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Bald Butte Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Oaks in early spring on the Oak Ridge Trail (bobcat)
Winter view of Mount Hood from the Oak Ridge Trail (cfm)
Oregon anemone (Anemone oregana) on the Oak Ridge Trail (bobcat)
Old gate on the Oak Ridge Trail (bobcat)
Watson's desert parsley (Lomatium watsonii), Bald Butte (bobcat)
Map of the Route
  • Start point: Oak Ridge TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Bald Butte
  • Hike type: Out and Back
  • Distance: 8.2 miles round trip
  • Elevation gain: 2465 feet
  • High point: 3,779 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: All, but will require snowshoes in the winter
  • Family Friendly: Yes, for older kids
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: No


Hike Description

This is a quiet all-season trail that offers a variety of terrain (Snowshoes need to be worn in winter). Large open meadows, heavily wooded mixed forest, and a ridgetop ramble take you to a former lookout site with spectacular views of the Hood River Valley. This hike uses two different trails; it's a 2.3 mile climb up the Oak Ridge Trail; then it's 1.8 miles on the Surveyors Ridge Trail to Bald Butte. Late spring is the best time to visit: that's when the shady woods, the open slopes on the Oak Ridge Trail, and the meadows atop Bald Butte come alive with wildflowers. Bear in mind that ATVs also access Bald Butte via the powerline corridor, and mountain bikers ride the Surveyors Ridge Trail.

The hike begins on Hood River County property and travels on Oak Ridge Trail #688A through a former clearcut with young ponderosa pines, oaks and shrubs, such as serviceberry and flowering currant. Cross a road and switchback up three times in woods, make a traverse and switchback again. There’s another switchback at a meadow and then four more switchbacks in oak-fringed meadows. The trail enters Douglas-fir, ponderosa pine, and oak woodland. Keep rising, and enter an open area with a view of Mount Hood. Balsamroot and Columbia desert parsley bloom here in the spring. There are several short switchbacks as you continue up the slope and enter mixed forest again. Pass a wooden gate and a fence line, and then switchback five more times into an open area with another full-on view of Mount Hood. Traverse up and switchback three more times in a forest of Douglas-fir, grand fir, and ponderosa pine with a carpet of Oregon grape. You will see the gray-green clumps of mistletoe on some of the branches. The trail crosses the 640 spur road, and reaches the Surveyors Ridge-Oak Ridge Trail Junction.

Turn left on the Surveyor's Ridge Trail #688, and head gently down. The trail recrosses the road and a sign tells you that you’re leaving National Forest land. Enter an area of clearcuts where chinquapin bushes line the trail. The path continues to drop a little. Below are rocky palisades offering views across the Hood River Valley. The trail drops further to a saddle where the power lines come across in a wide clearcut corridor. A colorful sign designates this “A Place Like No Other,” detailing the climatic convergences here that support the endemic Watson’s desert parsley and also infestations of diffuse knotweed. You may begin to encounter ATVs in this section as you head up the rise on a rubbly track. There are great views of the Hood River Valley across to Mount Defiance. The trail levels as you enter shady Douglas-fir woods. Drop down to another saddle and then, on open meadows, hike up a rubbly track to the open area at the top of Bald Butte. On a clear day, there are great views to Mount Hood and the Cascade crest in Washington: Mount Saint Helens is fully visible and Mount Adams lurks behind the Butte.

Note: It is possible to turn this hike into a loop by returning via the powerline road, which will take you back to the Oak Ridge Trail near the parking area.


  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • Oak Ridge Trail #688A (USFS)
  • Surveyor's Ridge Trail #688 (USFS)
  • Green Trails Maps: Hood River, OR #430
  • Adventure Maps: Mt. Hood Area
  • Adventure Maps: Hood River, Oregon, Trail Map
  • Adventure Maps: 44 Trails Area plus the best of the G.P.N.F.
  • Geo-Graphics: Mount Hood Wilderness Map
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Mt. Hood National Forest
  • Discover Your Northwest: Mt. Hood National Forest North: Trail Map & Hiking Guide
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Hood River Ranger District
  • National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map: Mount Hood

Regulations or Restrictions, etc.

  • Share Surveyors Ridge Trail with mountain bikers

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • PDX Hiking 365 by Matt Reeder
  • Off the Beaten Trail by Matt Reeder
  • Curious Gorge by Scott Cook
  • 100 Hikes: Northwest Oregon by William L. Sullivan
  • 105 Virtual Hikes of the Mt. Hood National Forest by Northwest Hiker
  • Day Hike! Columbia Gorge by Seabury Blair, Jr.
  • 62 Hiking Trails: Northern Oregon Cascades by Don & Roberta Lowe
  • 70 Hiking Trails: Northern Oregon Cascades by Don & Roberta Lowe
  • 100 Oregon Hiking Trails by Don & Roberta Lowe
  • Oregon's Columbia River Gorge: Camping & Hiking by Tom Stienstra & Sean Patrick Hill
  • Oregon Hiking by Sean Patrick Hill
  • Pacific Northwest Hiking by Scott Leonard & Sean Patrick Hill

More Links


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.