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Bull of the Woods via Pansy Lake Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Bull of the Woods Lookout (cfm)
Pasola Mountain, Dickey Creek drainage, and Mt. Hood, Bull of the Woods Trail (bobcat)
Broad-leaf arnica (Arnica latifolia), Bull of the Woods Trail (bobcat)
Dickey Lake (bobcat)
Gorman's aster (Eucephalus gormanii), Bull of the Woods Trail (bobcat)
Route of the loop described in red (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: National Geographic Topo
  • Start point: Pansy Lake TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Bull of the Woods Lookout
  • Trail Log: Trail Log (partial)
  • Hike Type: Loop
  • Distance: 7.5 miles
  • High Point: 5,523 feet
  • Elevation gain: 2100 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: May-Oct
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable: Yes
  • Crowded: No


Hike Description

This loop hike in the Bull of the Woods Wilderness has most of the highlights that summer hikers seek: wilderness, expansive views, lakes, small wildflower meadows, huckleberries in season, old growth forest, and an antique lookout. The lookout itself is a fairly popular destination, as is Pansy Lake, but you will find solitude on the trails in-between. Reserve this hike for a clear day as the vistas from the ridges take in a large swath of the Cascades.

The trail begins across from the parking area, enters the Bull of the Woods Wilderness, and goes up through old growth Douglas-fir, western hemlock, noble fir and silver fir, crossing a few small creeks. Vine maple, rhododendron, and huckleberry predominate in the understory. At a switchback, you can take a spur leading steeply down to a secluded campsite. From here, you can head into the Pansy Basin’s big meadow, which glows golden in the fall below red vine maple bursts on the scree slopes above. Pansy Creek flows through a bog and down the west side of the basin, which attracts elk in the mornings and evenings. There is no easy bushwhack from here up to the lake, so return to the main trail and switchback up past the Pansy Basin-Dickey Lake Trail Junction. The trail rises gently to the short spur that leads west along shallow Pansy Lake’s north shore. On the slope above the lake’s western shore, you can search for Robert Bagby’s Pansy Blossom Mine, where he dug for copper in the late 19th century.

From the lake, switchback up scree slopes with two excellent viewpoints down to Pansy Lake. Alaska yellow-cedar, mountain hemlock, and western white pine predominate on the open slopes. Reach Mother Lode Pass and the Pansy Basin-Mother Lode Trail Junction. Go left here. Near a scree slope blazing with vine maple, there’s a magnificent view south to Mount Jefferson. Make a traverse and switchback up twice, rising eastward in old growth woods with some fine noble fir and Douglas-fir to reach the Mother Lode-Welcome Lakes Trail Junction. There’s a viewpoint on the ridge crest near the junction offering a vista of Big Slide Mountain’s south side, Mount Hood, and the southern Cascades of Washington.

Keep left at the junction and hike along the ridge before rising and switchbacking among huckleberries and bear-grass. Traverse a steep slope forested with mountain hemlock and Douglas-fir with some noble and silver fir. The trail then makes six switchbacks up to the Bull of the Woods Lookout. On a clear day, there are views from Mount Rainier to the Three Sisters.

After spending time at the lookout, drop down the ridge to the north of the lookout on the Bull of the Woods Trail #550. The trail heads along the ridge crest and there are more views. Big Slide Lake is below and there are vistas to Big Slide Mountain, Olallie Butte, Mount Jefferson and back to Mount Hood. Switchback down twice, and head down along the grassy crest to get a view east down to a small lake, Big Slide Mountain and Schreiner Peak’s fire-scarred slopes. From a view of Mount Hood and South Dickey Peak at a small meadow, switchback down twice and descend to a short spur to an eastward-looking viewpoint. A small meadow on the crest blooms with little sunflowers, creamy stonecrop and Gorman’s aster in the summer. Cross a talus slope below a rock outcrop and drop off the ridge crest to traverse another scree slope. Pass another talus slope blooming with fireweed and lupine and get a view of Big Slide Mountain before dropping to the Bull of the Woods-Dickey Lake Trail Junction.

Head down to the left on the Dickey Lake Trail #549. Make two short switchbacks and wind down. The trail levels in a huckleberry patch, switchbacks and winds down again in silver and noble fir forest. Drop steeply through a lush meadow blooming with heliotrope, angelica, cow parsnip and subalpine daisies. Then note a short spur leading left to Dickey Lake, peaceful and isolated on its forested bench. Drop down from here and switchback in old growth woods, crossing a couple of creek beds that run dry in the summer. The trail levels in mountain hemlock, silver fir, noble fir, Douglas-fir woods. Huckleberries, rhododendrons, and bear-grass form the understory. Drop steeply again and reach the Pansy Basin-Dickey Lake Trail Junction, whence you turn right and head back to the trailhead.


  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • Green Trails Maps: Battle Ax, OR #524
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness, Bull of the Woods Wilderness, Opal Creek Wilderness, Opal Creek Scenic Recreation Area
  • Geo-Graphics: Bull of the Woods and Opal Creek Wilderness Map
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Clackamas River Ranger District
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Mt. Hood National Forest
  • National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map: Mount Hood

Regulations or Restrictions, etc.

  • Information board at trailhead
  • Self-issued wilderness permit

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • PDX Hiking 365 by Matt Reeder
  • 101 Hikes in the Majestic Mount Jefferson Region by Matt Reeder
  • 100 Hikes in Northwest Oregon & Southwest Washington by William L. Sullivan
  • 105 Virtual Hikes of the Mt. Hood National Forest by Northwest Hiker
  • Portland Hikes by Art Bernstein and Andrew Jackman
  • Hiking Oregon's Central Cascades by Bruce Grubbs
  • 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Portland by Paul Gerald
  • Hiking Mount Hood National Forest by Marcia Sinclair
  • Hiking Hot Springs in the Pacific Northwest by Evie Litton
  • Hiking Oregon by Donna Lynn Ikenberry
  • Oregon's Columbia River Gorge: Camping & Hiking by Tom Stienstra & Sean Patrick Hill
  • Oregon Hiking by Sean Patrick Hill
  • 70 Hiking Trails: Northern Cascades by Don and Roberta Lowe
  • A Hiker's Guide to Oregon's Hidden Wilderness (Central Cascades Conservation Council)

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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