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Badger Lake Loop 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. Carry detailed maps of the whole area and/or a GPS unit and compass.
Campsite at Badger Lake (bobcat)
Talus slope on the Post Camp Trail (bobcat)
Waterfall on the Badger Creek Trail (bobcat)
Ponderosa pine overlook, Pine Creek Trail (bobcat)
Pine Creek at the ford, Pine Creek Trail (bobcat)
The loop to Badger Lake (Trails in red; road section in orange0; alternate return route traced in pink (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo
  • Start point: Post Camp TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End Point: Badger Lake
  • Trail Log:
  • Hike Type: Lollipop loop
  • Distance: 12.7 miles
  • Elevation gain: 2490 feet
  • High Point: 5,235 feet
  • Difficulty: Difficult
  • Seasons: Late spring into Fall
  • Family Friendly: No
  • Backpackable: Yes
  • Crowded: No



You will be passing through some little visited sections of the Badger Lake Wilderness on this loop, but in the middle of this hike is the popular destination of Badger Lake: popular, that is, with both backpackers and four-wheel drive aficionados. The Post Camp Trail is a maintained trail that allows you to reach the middle section of Badger Creek, arguably its most attractive segment. From Badger Lake, you’ll be hiking up the rough and narrow Badger Lake Road (FR 4860-140), which may not see vehicles until the snowdrifts begin to melt away towards the end of May. Your trip back to your vehicle from this road is the big challenge: The Pine Creek Trail is not regularly maintained and may be obscured by considerable windfall – if this is the case, there’s a bailout option described below.

Pick up the trail from the parking area, and keep right at the junction with the Threemile Trail to continue on the Post Camp Trail #467. This is a dry but very varied coniferous forest that includes Douglas-fir, grand fir, Engelmann spruce, ponderosa pine, western white pine, western hemlock, silver fir, and noble fir. Soon get your first views across the Badger Creek valley to Palisade Point and Lookout Mountain. The trail swings left and comes to the wilderness boundary at a large boulder outcropping with views across to the Divide Ridge. Cross a talus slope, and get a more expansive vista of the ridge from Lookout Mountain to Flag Point and Gordon Butte. Listen for squeaking pikas in the vicinity. Enter a shady ancient woodland with large Douglas-firs and western red-cedars. Many small springs issue onto and across the trail here. Reach the signed Post Camp-Pine Creek Trail Junction, and keep right over a footbridge that spans Pine Creek.

The trail continues above Pine Creek and crosses an expansive talus slope that blooms with penstemon in late spring. The tread drops gradually in somewhat scrappy forest before entering shady cedar woods and crossing Goat Creek. A little further on, a spring flows onto the trail, and you come to Drop Creek. Descending further, step across Jalland Creek, and arrive at wide Badger Creek. Note the lovely deep pool right below the footbridge. You’ll see a couple of campsites on the opposite bank before you head up the slope to the Badger Creek-Post Camp Trail Junction.

Make a left here on the Badger Creek Trail #479, and pass above an area of campsites in a dry woodland of Douglas-fir, red-cedar, larch, and ponderosa pine. Badger Creek can be seen to your left; this section provides a scenic tonic of small waterfalls and burbling cascades. Early in the season, there may some windfall to step over. Cross a small creek, and soon you’ll see the highest waterfall in these parts, a 15-footer for which you’ll need to venture off-trail to get an unimpeded view. Cross Tolo Creek, and come to the Badger Creek-Badger Creek Cutoff Trail Junction.

Keep left, and in short order find yourself hiking across a shady cedar flat. Step over a couple of small creeks before emerging into more open forest with Palisade Point visible high above. Cross an unnamed creek on a footbridge, and walk through a huckleberry understory to a clearing and the Badger Creek-Gumjuwac Trail Junction. Stay left to cross Gumjuwac Creek on a pedestrian bridge. Badger Creek again becomes visible to the left for a short distance. Soon you're in shady woods with bigger trees and salmonberry/thimbleberry thickets overhanging the trail. Cross numerous small creeks and springs in a vanilla leaf/Solomon plume carpet. Pass a large noble fir as more springs run onto the trail. Exit this lush area, and pass through a drier forest carpeted with huckleberry bushes. An unsigned trail leads left: This is the connector trail to the Badger Lake Campground. Continue on the Badger Creek Trail, which is again soft in places where more small creeks run onto and along it. Eventually arrive at a junction where going left leads you a short steep distance down to the shore of Badger Lake.

