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Wood Lake via Sawtooth Mountain Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Peninsula on Wood Lake, Indian Heaven (bobcat)
Cloud-covered Mt. Adams and Sleeping Beauty from Sawtooth Mountain (bobcat)
King bolete (Boletus edulis), Sawtooth Mountain (bobcat)
Bird Mountain and Lemei Rock from Sawtooth Mountain (bobcat)
The Pacific Crest Trail route to Wood Lake (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo
  • Start point: Sawtooth TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End Point: Wood Lake
  • Trail Log:
  • Distance: 9.2 miles
  • Hike type: In and out
  • Elevation gain: 2190 feet
  • High Point: 5250 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: Summer into Fall
  • Family Friendly: No
  • Backpackable: Yes
  • Crowded: No

Contents

Hike Description

This hike leads you down the northern section of Indian Heaven's spine on the Pacific Crest Trail to secluded Wood Lake, half a mile west of the PCT. The lake is a good backcountry base for doing loops around the wilderness and, in late summer, there are bog blueberries for dessert! The initial part of the hike take you through a section of the well-known Sawtooth Berry Fields, a gathering place for pickers of all sizes and ages late in the summer. A short loop, using both the old and the new routes of the PCT, takes you up the slopes of jagged Sawtooth Mountain and offers views of the Washington Cascades.

The trailhead meadow is rimmed with young noble fir, lodgepole, and western white pine. Cross FR 24 and head up the Pacific Crest Trail on a flat tread. In late summer, there will be an abundance of black huckleberries (Vaccinium membranaceum), and you will probably encounter some pickers along this early section of the trail. Begin to rise in a montane woodland of taller silver fir and mountain hemlock. Where the trail levels, pass a small meadow on the right and enter more mature silver fir woods with some mountain hemlock. The trail heads gradually up past the wilderness sign into an open huckleberry area. You can see the summit ridge of Sawtooth Mountain ahead. Descend to reenter woods and then get more openings. Reach the Pacific Crest-Sawtooth Trail North Junction and go left: this was the initial route of the PCT.

The trail heads up into old growth silver fir. Traverse up a slope; look for large king boletes along the trail here in late summer/early fall. Switchback to a viewpoint of Mount Adams, and then switchback again to the ridge crest and another view. At a third switchback, get a view back to Goat Rocks and Mount Rainier. The trail then traverses the west slope of Sawtooth Mountain, and you come out below the rugged, toothed rocks of the crest. Look for marmots high up on the palisades. There’s a spur to a viewpoint on the right, from which you can see south to Bird Mountain and Lemei Rock. The trail then switchbacks down the open, red-pumiced south face of Sawtooth Mountain in a ground cover of kinnikinnick and common juniper. Keep switchbacking until the trail enters a silver fir-cloaked ridge. At openings on the ridge crest, you will obtain views of Mount Adams. Descend into huckleberry woods and come to the Pacific Crest-Sawtooth Trail South Junction.

Go left here (The sign says 2 1/2 miles back to Road 24) in mountain hemlock/silver fir woods passing through glens of partridge-foot. The trail rises and then makes a couple of switchbacks. Begin to traverse the northern slopes of Bird Mountain in silver fir woods. Avalanche lilies, which bloom here in mid-summer, carpet the forest floor. Head up to the four-way Pacific Crest-Cultus Creek-Wood Lake Trail Junction.

Go right on the Wood Lake Trail. This trail descends into a meadow, and then keeps dropping under large silver firs into another meadow. Pass by a large tarn and continue to the right past a campsite. A sign says "Wood Lake 1/4". Walk through noble fir/mountain hemlock parkland and then dense silver fir woods. Descend a short, steep slope on an eroded trail and walk through sedge and partridge-foot meadows to the lake. You can walk around the west side of the lake past a peninsula and an inlet. Look for lesser scaups scudding on the waters. Bog blueberries are in abundance all along this shore. The meadow at the northwest edge of the lake is a good lunch spot.

Return the way you came. At the Pacific Crest-Sawtooth Trail South Junction, keep to the PCT. This is all silver fir forest and a fairly level traverse. Hike out through the huckleberry fields. The best pickings here are usually late August/early September.


Maps

  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • Green Trails Maps: Lone Butte, WA #365
  • Indian Heaven (USFS)
  • 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
  • National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map: Mount St. Helens - Mt. Adams

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Self-issued wilderness permit at trailhead

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this destination

  • Portland Hikes by Art Bernstein & Andrew Jackman
  • Hiking Washington's Mount Adams Country by Fred Barstad
  • Skamania 231: A Scrambler's Guide by Kelly Wagner (Sawtooth Mountain)
  • 95 Virtual Hikes of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest and the Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument by Northwest Hiker
  • Washington's South Cascades' Volcanic Landscapes by Marge and Ted Mueller
  • Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail: Washington by Tami Asars
  • Pacific Crest Trail: Oregon and Washington by Jeffrey P. Schaffer & Andy Selters
  • 33 Hiking Trails: Southern Washington Cascades by Don & Roberta Lowe
  • The Forgotten Forest: Exploring the Gifford Pinchot by the Washington Trails Association
  • Exploring Washington's Wild Areas by Marge & Ted Mueller
  • Indian Heaven Back Country by Mel Hansen

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.