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Sunrise Camp 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.
Mazama Glacier from the Mountain Climbers Trail (bobcat)
Little Mt. Adams from Hellroaring Viewpoint (bobcat)
Dwarf hulsea (Hulsea nana), Mountain Climbers Trail (bobcat)
View back to Iceberg Lake (bobcat)
Bluff Lake, Mt. Adams Recreation Area (bobcat)
The user trail and loop described in red; other trails in green (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo
  • Start point: Bird Lake Trailhead
  • Ending Point: Sunrise Camp
  • Trail Log:
  • Hike Type: Reverse lollipop loop
  • Distance: 10.8 miles
  • Elevation gain: 3140 feet
  • High Point: 8350 feet
  • Difficulty: Difficult
  • Seasons: Mid-summer into Fall
  • Family Friendly: No
  • Backpackable: Yes
  • Crowded: No

Contents

Hike Description

NOTE: The area of this hike was severely affected by the extensive Cougar Complex Fire of 2015. Check on current conditions before attempting this hike.

On the east side of Mount Adams, a climber's trail on Yakama Nation land can be fairly easily followed up to 8,300 feet, where you'll find camping spots high above Hellroaring Creek Canyon. The hike takes you well above the vegetation line in an area of blue glacial ice, a melt pond, and rubbly moraines. Mountain goats are frequently present around Sunrise Camp, the final destination. The suggested hike also uses trails around Bird Creek Meadows, where you will visit mountain lakes, a waterfall, and stunning flower meadows. For the user trail section above Hellroaring Viewpoint, and especially around the Mazama Glacier, exercise extreme caution and hike safely! If you just want to get to sunrise Camp as directly as possible, the begin your hike at the eastern Bird Creek Meadows Trailhead (on the way to Hellroaring Meadows Trailhead), and hike up to the Hellroaring Viewpoint, etc. from there.

From the parking area, walk along the south shore of Bird Lake to where the Bird Lake Trail #100 heads off to the left into mountain hemlock, noble fir and silver fir woods. Keep right at spurs leading down to two outhouses. At a junction before Bird Creek, go left over a footbridge and head up over a second footbridge. Subalpine firs and lodgepole pines enter the forest mix. Cross Crooked Creek over a footbridge and head up along the creek to Crooked Creek Falls plunging over its rim. Paintbrush, monkey flower, willow herb, gentian, aster and groundsel are summer blooms in this lush setting. The trail heads right and traverses below the rimrock. Cross a creek and head up to the Round-the-Mountain-Bird Lake Trail Junction.

Here, go right and drop a little, crossing several mossy brooks and then traverse the slope. Cross a footbridge and pass a human-created waterhole in a meadow. Reach the picnic area at the center of Bird Creek Meadows and go left at the Round-the-Mountain Trail-Trail of the Flowers Junction. The gentians bloom in profusion up here at the end of summer. Rise and cross a brook and then a footbridge over a creek. Keep left at the Trail of the Flowers-Hellroaring Viewpoint Trail Junction. The trail switchbacks up to a viewpoint over the meadows area and Simcoe Butte in the distance. The trail now winds up to the left for Hellroaring Viewpoint on a sandy track in an open rocky parkland of mountain hemlock, subalpine fir and whitebark pine. One can see down into Hellroaring Meadows, Little Mount Adams, and Bench Lake. Heart Lake is mostly hidden among the trees. Looking up the valley, the crevassed Mazama Glacier creeps down the flank of Mount Adams. Hellroaring Creek’s waterfall pours down from the glacial cirque.

Hike up to your left from the Hellroaring Meadows following a fairly obvious route in among stunted alpine trees: you are now officially off-trail and following an unmaintained climber's route. Follow a bench and head up a slope noting a small cave up to the left. The track rises and swings to the left among outcroppings of whitebark pine. Cresting this particular section, reach a junction with a trail coming in from the left. Keep right and wind up passing small cairns with a moraine ridge up ahead. Reach the crest of a lateral moraine with expansive views of the Mazama Glacier area and views down Hellroaring Meadows. The track heads up the ridge a short way and then splits at a rock painted with a red X: continue up the moraine ridge to a wide-ranging viewpoint; to keep going towards Sunrise Camp, drop down to traverse and arrive at the lip of a cirque which holds enchanting Iceberg Lake. Snow floes are still floating and the blue ice of the glacier is visible under the rock debris. Head to the right from the lake on a fairly level traverse, and then make a turn up to the left heading for the point where Hellroaring Creek pours out of the glacier. Cross the creek and hike up to the western end of the Ridge of Wonders to find flat spots suitable for pitching tents. It is not uncommon to find at least a dozen mountain goats in this area, so approach slowly and enjoy the encounter.

Return to Hellroaring Viewpoint, and head down on Mountain Climbers Trail #20 along the rim amongst mountain hemlocks, whitebark pines and subalpine firs. There are great views of the Hellroaring Creek Valley. The woods become lusher and false hellebores and gentians bloom in profusion. Traverse a rocky slope where spiraea and aster bloom, and then switchback in mountain hemlock woods. Drop past a sign quoting Aldo Leopold among some large mountain hemlocks and silver firs. Reach the Round-the-Mountain-Mountain Climbers Trail Junction. Go right on a wide trail and soon come to the junction with the Dry Creek Trail #90. It’s says Bluff Lake is 3/4 mile and Bird Lake is 1 1/4. This cuts out a little distance through the center of Bird Creek Meadows, so it's a good option.

The Dry Creek Trail heads up and traverses lush mountain hemlock woods and then drops, crossing several dry creeks. Pass below a rocky bluff and then reach Bluff Lake. and the junction with Trail #105. We go left along the lake shore. The trail swings to the right and along an arm of the lake. At a junction, keep right (straight) and head up, then down to cross a creek, passing through a lush meadow on a steep, rocky slope blooming with paintbrush, angelica, and goldenrod. Make a traverse, cross a stream and head up to the Bird Lake Campground. Go straight across the campground towards Bird Lake and then bear left to the parking area.


Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • $1 toll bridge each way at Hood River
  • $5 five-day pass for Tract D (Mt. Adams Recreation Area)

Maps

  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • Green Trails Maps: Mount Adams, WA #367S
  • Yakama Nation: Mount Adams Recreation Area Overview
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Mt. Adams Wilderness, Indian Heaven Wilderness, Trapper Creek Wilderness
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Mt. Adams Ranger District
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Gifford Pinchot National Forest

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this destination

  • One Night Wilderness: Portland by Douglas Lorain

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.