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Buck Creek-Wicky Shelter Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Ponderosa pine parkland, Wicky Creek Trail (bobcat)
Morrison Creek, Buck Creek Trail (bobcat)
Cliffs above the White Salmon River, Buck Creek Trail (bobcat)
Vanilla leaf (Achlys triphylla), Morrison Creek Trail (bobcat)
The Trout Lake Big Tree in 2016 (bobcat)
The loop using the Buck Creek, Morrison Creek, Wicky Creek, and Big Tree Trails in red; other trails in light blue (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo


Hike Description

An interconnected network of trails emanates from the Mt. Adams Horse Camp on the south slope of Mount Adams. These trails, between 2,300 and 4,800 feet in elevation, traverse dry and sometimes diseased forest, much of which has been logged at one time or another. The trail system takes advantage of numerous old logging roads. It’s not a great area to hike during the summer, when the trails are very dusty from horse use, or in the fall during hunting season. However, if you come here in spring, when the understory is fresh and blooming and the trails have been logged out for the season, there are a few worthy features to commend on the loop. Chief among them are the steep brushy canyon of the White Salmon River, a couple of large gushing springs, several creek crossings, the historic Wicky Creek Shelter, and the now dead but still standing Trout Lake Big Tree. The west leg of this loop, which is away from forest roads, has a feeling of quiet remoteness.

From the left side of the trailhead at the kiosk, the Buck Creek Trail #54 drops gently in a Douglas-fir/grand fir woodland to a four-way junction. Take one of the two trails straight ahead, both of which drop steeply down a slope and then rejoin. At the Buck Creek-Lower Loop Trail Junction down the slope, go right on the Buck Creek Trail and cross the sturdy footbridge over Morrison Creek. Ascend a slope to where the trail levels above the gorge of the White Salmon River, which can be heard rushing below. The trail passes close to several rocky outcrops and cliff edges of platy andesite. In late spring, paintbrush and shrubby penstemon bloom in the open areas, and you’ll find the odd white oak and manzanita. You can admire some of the rock formations and occasionally get a glimpse of the whitewater below. Large ponderosa pines tower overhead. Eventually, the trail turns into a creek valley and drops to cross a footbridge. You’ll then follow the wide creek up the valley until you pass the large spring from which it gushes on the right (The spring is about 40 yards off the trail). Continue up the now dry valley in a carpet of vanilla leaf and Oregon grape to reach the Buck Creek-041 Tie Trail Junction.

Here, keep right – it’s two miles to the Morrison Creek Trail. Switchback up a slope into a formerly logged area with some brushy clearings. The trail levels in Douglas-fir forest with an open understory. Make a level traverse, and then descend to cross Buck Creek on a footbridge. Head up a vine maple slope, and switchback to reach a road bed. Follow this fairly level track into a ponderosa pine plantation before leaving the road track to rise and cross FR 8031. Keep hiking up to another abandoned road bed, and stay right at a road junction before dropping in dense secondary forest. Pass along a tunnel of vine maples and cottonwoods at a trailside spring; then rise into a young plantation of Douglas-fir, lodgepole pine, and ponderosa pine. The trail ascends among some larger trees to the Morrison Creek-Buck Creek Trail Junction.

Go right here on an old road bed (FR 8031-023), and gradually drop in dense woodland with young Douglas-firs and grand firs encroaching on the track. Cross a creek that issues from a copious spring protected by a pole fence to keep cattle out. Next, you’ll see the sign for Rainy’s Meadow on your right, a grassy ponderosa pine parkland (See if you can find the 9 mm Luger cartridges hammered into a stump). Now bitter cherry bushes line the trail, and soon you come to a berm and cross FR 8031-020. The trail rises and then drops to cross Morrison Creek on a wide footbridge. Descend again to the Morrison Creek-Wicky Shelter Trail Junction, where you can go left to visit the shelter, about a quarter of a mile away.

Wind up in open woodland with a number of dead and fallen trees. Reach the Wicky Creek Shelter , a three sided shake-roofed structure constructed in the 1930s. The structure used to be part of a rather rudimentary downhill ski/rope tow operation. There’s picnic table inside and a pole fence prevents visitors from using it as a garage. Tall ponderosa pines tower overhead. The area is a designated camping area without numbered sites, but there is an outhouse. You are not supposed to camp inside the shelter. From the shelter, you can return to the Morrison Creek-Wicky Shelter Trail Junction, and go left on the Morrison Creek Trail.

Wind down in diseased forest with a lot of windfall. Reach FR 8040, go right for 30 yards to cross Wicky Creek, and pick up the Morrison Creek Trail on the other side of the road. In a few yards, reach the junction with the Wicky Creek Trail #38, and take that trail down the slope. Keep hiking in an open understory that merges into a grassy ponderosa parkland at FR 8040-020 near its junction with FR 8040: you can cross the latter road to a large hunter’s camp which features a massive Douglas-fir that is hollow at the base. Then return to the 020 spur, and go left at the junction with the Big Tree Trail #51 (The Wicky Creek Trail crosses FR 8040 at this point).

Reach FR 8040-014, make a left, and then keep right on a grassy track where the road splits. Wind down gradually in leafy woods on this track to a spot where it merges with an established horse trail that comes down from FR 8040-720. The trail gets a little dusty here and has several short steep descents. At a muddy patch, a spring runs right onto the trail. Keep hiking under a canopy of grand fir with Hole-in-the-Ground Creek flowing to the left. The trail veers right and heads up through a former clearcut with scattered lodgepole pines, Douglas-firs, and ponderosas. Then drop to cross FR 8020. Wind through a dense understory of vine maple to come to the Big Tree-Road 709 Trail Junction, where you stay right. The trail gradually rises now to the four-way Big Tree-Road 025 Trail Junction above a large meadow. Keep straight here, and follow the blue diamonds, which mark this as a cross-country ski trail, to the parking circle at the Trout Lake Big Tree.

The big ponderosa pine, which may be 400 years old, is surrounded by a split-rail fence and a sign announcing its dimensions: 202 feet high, 84 inches in diameter, 22,000 board feet of timber. The center of the tree is rotten, which is why a core sample cannot accurately tell its age. It is an impressive giant, but now also a dead one. In 2015, the tree, like so many others in this forest, expired from an infestation of mountain pine beetles but continues to stand as a mournful skeleton.

Continue on the Big Tree Trail from the west side of the parking circle into a vine maple understory. Cross an old road track and then FR 80. The trail continues on the wide dusty road bed of FR 8000-731. Pass a shortcut trail to the right, and reach the Wicky Creek-Big Tree Trail South Junction. Keep straight here and, in about 80 yards, come to the Buck Creek-Big Tree Trail Junction, where you keep right and gradually descend through a carpet of creeping snowberry to an unsigned junction. Here, make a left, and walk 50 yards back to the Lower Buck Creek Trailhead.

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • $2 toll each way at the Hood River Bridge
  • Yield trail to horses


  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • Mount Adams Horse Camp, Trout Lake, Wash. (WACMO)
  • Green Trails Maps: Mount Adams West, WA #366 (partial)
  • National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map: Mount St. Helens - Mt. Adams
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Mt. Adams Ranger District (partial)
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Gifford Pinchot National Forest (partial)

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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.