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Waucoma Lakes Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Wahtum Lake from the Anthill Trail (bobcat)
North Lake (bobcat)
Rock penstemon (Penstemon rupicola), Green Point Mountain (bobcat)
Rainy Lake and Mt. Defiance from Green Point Mountain (bobcat)
World War II signal hut at the Herman Creek Cutoff-Gorton Creek Trail junction (bobcat)
Mud Lake (bobcat)
The double loop hike to four Waucoma Ridge Lakes (bobcat)
  • Start point: Rainy Lake TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Wahtum Lake
  • Trail Log:
  • Hike Type: Double loop
  • Distance: 16.5 miles
  • Elevation gain: 3170 feet
  • High Point: 4737 feet
  • Difficulty: Difficult
  • Seasons: Summer/Fall
  • Family Friendly: No
  • Backpackable: Yes
  • Crowded: No

Contents

Description

The Waucoma Ridge is the watershed between the Gorge face creeks and the Hood River drainage. This hike takes you to four high Gorge lakes and the upper ends of trails not often traveled by the casual dayhiker. As a bonus, you will get views from Green Point Mountain, visit a World War II signal hut, and stand among impressive old growth. The hike can be made shorter by eliminating the Wahtum Lake portion (3.1 miles) and/or the loop up to Green Point Mountain (2.4 miles). This loop could also be accomplished from the Wahtum Lake Trailhead. You can see all five named lakes on the north side of Waucoma Ridge by adding the Bear Lake Hike from the Upper Mount Defiance Trailhead.

From the parking area at the campground, head up past the misspelled sign for the “Rainey Lake Trail.” Enter the Mark O. Hatfield Wilderness and rise to the Sitka alder-lined shore of Rainy Lake, offering a view up to Green Point Mountain. The Rainy Lake Trail goes right here along the low earth dam that contains the lake. The alders conceal views as you negotiate a buckled bridge that spans the outlet creek. Head into a montane woodland with a bear-grass carpet, pass an alder-rimmed meadow on your right, and reach the North Lake-Rainy Lake Trail Junction.

Keep right here for the 0.6 mile diversion to North Lake. Drop into lush old growth silver fir, noble fir, mountain hemlock woodland with thickets of devil's club. Then rise in silver fir, noble fir, western hemlock, mountain hemlock and Douglas-fir forest with some western white pine and Alaska yellow-cedar. There are three junctions just east of the lake. Keep left at a tie trail heading to the Wyeth Trail and then go left at another junction to reach the shore of North Lake. Return the way you came to the North Lake-Rainy Lake Trail Junction.

Go right here through bouldery woods and then make a traverse up a talus slope skirted with vine maple. Get a view to Mount Hood, Mount Adams, Goat Rocks, and Mount Defiance. Pass below a penstemon-bejewelled cliff before reaching the Gorton Creek-Green Point Ridge-North Lake Trail Junction.

Go left and head up among bear-grass and huckleberries to reach the summit area of Green Point Mountain. Step past the lodgepole pines to get views down to Rainy Lake, across to Mount Defiance, and then to Mount Adams. The andesite cliffs here drop sheer to a talus slope. Continue on the Gorton Creek Trail down the rim and then into open woods. Pass a rock outcropping, swish through huckleberry bushes, and reach the Gorton Creek-Herman Creek Cutoff-Rainy Wahtum Trail Junction on the old Wahtum Lake Road.

Take the first trail to the right, the Herman Creek Cutoff Trail #410. Stop at the World War II signal hut, remarkably unblemished by graffiti. Just past the hut is the Hatfield Wilderness sign. Drop down in silver woods and switchback at a talus slope. Get a view of Tomlike Mountain and cross a rocky seep area lushly grown over with vine maple and thimbleberry. Switchback down twice near a talus slope and pass a small spring on the trail. Switchback again and pass between large Douglas-firs. Western red-cedar and silver fir also grow here. Step over a series of trickling brooks and then a full-fledged stream. Drop down, switchback, and recross the stream. Step over more brooklets and note the big Douglas-firs in this area. Make three more switchbacks down in a bare understory and reach a bottomland. Cross a swampy area with an old footbridge and reach the junction with the Herman Creek Trail near Cedar Swamp Camp.

Go left here, cross a swampy area, and reach the camp area among big cedars. Now step across a series of creeks vegetated with skunk-cabbage and devil’s club before reaching the East Fork of Herman Creek. There’s no bridge here, but the crossing is easily made on stepping stones in summer and early fall. At other seasons, a ford is necessary.

