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Bonney Butte via Hidden Meadows Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Little Boulder Lake and Grasshopper Point from the Little Boulder Lake Viewpoint (bobcat)
Two-mile marker, Hidden Meadows Trail (bobcat)
Hidden Meadows, just off the Hidden Meadows Trail (bobcat)
Pond, Bonney Meadows (bobcat)
Raptor counters on Bonney Butte (bobcat)
The loop using the Hidden Meadows and Forest Creek Trails (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo
  • Start point: Hidden Meadows TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End Point: Bonney Butte
  • Hike Type: Lollipop loop
  • Distance: 13.0 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1855 feet
  • High Point: 5,580 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: Summer through Fall
  • Family Friendly: No
  • Backpackable: Yes
  • Crowded: No



Two trails, the Hidden Meadows Trail #472 and the Forest Creek Trail #473, run up the ridge west of Boulder Lake to offer access to such scenic delights as Bonney Meadows and Bonney Butte. The hike is described from a trailhead and a trail not shown on any current maps, the old trails having been rerouted after clearcutting in the area during the 1980s. The loop takes you up the Hidden Meadows Trail to Bonney Meadows and thence to Bonney Butte, where during the months of September and October, you can observe expert birdwatchers tally, and sometimes band, migrating raptors. You can then loop back around Bonney Meadows and take the Forest Creek Trail down the steep-sided rim below Echo Point. Because the trails have been maintained for mountain bikers, they are cleared early in the season, but you are unlikely to encounter a soul until you get near Bonney Meadows.

From the trailhead, ascend an old road bed through clumps of manzanita, chinquapin, and snow brush. The area was clearcut of its old growth, as the graying stumps suggest, and is regenerating with Douglas-fir, noble fir, silver fir, western red-cedar, and western white pine. Look for the scat of bear and coyote on the tread. At a junction, peel off to the left, and then go right at the next junction (The trail is sometimes marked by red paint stripes on trees). Gradually rise through young lodgepole pines and western larch trees. At some red stripes, go left on what is now a foot trail and reach Forest Road 4881-121, which is normally gated except during logging operations. Go right on this gravel road for 30 yards, and see signage at the Hidden Meadows Trail-FR 4881-121 Junction.

It’s about 3.2 miles from here to Bonney Meadows. Enter a woodland of lichen-draped conifers and come to an abandoned gravel road. Go 50 yards to the right to resume the trail. Rise gradually under noble fir, western larch, and mountain hemlock. Pass through a clearcut and then into an old growth stand. Cross a former logging road, reach another clearcut, and soon find yourself under old growth mountain hemlocks again. See if you can spot the “2” (two miles from the Boulder Lake Trail) marker by the side of the trail. Now look through the screen of young trees to the right, and you should be able to make out Hidden Meadows. This is a linear meadow that runs parallel to, but is not easily seen from, the trail. Cross a shallow draw, and then walk through a boggy area. Pass through another clearcut, and continue more steeply uphill in shady forest. The trail passes along the edge of another clearcut, and enters more old growth with its carpet of grouseberry and bear-grass. Now begin to drop down a slope. See an old logging landing to the left, and then come to the Bonney Meadows-Hidden Meadows Trail Junction. You can walk into the golden meadows a short distance to visit two small tarns.

If you are heading for Bonney Butte, go left at the junction. The trail skirts the meadows and drops through mountain hemlock/Engelmann spruce forest to rutted FR 4891. Go right on this road and cross Bonney Creek. Then, hike uphill over a cattle grid, and pass the entrance to the Bonney Meadows Campground. Continue up the road, passing a parking pullout to reach a couple of larger pullouts on the right at the Bonney Butte Trailhead.

Across from the largest pullout, see the gated road that leads to the site of the Bonney Butte Lookout. Come to a junction, which will be signed in September/October: go right to a restroom and the volunteer birdwatchers’ campground; keep straight for the Observation and Birding Site. There are views back to Badger Butte, and at an opening, down a kinnikinnick slope to the White River valley, Mount Jefferson, Broken Top, and the Three Sisters. Near the crest of the ridge, you'll pass through a high montane parkland of lodgepole pines, subalpine firs, and western white pines. The road bends right and reaches the old lookout site. On September and October weekends, master birders will be plying their craft. You can also check out the tally sheets and the HawkWatch information signs. A range of raptors, from golden eagles, vultures, and red-tailed hawks to smaller Cooper's and sharp-shinned hawks may be taking advantage of ridgetop updrafts to wind their way south using the long ridgelines to the east of Mount Hood as a pathway. The banding of raptors who come down to live pigeon lures is done from a hide up and over a hump in the ridge. The raptors are caught using mist nets and sometimes a naturalist will bring back a bird that has been banded for observers at the lookout site to examine. In addition to the bird identification signs here, there is a panel detailing the history of the Bonney Butte Lookout (deactivated in 1964).

From Bonney Butte, walk down to the potholed entrance road for the Bonney Meadows Campground. On the north side of the campground, find the trailhead signs for the Boulder Lake Trail. Follow a graveled section of trail through copses and meadows and cross Bonney Creek. Reach the Boulder Lake-Hidden Meadows Trail Junction and go right at a sign for the Forest Creek Loop. The trail runs along the fringe of the meadows and comes to the Hidden Meadows-Forest Creek Trail Junction opposite the campground (There’s a shortcut to the the campground from here).

Go left on the Forest Creek Trail #473. The trail rises the steep north slope of Echo Point in silver fir/mountain hemlock woods to a rim above andesite cliffs and scree. The view here takes in the upper Boulder Creek valley, with Badger Butte and Grasshopper Point the prominences on its eastern ridge. Behind are Gunsight Butte, Lookout Mountain, and Flag Point. The southern shore of Boulder Lake is also visible. Now head down from the summit of Echo Point in silver fir, noble fir, and mountain hemlock forest. You'll alternate clearcuts with patches of montane old growth for a while as you catch a few more views to the east. Eventually, the trail passes a wonderful viewpoint over Little Boulder Lake, with Grasshopper Point being the low forested hump directly across the valley and Badger Butte dominating the ridge to its north. Pikas can be heard squeaking below. From the Little Boulder Lake Viewpoint, continue your gradual descent through a bear-grass-carpeted clearcut, a patch of old growth, and another clearcut. Reach the gated road that leads to Little Boulder Lake at the Forest Creek Trail-FR 4881-123 Junction, and cross it.

Pass through regenerating forest and openings thick with bracken. Now hike down under larger trees, including some big old-growth Douglas-firs and noble firs. Then enter a logged area with some large trees left standing. The trail curves sharply to the right and drops to a road, the Forest Creek Trail-FR 4881-121 Junction. Go left and downhill, cross Swamp Creek, and rise to where the Hidden Meadows Trail crosses the road (This road section is about ¼ mile). Make a left and return to your car the way you came.

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Share Hidden Meadows and Forest Creek Trails with mountain bikes
  • Dogs on leash at Bonney Butte during September/October


  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • Hidden Meadows Trail #472 (USFS)
  • Forest Creek Trail #473 (USFS)
  • Green Trails Maps: Mt. Wilson, OR #494 and Mt. Hood, OR #462
  • Discover Your Northwest: Mt. Hood National Forest North: Trail Map & Hiking Guide
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Barlow Ranger District
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Mt. Hood National Forest
  • National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map: Mount Hood Wilderness
  • 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 & Ruth Love (old trail alignments)
  • Kissing the Trail by John Zilly

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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