a few yards, there’s the Eagle Creek-Chinidere Cutoff Trail Junction, where the Chinidere Mountain Trail goes down to the right to cross the creek spilling out of the lake. Keep left here. The trail drops beneath outstanding old growth silver firs. The East Fork of Eagle Creek, with its source in Wahtum Lake, rushes below. Enter a slope forest of Douglas-fir, silver fir, noble fir and western hemlock. The trail gradually descends. Cross two talus slopes with a huge Douglas-fir trailside at the second boulder field. The trail is wet with seepage from a spring. Step over a stream rank with devil’s club. Cedars and a huge noble fir lurk nearby. Then cross a larger stream and then three more streams in lush Sitka alder/vine maple undergrowth. At a boulder slope, get a view of Chinidere Mountain. Reenter the forest and then cross two more talus slopes. Pass over two more creeks heading down. After another talus slope, pass the Upper Eagle Camp and cross a large stream. The trail heads out of this valley with campsites sited below. You are now in younger silver fir, Douglas-fir, western hemlock woodland. Traverse down past another campsite and a small waterfall. Then arrive at the Eagle Creek-Indian Springs Trail Junction.

Head up the steep Indian Springs Trail #435 on a ridge crest. The forest carpet is composed of scattered shrubs of Oregon grape. Keep up under silver firs with rhododendrons, bear-grass, and Oregon grape in the understory. Reach an open meadow with common juniper and serviceberry and views down the Eagle Creek drainage. Then attain a ridge crest where the trail bends right into the woods. Get a view to the left of Chinidere Mountain. Traverse up the left side of the ridge through bear-grass and huckleberries. Cross a wide talus slope and head back into the woods of noble fir and silver fir. Make a traverse, and then hike up steeply to where the trail levels and rises again. A creek rushes down to the left. Cross a dry creek bed and ascend through Sitka alders. Pass through a damp area below a spring and reach the primitive Indian Springs Campground and the Indian Springs Trailhead, which can be reached via rough and rutted FR 3610-660.

From the campground parking area, pick up the Pacific Crest Trail going right. Pass through lush shrubbery of mountain spiraea, heliotrope, arnica and vine maple. Cross a creek and head up an open slope with commanding views of Mount Saint Helens, Mount Rainier, Mount Adams and Mount Defiance to the east. Reach the nose of the Indian Mountain ridge with its splendid views, including west to Tanner Butte and Larch Mountain and north to Table Mountain and Greenleaf Peak. At the Pacific Crest-Indian Mountain Trail Junction, there’a large cairn supporting a signpost pointing the way to Indian Mountain up Trail #416. Head up to the left on this scratch of a trail across a wide meadow dotted with small subalpine firs. Cross an access track and follow the little cairns which mark the route to the left of a solar-powered radio repeater station. Continue up on a disused rocky road bed into a forest of mountain hemlock and silver fir. The track bends left where, in summer, you'll hike on a carpet of avalanche lilies and strawberries. Reach the end of the road: here, a trail leads up through huckleberries and emerges at the rocky crest of Indian Mountain with a splendid view of Mount Hood and all the way to Mount Jefferson. There are a few remnants of the old lookout and a summit register to sign. The south side of this peak is rather precipitous. Mount Adams and Mount Defiance can be seen past the trees to the east.

Walk back down past the monitoring station and reach the access track. Rather than return to the PCT, take this road. Pass a barrier and a lush alder thicket and come to a junction. Go left here and hike down this gravel road, the verges blooming with arnica, paintbrush, lupine, yarrow and willow herb in summer. Reach a saddle and take the campground spur road left and down to where the PCT crosses it (Alternatively, you could keep on the ridge by following the 660 spur road all the way back to the Wahtum Lake Trailhead).

Go right on the Pacific Crest Trail. The trail rises and comes close to the FR 1310-660 spur. You're now on the crest of Waucoma Ridge. The road drops below the trail and Mount Hood begins to appear from behind Indian Mountain, eventually offering a clear view. Cross a steep talus slope, reenter woods, and then cross another talus slope. The trail makes two short switchbacks to approach the road again and then drops below the road. Traverse below the ridge crest in lush silver fir/noble fir woods with increasing numbers of Douglas-fir. Pass along two talus slopes, entering the Mark O. Hatfield Wilderness again. Cross five more boulder slopes as you make an extended, relatively level traverse, each time reentering splendid old-growth forest. The landscape levels as you approach Wahtum Lake. At the lake, keep straight and then take the Express Trail up the steep steps and to the Wahtum Lake Trailhead.


Maps

  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • Green Trails Maps: Bonneville Dam, OR #429
  • Green Trails Maps: Columbia River Gorge - West #428S
  • Geo-Graphics: Trails of the Columbia Gorge
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service/Bureau of Land Management: Columbia River Gorge
  • National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map: Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area
  • Discover Your Northwest: Mt. Hood National Forest North
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Hood River Ranger District
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Mt. Hood National Forest

Regulations or restrictions, etc

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Off the Beaten Trail by Matt Reeder
  • Day Hikes in the Columbia Gorge by Don J. Scarmuzzi
  • 62 Hiking Trails: Northern Oregon Cascades by Don & Roberta Lowe
  • 70 Hiking Trails: Northern Oregon Cascades by Don & Roberta Lowe
  • The Pacific Crest Trail: Oregon & Washington by Jeffrey P. Schaffer & Andy Selters
  • Day Hikes on the Pacific Crest Trail: Oregon & Washington by George & Patricia Semb
  • Hiking the Oregon Skyline by Charles M. Feris

More Links


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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