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Bird Mountain Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

View of Mount Adams and Sleeping Beauty from the Cultus Creek Trail (Martell)
Spire on Bird Mountain above Indian Heaven Trail (bobcat)
View over Cultus Lake from the Indian Heaven Trail (bobcat)
Talus above Clear Lake, Indian Heaven Trail (bobcat)
Silver fir woods on the Pacific Crest Trail, Indian Heaven Wilderness (bobcat)
The northern loop in the Indian Heaven Wilderness (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo/USFS
  • Start point: Indian Heaven TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End Point: Clear Lake
  • Hike Type: Loop
  • Distance: 6.8 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1700 feet
  • High point: 5,240 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: Summer to mid-fall
  • Family Friendly: No
  • Backpackable: Yes
  • Crowded: No

Contents

Hike Description

This hike begins at the northern end of Indian Heaven, fashioning a loop around the second highest prominence in the wilderness, craggy Bird Mountain. Although the trails run mostly through shady montane forest, you'll get a sampling of what Indian Heaven has to offer: mountain lakes, a volcanic ridge, views to Cascade peaks, small meadows, and huckleberries in season. The route is described in a clockwise fashion. If you want to get most of your elevation gain out of the way on the short but steep ascent of the Cultus Creek Trail, then you can do the loop counterclockwise from the Cultus Creek Trailhead on the north side of the Cultus Creek Campground.

From the Indian Heaven Trailhead, head into a stand of old-growth Engelmann spruce, cross a small creek, and begin climbing a slope to pass the wilderness sign. The trail traverses the eastern slope of Bird Mountain in a mixed conifer woodland of spruce, mountain hemlock, noble fir, and silver fir. Cultus Creek burbles to your left as you continue to ascend. At a switchback, you'll get a magnificent view of Mount Adams and Goat Rocks and then also Steamboat Mountain, Mount Rainier, and nearby Sawtooth Mountain. The trail levels on a turnpike as you pass a small meadow, getting views up to the rocky crest of Bird Mountain. Cross a small stream, and continue to rise in hemlock and fir forest. Pass a meadow and tarn, and reach the Indian Heaven-Deep Lake Trail Junction.

For the short diversion to Deep Lake, make a left. Cross Cultus Creek on a footbridge near where it flows out from Cultus Lake. Hike up a slope to reach Deep Lake. Standing on the south shore, you'll see Mount Adams' snowy summit peeking above the surrounding forest. Paths lead left and right to access campsites.

Back at the junction, make a left, and hike above Cultus Lake, which is much shallower than Deep Lake and freezes over earlier in the fall. Lemei Rock, the highest peak in the Indian Heaven Wilderness, looms behind. Pass the Indian Heaven-Lemei Trail Junction, and drop in a montane woodland of small meadows. At the junction with the Lemei Lake Trail #179, keep right. The trail descends to traverse a massive scree slope with Clear Lake glinting down to your left. A spur leads down to the quiet shore. Continue on the Indian Heaven Trail, which descends to its junction with the Pacific Crest Trail above Deer Lake.

A possible two-mile out-and-back diversion here is to head south to Bear Lake and do the Elk Lake Add-on Hike. Otherwise, make a right on the Pacific Crest Trail here to cross a trickling brook and make a gradually rising traverse in montane forest. Pass three small tarns before hiking along a talus slope. Drop to cross several small streams before arriving at the Pacific Crest-Placid Lake Trail Junction. The Pacific Crest Trail rises from the junction, and then bends right for a glimpse of high rugged ramparts on Bird Mountain. Traverse a steep slope above a small lake, and pass through a boulder field. Just past an impressive silver fir, reach the four-way Pacific Crest-Cultus Creek-Wood Lake Trail Junction (The half-mile diversion to Wood Lake can be tacked on to your trip if you have the inclination).

Make a right on the Cultus Creek Trail #108. Head up and over a saddle to begin the steep descent to the Cultus Creek Trailhead. The trail is often a deeply incised rut, but try to avoid creating a parallel footpath. Soon, you'll get a view of Mount Adams, with Sleeping Beauty's rock dome to the right. Next, there's a brief glimpse of Mount Rainier. Get another view of Mount Adams before entering a dense woodland of mountain hemlock, silver fir, and noble fir, with bear-grass verging the trail. The gradient becomes easier, and you might see a broken fence on the left that once protected an alder-shaded spring. Reach the Cultus Creek Trailhead. Ahead on FR 24 is the turnoff for the campground loop. Follow this road around the campground to reach the Indian Heaven Trailhead and your vehicle.

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.

  • Northwest Forest Pass required
  • Self-issued wilderness permit
  • Wilderness restrictions apply

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks

  • Day Hiking Mount Adams and Goat Rocks by Tami Asars
  • Day Hiking: South Cascades by Dan A. Nelson & Alan L. Bauer
  • Hiking Washington's Mount Adams Country by Fred Barstad
  • Washington's South Cascades' Volcanic Landscapes by Marge & Ted Mueller
  • Exploring Washington's Wild Areas by Marge & Ted Mueller
  • 100 Classic Hikes: Washington by Craig Romano
  • Best Short Hikes in Washington's South Cascades & Olympics by E.M. Sterling & Ira Spring
  • Hiking Washington by Oliver Lazenby
  • 33 Hiking Trails: Southern Washington Cascades by Don & Roberta Lowe
  • Hiking the Gifford Pinchot Backcountry by the Columbia Group Sierra Club
  • Indian Heaven Back Country by Mel Hansen
  • Hiking Washington by Scott Leonard
  • Washington's Columbia River Gorge: Camping & Hiking by Tom Stienstra & Scott Leonard
  • Pacific Northwest Hiking by Scott Leonard & Sean Patrick Hill
  • Best Hikes With Dogs: Western Washington by Dan A. Nelson

More Links


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.