You can attempt the lakeside loop trail (Badger Lake Trail #479A), which is only partially maintained and is very brushy at the south end of the lake where several creeks come in. Otherwise, walk along the earth dam, and cross the spillway. You’ll see a wetland to the left. Continue on the lake trail, and come to a junction. Go left here so you can descend to the Badger Lake Road (FR 4860-140). Walk right on the road past a vault toilet. Pass the entrance to the campground and another vault toilet. The rough road bed, which usually sees no vehicles until the end of May, rises rather quickly above the Badger Creek valley and offers views across to Lookout Mountain and the Divide Ridge as well as back to Gunsight Butte. The montane forest here is composed of noble fir, silver fir, mountain hemlock, and western larch. If you’re walking this trail in May/early June, there will still be large snowdrifts on the road. After the gradient becomes gentler, you’ll pass a spring on the right and then cross a cattle grid. Keep rising gradually into a part of the forest that has been thinned of deadfall and, just past a pullout on the left, you’ll see the sign for the Pine Creek Trail #465 at the Pine Creek Trail-140 Spur Junction.

WARNING: The Pine Creek Trail sees only occasional maintenance. There may be scores of trees down on the trail, and the tread might be very difficult to find. Although the trail is only two miles long, an error in navigation on the descent could result in much regret and discomfort. If this doesn’t appeal to you, continue walking along the road, passing the Valley View Cabin Site and the Mud Spring Trail-140 Spur Junction (Mud Spring is another abandoned trail) to the junction with FR 4860. Go left, and walk about ¾ mile to the Three Mile Trailhead. The sign is about 50 feet down the trail, so you’ll have to keep your eyes peeled. The Threemile Trail will take you back to the Post Camp Trailhead. This option adds about 1 1/2 miles to the hike.

So . . . if you’ve decided to master the Pine Creek Trail, head straight down the slope through a rainiera meadow. Look for the faint depression of the trail as it swings left under all the deadfall; the other clue will be the sawn-off ends of logs from previous trail maintenance. The trail enters a healthier montane woodland and becomes easier to follow although it may be very debris-strewn. Pass a lush area of springs down to the right. Then enter an open area which may have more deadfall. Head back into shady woods, and follow the tread as it veers right to cross a shallow rocky draw. Descend with a trickling brook to your left, and come to a series of small glades. Here the forbs will have obscured the trail, so keep straight down before veering left through a screen of young conifers. Keep descending to where a small creek runs down the trail. The trail rises to the left, and then makes a traverse before coming to a rocky viewpoint across the valley shaded by ponderosa pines. Pass by an andesite outcropping above a talus slope before descending through encroaching chinquapin bushes. Swing right, and make two switchbacks before traversing down to Pine Creek. The crossing here can be tricky although a couple of downed trees can help. The trail then descends to the Post Camp-Pine Creek Trail Junction, where you go right to ascend the Post Camp Trail to your vehicle.

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Good navigation skills required for Pine Creek Trail


  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • Post Camp Trail #467 (USFS)
  • Badger Creek Trail #479 (USFS)
  • Pine Creek Trail #465 (USFS)
  • Three Mile Trail #466 (USFS)
  • Green Trails Maps: Mt. Hood, OR #462 and Flag Point, OR #463
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Columbia Wilderness and Badger Creek Wilderness
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Barlow Ranger District
  • Discover Your Northwest: Mt. Hood National Forest North: Trail Map & Hiking Guide
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Mt. Hood National Forest
  • National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map: Mount Hood
  • Adventure Maps: Mt. Hood Area
  • Adventure Maps: Hood River, Oregon, Trail Map

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this destination

  • A Guide to the Trails of Badger Creek by Ken and Ruth Love (Trails described individually)

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.