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Pine Creek-Badger Butte Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

This page is marked as a Lost Hike. The "trail" may be dangerous and hard to follow and is not recommended for beginning hikers without an experienced leader. Beginning hikers should check out our Basic Hiking Information page.
View down the Pine Creek Valley from Badger Butte (bobcat)
View to Lookout Mountain and Palisade Point from the Post Camp Trail (bobcat)
Pioneer gooseberry (Ribes lobbii), Pine Creek Trail (bobcat)
Looking up the Pine Creek valley from the Pine Creek Trail (bobcat)
Big noble fir on the Three Mile Trail (bobcat)
Trace of the loop route (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: National Geographic Topo
  • Start point: Post Camp TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End Point: Badger Butte
  • Trail Log:
  • Hike Type: Loop
  • Distance: 9.8 miles
  • Elevation gain: 2180 feet
  • High Point: 5,981 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: Summer into Fall
  • Family Friendly: No
  • Backpackable: Yes
  • Crowded: No

Contents

Description

This loop in an almost forgotten corner of the Badger Creek Wilderness involves four very lightly traveled trails: Post Camp, Pine Creek, Mud Spring, and Three Mile. Since there are no extensive views to be had from the loop, a short off-trail extension to the top of Badger Butte (about 1.5 miles round-trip) is also an option. Also, two of the trails, Pine Creek and Mud Spring, have been abandoned, so you need excellent route-finding skills if you want to complete this loop - it is only for the experienced abandoned trail aficionado (A detour option for the Mud Spring Trail is described below).

Both the Post Camp and Three Mile Trails are mere remnants of much longer trails (Three Mile doesn’t touch Three Mile Creek anymore and Post Camp is way down in the valley). The only guidebook reference to these trails is Ken and Ruth Love’s little gem A Guide to the Trails of Badger Creek (1979, revised edition).

From the parking area, take the Post Camp Trail #467 past the junction with the Three Mile Trail #466 down the slope into the Pine Creek drainage, switchbacking once in an 80-year-or-so burn. At the wilderness entry sign, a rocky outcrop gives a view across the Badger Creek valley to the Divide Ridge from Lookout Mountain to Palisade Point and Flag Point. This is mixed coniferous woodland of Douglas-fir, grand fir, mountain hemlock, noble fir, western white pine, western larch, Engelmann spruce, and silver fir. Chinquapin, grouseberry, and huckleberry form the understory. Keep traversing down the slope and enter cool old growth with some large Douglas-firs and western red-cedars. There are seven springs on the trail in this section. Reach the Post Camp-Pine Creek Trail Junction before the wide footbridge over rushing Pine Creek.

WARNING: The entire Pine Creek Trail has not been maintained for several years. As of May 2016, there was frequent deadfall on the trail, especially at the upper end. In the small, open glades, the trail trace is sometimes lost as it is overgrown with forbs. The trail is best hiked from the bottom up as described. Look for the indentation of the trail (It used to be traveled by horses) and, in the deadfall areas, keep an eye out for the sawn-off logs left by previous trail crews.

Head left up the Pine Creek Trail #465 and come to a ford, where you’ll have to get your feet wet (It’s calf-deep in the spring). The trail traverses up a short steep slope from the ford and passes a talus slope and an open rocky meadow. There’s a “vision quest” pit here of unknown provenance. Keep up in ponderosa pine/Douglas-fir woods and switchback twice. The trail levels below a boulder outcrop. Switchback up again and then gradually ascend a gently graded ridge crest. From a viewpoint of platy andesite on the left, look up the pristine Pine Creek valley. Soon pass across a snowmelt meadow rank with bracken and mertensia. Cross a seep and meet a small creek. Hike up the creek a few yards to resume the trail. You will reach another meadow where the trail tread might be lost. Head straight up the meadow to reenter the woods and pick up the tread again. The small creek will be running to your right. Pass a seep and cross a dry creek bed. Heading gradually up in dry forest of mountain hemlock, silver fir, and noble fir, pass through an opening spouting tongue-leaf rainiera. Some flagging leads down from the trail to a spring. The trail is very wide here and becomes steeper. Then make a gentle traverse to the left before heading up to reach a spur road of FR 4860 at the Pine Creek Trail-140 Spur Junction. The trailhead here is signed.

Go left along the road. Early in the season, up to about the first week of June, no vehicles will have been along the road and you may encounter large snowbanks. Piles of old timber along the road are the result of a hazard logging operation in August 2012. You will reach an area of gushing springs which pour across the road. This is one of the sources of Pine Creek. Continue onward to a second set of springs, known as Lydia Springs. Just to the east of these is a short road spur leading to the Valley View Cabin Site. The cabin, which lookout staff and then the public could use, is now dismantled. In the woods, you can find the site of the cabin outhouse and a ceramic sink, all that remains.

While you are here, you can consider making the cross-country walk, about 1 ½ miles, up to the summit of Badger Butte at 5,981 feet. In spring, this will mean mostly walking on snow, which is actually easier than wading through brush. Hike basically straight up, always making for the highest point in your line of vision. There are open meadows near the top giving views down to the central Cascades. The summit itself is cloaked with old growth mountain hemlock. Work your way around to the southwest corner of the butte, a rocky but open pinemat manzanita slope, which is the site of the old lookout and offers clear views down the Pine Creek valley and on to Mount Jefferson, Three Fingered Jack, and the Three Sisters. Continue around to the west side of the butte summit, and get views across to Grasshopper Point, Echo Point, the talus slopes above the Boulder Lakes, Bonney Butte and then cloud-capped Mount Hood looming above Gunsight Butte. Badger Lake is out of sight, screened by trees and the angle of the slope.

Drop down to the 140 spur again and head west. Before the junction with FR 4860, a post marks the descent of the Mud Spring Trail, which the USFS now seems to call the north branch of the Three Mile Trail. WARNING: This short section of trail, about 1.3 miles, has not been maintained in years. Twenty yards down from Mud Spring Trail-140 Spur Junction, there’s a post with a damaged wilderness sign. The first half of the descent is fairly straightforward, dropping gradually through slope forest with a huckleberry and bear-grass understory. About halfway down the trail, the tread simply disappears. Walk to your right and find gushing Mud Spring. Head down its westernmost channel until you see the trail tread peeling off to the right. From here, you will encounter great tangles of blowdown. Proceed slowly and always look for the signs of cut logs from old trail maintenance. You will eventually fetch up on the rim above Pine Creek and then meet the signed Three Mile-Mud Spring Trail Junction.

(If you don’t want to attempt the Mud Spring Trail, head out the 140 spur to FR 4860, go left to 4860, go left again and walk about ¾ mile south to find the Three Mile Trailhead. The sign for this is set about 50 feet down the trail, so you could easily miss it. Three Mile is maintained annually.)

Keep straight here and make the descent along the rim of the Pine Creek valley. The Three Mile Trail is essentially the boundary of the Badger Creek Wilderness here as the many wilderness signs attest. It offers a huckleberry feast in late summer. To the right is an extensive selectively-logged cut. To the left is wilderness and the occasional bouldery view across to Palisade Point, Flag Point, etc. After two miles of this pleasant trail, make a short rise to the junction with the Post Camp Trail and go right into the parking area.


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

  • 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)

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.