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Trout Lake Preserve Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Mt. Adams from the Trout Lake Natural Area Preserve (bobcat)
Mt. Adams and Trout Lake wetlands (bobcat)
Musk monkey flower (Mimulus moschatus), Elk Meadows (bobcat)
Trails at the Trout Lake Preserve (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Google Maps
  • Start point: Trout Lake Preserve Trailhead
  • Ending Point: Elk Meadows
  • Trail Log:
  • Hike Type: In and out
  • Distance: 2.1 miles
  • Elevation gain: 300 feet
  • High Point: 2,215 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Seasons: Spring through fall
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: No


Hike Description

Trout Lake was created after the damming of Trout Lake Creek by a massive lahar (mud flow) that oozed down the White Salmon River about 6,000 years ago. The lake has slowly silted up over time and very little open water remains; rather, a large wetland, inaccessible by foot or boat, protects water-loving creatures in a largely agricultural valley, including a rare breeding population of Oregon spotted frog (Rana pretiosa) and 160 species of birds. A short trail here allows you to appreciate these protected wetlands and also offers stunning views of nearby Mount Adams. Part of the trail enters the property of the Elk Meadows RV Park, so please be a good guest. Note that water levels in the wetlands can be four feet higher in spring and late fall than in late summer, so you may not be able to do the short creek-level trails at Elk Meadows. Take note also that the Discover Pass is required here.

First, from the parking area, soak in the splendid view of Mount Adams above the wetlands. Then, take the path that ascends through a corridor of ocean spray to a junction with a sign and map showing the Lake Trail. Bear right on this old road bed, which runs about 20 feet above the creek level and offers several glimpses of Mount Adams and, later on, Sleeping Beauty. The corridor is shaded by western red-cedar, Douglas-fir, and grand fir as well as Oregon ash and red alder. Pass a picnic table, and then reach a trail junction and observation platform that offers limited views.

Continue straight on the Lake Trail and pass the welcome sign for the Elk Meadows RV Park: you are welcome to hike here as long as you stick to trails and obey all signs. A side trail leads right along the southern channel of Trout Lake Creek and crosses a small footbridge. You can continue along the creek bank a short way in a dense thicket of reed canarygrass. The vast expanse of Elk Meadows stretches to your left, and the site offers an excellent view to the slumbering form of Sleeping Beauty: her peaceful face in profile, the left hand a rocky outcrop, and her greenery-cloaked breast. Return to the main trail and, when you reach the gravel path leading to the lawns of the RV Park, turn back.

On the return, to get a little bit of elevation gain, go right at the observation platform. This trail leads up through a regenerating clearcut densely colonized by ocean spray, Pacific dogwood, vine maple, and buck brush. After about eight switchbacks, you’ll reach the end of a four-wheel drive track at the Trout Lake Upper Viewpoint with a vista towards Mount Adams. Return the way you came back to the trailhead: the 4WD road leads out from the viewpoint to Highway 141.

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • $2 toll on Hood River Bridge
  • Discover Pass required
  • Natural Area Preserve: Stay on the trail
  • Respect signs at Elk Meadows RV Park


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Guidebooks that cover this destination

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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.