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Stebbins Creek to Three Corner Rock Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Three Corner Rock (bobcat)
View to Three Corner Rock from west of the Stebbins Creek Crossing (B. Hope)
Trudging up the switchbacks (B. Hope)
View of the Stebbins Creek valley from Three Corner Rock (bobcat)
Microwave tower and Mt. Hood from Three Corner Rock (B. Hope)
The hike to Three Corner Rock from the Washougal River (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo
  • Start point: Three Corner Rock Lower TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Three Corner Rock
  • Trail Log:
  • Hike Type: In and out
  • Distance: 18.2 miles
  • Elevation gain: 4490 feet
  • High point: 3,550 feet
  • Difficulty: Difficult
  • Seasons: Mid-spring into fall
  • Family Friendly: No
  • Backpackable: Yes
  • Crowded: No

Contents

Hike Description

The Three Corner Rock Trailhead is nine miles west of Three Corner Rock on the Washougal River. While, this might be considered a long day hike for most, it is not one continuous and exhausting ascent but rather a series of ups and downs taking in about 4,500 feet in elevation gain spread over the 18 miles in and out, with 62 switchbacks in all! The trail is usually in good shape and is also used by mountain bikers. This is all secondary or tertiary forest and you may encounter a logging operation along the way. The Stebbins Creek Crossing may be a little tricky at times of high water, but the real reward comes when you emerge at the high heath-like ridge, bursting with wildflowers in the late spring, and Three Corner Rock’s spectacular basalt pinnacle. On a clear day, it’s a five mountain view, from Mount Rainier in the north to Mount Jefferson in the south.

The trail no longer begins at the trailhead parking area. Below the parking area the two outhouses are now just roofs on a concrete platform and the old growth log bridge over the creek has been broken and pushed downstream. A trail leads towards the Washougal River past a campsite and reaches the brushy bank where the creek enters the river. Also, across the road from the parking area, a short trail leads through a stand of young alders to a splashing 20-foot waterfall.

To reach the main trail, walk back along the road 60 yards to a sign. Counterintuitively, the trail first uses an old road bed along the river side of W2000 under Douglas-firs, red alders, and cottonwoods among mossy, salal-capped stumps. It then rises to reach the road. Walk 15 yards to your right and pick up an old jeep road heading up hill.

Soon the Three Corner Rock Trail veers off the road bed before a berm and makes six switchbacks up the slope in secondary forest of Douglas-fir, vine maple, sword fern, Oregon grape, and salal. Traverse to a ridge and switchback. Note the rotting snags from the 1902 Yacolt Burn. Descend along the north slope of the Stebbins Creek valley and cross two small brooks, passing through salmonberry thickets. Get some glimpses of Stebbins Creek below. Dip to cross a stream in a gully of mossy alders and then switchback up twice before making a rising traverse. Then you’ll make eight more switchbacks before crossing a stream, descending a little, and then rising gently. Switchback up twice to arrive below a jumble of large boulders and a cliff face.

From here, the trail makes four switchbacks up to the top of the cliff. Back in the woods, a recent reroute of the trail cuts out a switchback before the path traverses down and makes three switchbacks to an open slope. Here, take a moment to enjoy a clear view to Three Corner Rock. Descend three more switchbacks and cross a creek above a splashing cascade. The trail rises and then drops to switchback down twice above a campsite and then arrive at the banks of Stebbins Creek.

The bridge that was here is long gone, but the Stebbins Creek Crossing is an easy rock hop when water levels are low. Otherwise, you’ll need to get your feet wet. Switchback up, and then traverse before making five more switchbacks in an understory of vine maple. Make a long traverse up on a gravely tread through a carpet of salal and then bear-grass, entering much younger Douglas-fir woods. Switchback up four times to the spine of a ridge and hike along the crest through Oregon grape and salal. Drop down past a row of large boulders to a new logging road with landings on either side.

Here the trail has been obliterated by these new roads. Go left when you reach the main spur, and head up the ridge crest for about 450 yards to a junction. You can get good views of Three Corner Rock here. Go left on this road and walk up around a bend for about 200 yards before spotting the trail resumption on your left. Traverse over to a ridge and descend in two switchbacks to navigate an alder/salmonberry hollow. Then follow a gentle grade through Douglas-fir/ hemlock forest, passing through another hollow. The trail then rises on a rocky, eroded tread to Road CG 1440. Walk 40 yards to your left, crossing a small creek, and pick up the trail for it’s final two-mile ascent to Three Corner Rock.

Hike above the road and then traverse up the slope in Douglas-fir/hemlock forest. Switchback, and at a second switchback, pass a scree slope below a line of cliffs. Keep switchbacking up - it's about ten more switchbacks before you reach more open slopes of bear-grass, huckleberry, and young conifers, especially noble fir. Snags, now more than 100 years old, attest to the larger forest that was here before the devastating Yacolt Burn of 1902. Blooms, such as paintbrush and larkspur, brighten these slopes in early summer. Make three switchbacks and then a longer traverse north before switchbacking in a patch of forest. The trail switchbacks up to the crest of the ridge, where it meets the 4WD maintenance road for the microwave tower to your right. The pyramidal formation of Three Corner Rock is just to your north. You can reach it via the lookout road to its base. The remains of the concrete lookout path will take you to the summit, which catches ferocious wind blasts at times. However, the views are expansive and stunning. Look south beyond the communications tower to Birkenfeld Mountain, Mount Hood and Mount Jefferson. To the southwest is the forested Stebbins Creek valley, the one you just came up. To the west is Silver Star Mountain, and the northern skyline presents the massive humps of the three southern Washington stratovolcanoes.


Maps

Regulations or restrictions, etc

  • Discover Pass required at trailhead
  • Share trail with mountain bikers

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Afoot & Afield: Portland/Vancouver by Douglas Lorain
  • Hiking Washington’s Mount Adams Country by Fred Barstad
  • Mountain Biking Oregon: Northwest and Central Oregon by Lizann Dunegan

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.

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.