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Chinidere Mountain Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Mount Hood from Chinidere Mountain (Tom Kloster)
Top of the Wahtum Express Trail above Wahtum Lake (bobcat)
Massive Tanner Butte from the slopes of Chinidere Mountain (Tom Kloster)
Wahtum Lake from the summit of Chinidere Mountain (Tom Kloster)
Cascade aster (Eucephalus ledophyllus), Chinidere Mountain (bobcat)
WahtumLake.JPG
  • Start point: Wahtum Lake TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End Point: Chinidere Mountain
  • Trail Log: Trail Log
  • Hike Type: Loop
  • Distance: 4.4 miles round-trip
  • Elevation gain: 1140 feet
  • High Point: 4,673 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: Early Summer through Fall
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable: Yes - connects to Gorge trail network, camping at Wahtum Lake
  • Crowded: Peak summer weekends

Contents

Description

This trip around stately Wahtum Lake is the classic mountain hike, featuring wildflowers, lake vistas, spectacular mountain views and even a rushing stream, all packed into an easy loop hike within the boundaries of the Mark O. Hatfield Wilderness. The view of Mount Hood from the rocky summit of Chinidere Mountain is among the finest in the Columbia Gorge high country.

From the wilderness entry station, you will be presented with the first fork in a maze of trails that crisscross the Wahtum Lake basin. Skip the Wahtum Express route, and its endless string of steep wooden steps, and take the Wahtum Horse Route (no. 406H) to the right. This trail switchbacks once in an easy 0.4 mile descent to the Pacific Crest Trail (no. 2000), near the lake shore. Turn right on the PCT, and hike through attractive, mature stands of noble fir, mountain hemlock, and Douglas-fir as the trail gradually curves above the lake, circling the east shore. Soon, the trail pulls away from the lake and heads through younger forest of noble fir and bear-grass to a junction with the Herman Creek Trail (no. 406) at the 2.0 mile mark, where the PCT route turns left.

Continue on the PCT for a short distance to a junction with the mile-long Chinidere Cutoff Trail (no. 406M) on the left (your return route on the loop), followed almost immediately by the trail to Chinidere Mountain, on the right. But before heading to the summit, walk a few hundred feet farther on the PCT to a steep meadow with views into the Eagle Creek canyon, far below. In June and July, the wildflower display here is spectacular.

Next, return to the Chinidere Mountain Trail, and begin climbing a series of somewhat steep, irregular switchbacks for 0.4 miles to the summit. As the route nears the summit, a couple of side trails head off to the right to more wildflower meadows that are worth visiting, and finally the trail circles the platy andesite slopes of the summit before ascending the final few feet to the top. The view here is expansive, and includes the big Cascade volcanoes from Mount Rainier to Mount Jefferson, with Mount Hood taking center stage. Wahtum Lake shimmers far below, and the rugged peaks of the Hatfield Wilderness surround you, including the massive ridge of Tomlike Mountain to the east, broad Indian Mountain to the south and looming Tanner Butte to the west. The broad, flat expanse of Benson Plateau rounds out the view to the north.

The return trip follows the summit path back down to the PCT, then backtracks the short distance to the Chinidere Cutoff Trail. The route drops quickly to a small stream crossing. Ignore the fork to the left after crossing the stream, and continue downhill through loose switchbacks that descend within earshot of the cascading stream. Soon the trail levels off in a traverse toward Wahtum Lake. You’ll find yourself walking along an old water supply line that once served a much more developed campground at the lake, then passing several marked campsites on both sides of the trail in a younger silver fir wood. Soon, the route reaches the outlet to the lake, the East Fork of Eagle Creek, which can be crossed by hopping logs.

On the far side of the outlet, the trail reaches the Eagle Creek-Chinidere Cutoff Trail Junction, where you'll need to head left. Then you'll rejoin the PCT at the 4.0 mile mark. Turn left, and follow the PCT 0.3 miles through thickets of bugbane, false bugbane, and thimbleberry. Pass more campsites and views of Wahtum Lake before reaching the spur back to the trailhead.

Maps

  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • Green Trails Maps: Bonneville Dam, OR #429
  • Green Trails Maps: Columbia River Gorge - West #428S
  • Geo-Graphics: Trails of the Columbia Gorge
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service/Bureau of Land Management: Columbia River Gorge
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Hood River Ranger District
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Mt. Hood National Forest
  • National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map: Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Northwest Forest Pass (or America the Beautiful Pass) required
  • Self-issued wilderness permit; wilderness rules apply
  • Outhouse, information kiosk, fee campground at trailhead

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Curious Gorge by Scott Cook
  • 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Portland by Paul Gerald
  • Day Hikes in the Columbia Gorge by Don J. Scarmuzzi
  • Day Hiking: Columbia River Gorge by Craig Romano
  • 100 Hikes in Northwest Oregon & Southwest Washington by William L. Sullivan
  • 105 Virtual Hikes of the Mt. Hood National Forest by Northwest Hiker
  • Best Short Hikes in Northwest Oregon by Rhonda & George Ostertag
  • Best Old-Growth Forest Hikes: Washington & Oregon Cascades by John & Diane Cissel
  • Columbia River Gorge: 42 Scenic Hikes by Don & Roberta Lowe
  • 62 Hiking Trails: Northern Oregon Cascades by Don & Roberta Lowe
  • 70 Hiking Trails: Northern Oregon Cascades by Don & Roberta Lowe
  • Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail: Oregon by Eli Boschetto
  • Day Hikes on the Pacific Crest Trail: Oregon & Washington by George & Patricia Semb
  • Pacific Crest Trail: Oregon & Washington by Jeffrey P. Schaffer & Andy Selters
  • Hiking the Oregon Skyline by Charles M. Feris

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.