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Chenamus Lake Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

The shore of Placid Lake, Indian Heaven (bobcat)
Creek on the Chenamus Lake Trail (bobcat)
Secluded bay of Chenamus Lake (bobcat)
Trails near Placid and Chenamus Lakes (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: National Geographic Topo
  • Start point: Placid Lake TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End Point: Chenamus Lake
  • Trail Log:
  • Distance: 4.1 miles
  • Hike type: In and out
  • Elevation gain: 485 feet
  • High Point: 4245 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Seasons: Summer - Fall
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable: Yes
  • Crowded: In huckleberry season


Hike Description

This hike is a favorite family berry-picking jaunt come huckleberry season (late August-early September). Early in the summer, be prepared for the legendary Indian Heaven skeeters. The Placid Lake Trail takes you past the lake of that name to a junction, whence you head right on the Chenamus Lake Trail to that more secluded destination. Bear in mind that this is the high Cascades and gloomy weather often hits these slopes even when it's warm and bright down in the lowlands. Also, there are a number of use trails in the area and many official trails in the northwest section of Indian Heaven were realigned a couple of decades ago, with the old tracks still obvious in some cases. If you are in for a longer adventure, one leg of which is on the unmaintained section of the Chenamus Lake Trail, try the Placid Lake Loop Hike.

From the parking area, there are views back down the road to Lone Butte and Mount Saint Helens. The Placid Lake Trail #29 enters the woods at an information board and a wilderness permit box. The woods are silver fir, Engelmann spruce and mountain hemlock with a few western white pines. Huckleberries and white rhododendrons dominate the understory. The wide trail crosses a footbridge and enters the Indian Heaven Wilderness. The trail drops, rises, levels, and drops to a junction, where you go straight through a meadow to Placid Lake. You can walk along the shore here, but return to the main trail to continue the hike. There are various campsites at the lake.

Back at the junction, go right. At another junction where the trail braids, keep right and come to a four-way junction. Go straight (left is an unmaintained connector to the Pacific Crest Trail and right takes a straight course back to Placid Lake). The trail rises to the Placid Lake-Chenamus Lake Trail Junction, where you go right on the Chenamus Lake Trail #29A. This trail drops with a dry creek to the right, and then rises to cross the rocky creek bed. Pass by a meadow and reach Chenamus Lake, which also has campsites. The trail continues along the western shore of the lake, with three kinds of huckleberries ripe for the picking in late summer. The south end of the lake is an almost completely enclosed little bay. Return the way you came to the trailhead.


  • 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.

  • Self-issued wilderness permit at trailhead

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this destination

  • Day Hiking Mount Adams and Goat Rocks by Tami Asars
  • 95 Virtual Hikes of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest and the Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument by Northwest Hiker
  • Best Short Hikes in Washington's South Cascades & Olympics by E.M. Sterling & Ira Spring
  • Best Hikes With Kids: Western Washington by Susan Elderkin
  • Best Hikes With Kids: Western Washington & the Cascades by Joan Burton
  • Portland Hikes by Art Bernstein & Andrew Jackman
  • Exploring Washington's Wild Areas by Marge & Ted Mueller
  • Indian Heaven Back Country by Mel Hansen
  • Hiking the Gifford Pinchot Backcountry by the Columbia Group Sierra Club

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.

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.