Head up from the crossing and pass Seven and a Half Mile Camp. The trail crosses a few small brooks and then parallels one of them in a Sitka alder thicket. Reach a second thicket, thick with hedge-nettle and devil’s club, where mountain beaver burrows pock the trail. Traverse upward on a boulder slope and make two short switchbacks at a steep, tumbling stream. Enter a lush bench of bracken, Sitka alder, western aster, thimbleberry, paintbrush, and goat’s beard. Switchback up to the right and reach the Herman Creek-Mud Lake Trail Junction.

Step left and traverse a bear-grass slope in montane forest, then drop down through a campsite to the shore of Mud Lake. Indulge yourself on a sunny day watching the floating newts and hovering dragonflies. A decaying raft lies pulled up in the sedge borders and yellow water lilies bloom on the placid surface. A screen of noble fir and western red-cedar rims the lake and the scree slopes of Green Point Mountain drop to its eastern shore.

Back on the Herman Creek Trail, cross a talus slope squeaking with pikas. The trail levels in silver and noble fir forest. Cross three small creeks and switchback at a talus slope. At the top of the rise, pass two junctions within 40 yards of each other. (If you do not want to do the loop around Wahtum Lake, go left here on the Anthill Trail to connect with the Rainy-Wahtum Trail at the Anthill-Rainy Wahtum Trail Junction).

To continue the larger loop, keep straight on the Herman Creek Trail. The trail rises gently through a carpet of avalanche lilies, which bloom profusely here in mid-summer. Pass the Herman Creek-Rainy Wahtum Trail Junction and keep straight on the former trail. Keep dropping gently in a carpet of bear-grass to reach the Pacific Crest-Herman Creek Trail Junction. Go left here and drop to cross a creek. The trail keeps descending gently in drier woods with a bear-grass and huckleberry carpet. Cross a dry stream bed and pass through a Sitka alder thicket. Notice the huge noble firs in the surrounding forest. Springs trickle down onto the trail among lush thickets. Reach the shore of Wahtum Lake and take the Pacific Crest Trail along it. There are campsites along the lake, but camping is no longer permitted in these. However, they are excellent places to stop for lunch while you enjoy the lake – although this will probably be the most populated part of your hike. Pass the junction with the Wahtum Lake Horse Trail and reach the junction with the Wahtum Lake Express Trail #406H.

Go left here and rise steeply on a series of steps among old growth stands of noble fir, silver fir, and mountain hemlock. Pass another junction with the horse trail (keep right), the Hatfield Wilderness sign, and then a wilderness permit station. Reach the Wahtum Lake Trailhead parking area and go left to find the Anthill Trail beyond the restrooms.

Rise up the ridgecrest and then get a view of Wahtum Lake from above a talus slope. Keep up to an even better view with Mount Hood, Mount Jefferson, and Tanner Butte. After this, begin a descent to get a glimpse of the top of Mount Adams from a clearing. Reach the Anthill-Rainy Wahtum Trail Junction on the old Wahtum Lake Road and go right.

Cross over a berm and descend on the old road bed to get views to Mount Hood and down the Green Point Creek drainage. The rubbly tread undulates along Waucoma Ridge. In a couple of places, there are views over the tops of noble firs to Tomlike Mountain on Woolly Horn Ridge. The road enters a forested stretch lined with huckleberry bushes and then drops gently to the Gorton Creek-Herman Creek Cutoff-Rainy Wahtum Trail Junction. Continue on the Rainy-Wahtum Trail #409 from here and pass over a talus slope rimmed with vine maple. Pass below a cliff face and drop on a wet trail blooming with cut-leaf bugbane in late summer before rising to old wooden gate posts on either side of the road. Enter shady woodland and lush growth to reach the Rainy Lake Trailhead.

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • none

Maps

  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • Green Trails Maps: Bonneville Dam, OR #429
  • Green Trails Maps: Columbia River Gorge - West #428S
  • Geo-Graphics: Trails of the Columbia Gorge
  • National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map: Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area
  • Discover Your Northwest: Mt. Hood National Forest North
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Hood River Ranger District
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Mt. Hood National Forest

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Columbia Gorge Hikes: 42 Scenic Hikes by Don & Roberta Lowe (Waucoma Ridge section)

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.

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