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Elk Lake Add-on Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

From the south shore of Elk Lake, Indian Heaven Wilderness (bobcat)
Bear's head (Hericium abietis), Elk Lake Trail (bobcat)
Tarn near Bear Lake, Elk Lake Trail (bobcat)
The short trail to Elk Lake from the Pacific Crest Trail (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo/USFS
  • Start point: Pacific Crest-Elk Lake Trail Junction
  • End Point: Elk Lake
  • Hike Type: In and out
  • Distance: 0.8 miles
  • Elevation gain: 110 feet
  • High Point: 4,775 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Seasons: Summer into Fall
  • Family Friendly: Yes, for older kids
  • Backpackable: Yes
  • Crowded: No



Elk Lake is one of the larger lakes in Indian Heaven and sits at the end of its own trail in the center of the wilderness. The lake is an excellent overnight camping spot almost half a mile away from the trafficked trails and also provides a good add-on destination to other hikes in the area, such as the Bird Mountain Loop Hike, Placid Lake Loop Hike, Acker Lake Loop Hike, Junction Lake-Bear Lake Loop Hike, and Cultus Creek to Junction Lake Loop Hike.

From the Pacific Crest-Elk Lake Trail Junction, head down along a ridge and cross the outlet creek from Bear Lake, which glistens to your right. Hike through bear-grass and huckleberries to pass a campsite and cross the abandoned but still obvious Cascade Crest Trail. Keep right at the unmarked junction with the old trail alignment to hike between Bear Lake and an unnamed lake on your left. Find yourself hiking above Elk Lake, with Bird Mountain jutting above the forest canopy to the north. The official trail ends at a large campsite, where a spur trail leads down to the lake shore. A user trail continues around the west shore to other campsites.

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Self-issued wilderness permit
  • Wilderness rules apply


  • 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

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this destination

  • Day Hiking Mount Adams and Goat Rocks by Tami Asars
  • Hiking Washington's Mount Adams Country by Fred Barstad
  • 95 Virtual Hikes of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest and the Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument by Northwest Hiker

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.