Lookout Mountain Loop Hike
From Oregon Hikers Field Guide
- Start point: High Prairie Trailhead
- End Point: Lookout Mountain
- Trail Log: Trail Log
- Hike Type: Loop
- Distance: 2.9 miles round-trip
- Elevation gain: 565 feet
- High Point: 6,525 feet
- Difficulty: Easy
- Seasons: Summer and early Fall
- Family Friendly: Yes
- Backpackable: Yes - connects to trails in the Badger Creek Wilderness
- Crowded: Summer weekends
At well over 6,000 feet, Lookout Mountain is much higher than most of the smaller peaks that surround Mount Hood. The added elevation brings broad meadows, expansive views, alpine wildflowers and ancient whitebark pines to the scene. The view of Mount Hood, just seven miles to the west, is from a unique perspective that gives reveals the massive bulk of the mountain.
From the trailhead, cross the gravel access road, then begin following the dirt road that once lead to the High Prairie Guard Station and the summit lookout, and now serves as the return route for this loop hike. Immediately watch for a trail splitting off the the right, and follow this route throw the sprawling lower meadows of High Prairie. Soon, the trail reaches the western scarp of Lookout Mountain, then follows the shoulder of the peak through stunted forests until reaching the first open slopes of red cinders, craggy rock pinnacles and expansive views of Mount Hood. The East Fork of the Hood River flows through the huge valley 3,000 feet below. Soon, the trail curves around the south face of Lookout Mountain, and reaches the Divide-High Prairie West Trail Junction. Continue climbing past the junction for a few yards to the rugged western summit of Lookout Mountain. From this rocky outcrop, the views extend up and down the Cascades, though the broad east face of Mount Hood dominates the scene.
From the west summit, follow the trail along the summit ridge through rock gardens and stands of ancient mountain hemlock and whitebark pine. Soon, the trail rejoins the old access road, the Divide-High Prairie East Trail Junction, in a small saddle. Follow the old road uphill as it curves around the true summit of Lookout Mountain, and views of the Badger Creek Wilderness unfold to the south. Pass another junction, this time with the Divide Trail, that heads down the east face of Lookout Mountain, en route to Flag Point.
Stay on the old road for a few more yards until you reach the summit, with it’s weathered building foundations of the former lookout buildings. From the true summit, you’ll be able to spot High Prairie, far below to the north, the big Cascade Peaks lined up along the horizon, and the high desert country of Oregon to the east. Look closely, and you’ll also be able to pick out the lookout tower on Flag Point, as the far end of the Divide Trail.
For the return trip, you can simply follow the old access road from the Divide-High Prairie East Trail Junction through two switchbacks in forest, than through the expansive upper portions of High Prairie, all the way back to your car. This narrow track once served as the access road to guard station at High Prairie, built in 1911, and a fire lookout on the summit, in 1914. The lookout was closed in 1966, and removed soon after. The log guard station stood until the mid-1980s, but now has almost disappeared.
- 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
- Search Trip Reports for Lookout Mountain
Related Discussions / Q&A
- Search Trail Q&A for Lookout Mountain
Guidebooks that cover this destination
- 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Portland by Paul Gerald
- 100 Hikes in Northwest Oregon & Southwest Washington by William L. Sullivan
- Hiking Mount Hood National Forest by Marcia Sinclair
- Oregon's Best Wildflower Hikes: Northwest Region by George Wuerthner
- Portland Hikes by Art Bernstein & Andrew Jackman
- 70 Hiking Trails: Northern Oregon Cascades by Don & Roberta Lowe
- Oregon Hiking by Sean Patrick Hill
- Lookout Mountain (Splintercat.org)
- Lookout Mountain: Hood’s No. 2 (OregonLive)
- Lookout Mountain Lookout (Fire Lookouts in the Pacific Northwest)
- Splintercat (Tom Kloster) (primary)