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Cook Hill Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Mt. Defiance from Cook Hill (bobcat)
Dutchman's breeches (Dicentra cucullaria), Cook Hill (bobcat)
View to Wygant Peak from Cook Hill (bobcat)
Lanceleaf spring beauty (Claytonia lanceolata), Cook Hill (bobcat)
Talus slope, Cook Hill (bobcat)
The loop hike on Cook Hill (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo
  • Start point: Cook Hill TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Cook Hill
  • Hike Type: Lollipop loop
  • Distance: 8.8 miles
  • High point: 3,015 feet
  • Elevation gain: 2930 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: Year round
  • Family Friendly: No
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: No


Hike Description

Cook Hill, just to the east of Dog Mountain, serves as the latter’s poor cousin, but if you want solitude and an abundance of wildflower species in the spring, this is the place to go to avoid Dog’s crowds although it cannot quite replicate the spectacular meadow displays. The hike is all on unofficial trails and old road beds on public land save for a section of the ridge at the Cook Hill Saddle, which belongs to Broughton Lumber. There are two meadows to cross, a steep smaller meadow and the lengthy summit meadow, which has seen some grazing in the past. While all of the slopes were logged sometime in the 20th century, the forest wildflowers match those of the meadows in abundance and diversity. Note that the trail section which leads to the summit, constructed by Gorge activist Russ Jolley, can disappear in places as new growth engulfs it in the spring. The first time you're here, hike the loop counterclockwise as described to avoid the chance of losing Russ Jolley’s trail. When you return, you can go clockwise to get full frontal views of the Gorge as you descend from the summit of Cook Hill. There is no signage, but the routes are cleared by volunteers, usually every year.

Cross Cook-Underwood Road and walk west on Jackson Road 0.2 miles below a hillside of oaks and grassy meadows. Past the End County Road sign, the pavement ends: keep straight to a fork, where you go right into the woods past an open gate with a No Trespassing sign that you can ignore. Note the piles of junk on your right. Switchback and exit the Douglas-fir forest to cross a grassy slope above a water tank. Views open up to the Columbia River and the Oregon side of the Gorge. Switchback again to get more views and then enter a mixed woodland of Douglas-fir and big-leaf maple. After a third switchback, head up more steeply and swing left. The road bed heads up above a steep gully with a rushing stream. At a break in the trees, go left to view a small waterfall and cascade. Cross the creek – at this point you have risen above the worst of the poison oak although you wil notice a few little plants farther up. A trail detours from the road at a fallen tree. Back on the road track, keep rising in a dense Douglas-fir plantation below a talus alope. Cross the creek again and reach the Cook Hill Saddle-Cook Hill Summit Trail Junction, which has a small cairn.

Keep straight (right) here to pass above a small spring and walk on a long-abandoned road track studded with 40-50 year-old Douglas-firs. The verges of the path are carpeted with violets, candy flower, and Dutchman’s breeches. In a patch of cow parsnip, which will become towering plants in the summer, go right to leave the road bed and shortly reach another road bed. Go right here and soon head up the slope, make a traverse, and reach Cook Hill’s steep lower meadow. Get a spectacular view across to Mount Defiance, Starvation Creek, and east to the Hood River valley. Balsamroot, buttercup, and lupine bloom in the meadow mid-spring. Cross the meadow by angling up to the left and finding the trail where it reenters the woods at the top of the meadow. Keep rising less steeply in a carpet of Solomon plume. Make a traverse through a thicket of vine maple; after this, angle up to get glimpses of Dog Mountain through the trees. Enter a small meadow, where the trail gets lost momentarily. Head up to the right between two Douglas-firs and reenter coniferous forest for a short spell. Emerge at Cook Hill’s extensive summit meadow, which blooms with prairie violet, prairie star, larkspur, and sedge in the spring. Unlike the lower meadow, this meadow was grazed until the year 2000. Get views to Dog Mountain, Mount Defiance, and Mount Hood. Keep to the meadow, passing through a gap in a line of Douglas-firs and angle up to the right. Stay below the trees that stand along the summit ridge. The meadow gets rockier: this area becomes a vast display of grass widows in early spring. Near the top of the ridge, look for a small gap in the trees which will take you in to the ridge crest and the viewless summit.

From here, walk down the ridge and emerge at the meadow. Drop down steeply and then angle to the right to enter a young Douglas-fir plantation. Reach a road bed that leads along the ridge crest on a carpet of wild strawberry. You can get good views of Mount Adams from a couple of places here. Reach the first communication tower and walk around it to the left. Finally, attain the open saddle area, which is crossed by a wide powerline corridor and has two more radio facilities on its north end. This is the end of the Bunker Keys Road and the Cook Hill Saddle. Look west to Wind Mountain, Table Mountain, and other Gorge peaks; the view east is dominated by Mount Adams.

Look down to your left to see a road heading back into the forest. Where the road forks, keep right and descend through a vine maple thicket. At the next junction, keep right again and continue to descend. As you go down, there are a couple of small detours around blowdown. Pass a slope of big-leaf maples on your left and then emerge from the forest to cross a wide talus slope dotted with gnarly old trees. After reentering the forest, keep left at a grassy landing and descend to reach the Cook Hill Saddle-Cook Hill Summit Trail Junction, where you go right to return to Jackson Road.

  • See some trip reports below for accounts of the much longer loop that takes you to the summit of Augspurger Mountain.


Regulations or Restrictions, etc.

  • Watch for ticks and rattlesnakes; poison oak is rampant on the lower stretches of this route

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Off the Beaten Trail by Matt Reeder



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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