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Gordon Butte-Douglas Cabin Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

This page is marked as a Lost Hike. The "trail" may be dangerous and hard to follow and is not recommended for beginning hikers without an experienced leader. Carry detailed maps of the whole area and/or a GPS unit and compass.
Rock outcrop on the Douglas Cabin Trail (bobcat)
Xeric meadow on the Gordon Butte Trail (bobcat)
Great hedge-nettle (Stachys cooleyae) at the springs on the Gordon Butte Trail (bobcat)
Looking east from Road 2711-120 (bobcat)
Sunrise Springs, Douglas Cabin Trail (bobcat)
Loop hike on the Little Badger Creek-Gordon Butte-Douglas Cabin Trails (Note: This is a sketch, not a GPS track!) (bobcat) Courtesy: National Geographic Topo
  • Start point: Sunset Spring TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End Point: Douglas Cabin Trailhead
  • Trail Log:
  • Hike Type: Loop
  • Distance: 9.5 miles
  • Elevation gain: 2,925 feet
  • High Point: 5,657 feet
  • Difficulty: Difficult
  • Seasons: Summer into Fall
  • Family Friendly: No
  • Backpackable: Yes
  • Crowded: No

Contents

Description

Most of this loop involves locating the routes of two abandoned trails in the Barlow Ranger District of the Mt. Hood National Forest. The hike begins near Sunset Spring on the Little Badger Creek Trail #469, but then drops to the junction with the Gordon Butte Trail #470A, a trail missing from many maps but sometimes maintained by Oregon Equestrian Trail, Mt.Hood Chapter. Trail 470A reaches FR 2711-120, which serves as a short connector to the Douglas Cabin Trail #470. This trail rises over the summit of Gordon Butte and then up a ridge past Sunrise Springs to the lookout at Flag Point. The forest is varied but also contains many diseased trees in places. There is much blowdown to clamber over on the final stretch of the Douglas Cabin Trail. The reward here is guaranteed solitude, some expansive views to the Columbia Plateau, and a diverse environment of forested slopes, dry and wet meadows, and the upper valley of Little Badger Creek.

WARNING: This route is for experienced hikers only. Most of the loop is on unmaintained trails. You will need good route-finding skills to keep to the track. Blowdown, debris, and brush often obscure the tread, which can also become lost in open meadows. Game trails may distract you from the true course. Give yourself time and always retrace your steps if you find yourself off-route. The route is easier to follow if you do it in the direction described below rather than by attempting a descent of the Douglas Cabin Trail from Flag Point. In mid-summer, this can be a very hot hike.

Trail #469 (Little Badger Creek) drops down the track of the decommissioned Tygh Burn Road past a hunter’s campsite and then a signboard, but the trail itself is not identified. This is noble fir, mountain hemlock, grand fir, silver fir and lodgepole pine forest. At a cluster of small boulders, see a trail labeled “Sunset Spring” leading down to the left in the dry woods. This leads to a small lush spring, a boon to those up here in the summer running cattle in the days when that was permitted. Backtrack to the road bed and note butterflies galore among the blooms. There are many dead trees from a spruce budworm outbreak, which has been wreaking havoc here the past 25 years. The road levels and heliotrope, penstemon, columbine, lupine and Jacob’s ladder are blooming all over the tread. Then keep gradually dropping through snag blowdown and a dead forest. At a small cairn, come to the Little Badger Creek-Gordon Butte Trail Junction.

Go right here and find the trail signs a few yards down. A faint track leads through a patriotically-hued meadow of scarlet gilia, blue penstemon, and white yarrow. A line of rocks denotes a switchback down. You’ll have to pay attention to non-natural signs to keep on the tread (sawn off logs, lines of stones, red paint dots on trees, small cairns). Descend along a small lush creek, blooming with arnica, hedge-nettle and groundsel, for a few yards. Mounds of bear scat attest to some use. Then veer right and enter ponderosa pine/grand fir woods. The trail heads left across pinemat manzanita near the top of a small knoll. Note: This is one place where you may lose the track because of the more heavily used game trails in the area. Pick up the tread on left side of the knoll, from which it descends to the left of the bouldered top. There’s a small cairn here and a blazed snag as well. Switchback around a ponderosa pine and head down the ridge crest among a confusion of deer trails. At a saddle, the trail heads to the right and into the woods of ponderosa and grand fir. Here, the track is much clearer. The trail descends in these dry woods, winding down with Douglas-fir also entering the mix. At a ponderosa copse, veer left, switchback twice and then skirt a large log. Make a long traverse down the side of the ridge to a flat area, then go left and drop again, switchback twice and reach shady, cedar-lined Little Badger Creek. Head up the south bank, and round the nose of a ridge to cross a small stream. Rise to a boulder field, traverse, and veer right at a bouldery lookout spot. From here, traverse gently up to the end of Road 120, which is the former Gordon Butte Trailhead.

Walk along the road. There are expansive views over to the Columbia Plateau, Pine Hollow Reservoir, and other points east. Douglas-fir and ponderosa pine seem to dominate the woods and snowbrush lines the road. As you gradually descend, come to the sign at the Douglas Cabin Trailhead.

Ascend the east slope of Gordon Butte in grand fir/ponderosa pine/Douglas-fir forest. Pass through a manzanita clearing, and then by a huge woodpile before reentering the woods. A few larch trees can be seen here. The trail heads along a dry, wooded ridge crest, where there is also Engelmann spruce. The tread becomes faint in an open area on the ridge where penstemon and Cascades lilies bloom. Pass the entry sign for the Badger Creek Wilderness at the summit of Gordon Butte. There’s a glimpse of your destination, Flag Point, through the trees. Drop down and then rise, going along the ridge crest. Descend again among ponderosas and manzanitas, with the deep valley of Badger Creek on the left. At a viewpoint, there’s a good view of Mount Hood. Then drop steeply through manzanita on the right side of the ridge to a saddle. Undulate among boulder formations and then go right between two boulder outcroppings and drop again. After this, rise steeply to a rocky palisade on the left. The trail becomes faint in the brush as you descend in grand fir woods to a saddle. Negotiate some blowdown and pass through a Douglas maple thicket. Make a level traverse and join an old tread coming in from the left. There’s a lot more blowdown now. Reach a lush spring vegetated with prickly currant, cow parsnip and columbine. Head steeply up across more blowdown. Pass across the two Sunrise Springs, where monkey flower and arnica bloom, negotiating blowdown between them. Then ascend in lush meadows following red dots on trees. Scarlet gilia and lupine bloom in abundance here. The trail seems to go to the right at more blowdown, but this is a long-abandoned connector, now deer track, to the Little Badger Creek Trail. Keep on ascending and then veer slowly to the right. WARNING: There’s an enormous amount of blowdown to scramble over before you reach the Lookout Tower at Flag Point, so give yourself time to do this last half mile: it may take up to an hour picking your way over logs and trying to keep to the trail alignment. Mountain hemlock, subalpine fir, lodgepole pine and whitebark pine forest this high ridge.

Finally, after the obstacle course, come to the lookout tower. There’s a shed here also, and a solar-powered cabin. The lookout is still a functioning fire lookout in the summer and the operator may be generous enough to give you a tour. The lookout cabin, 60 feet up, is available for rental November 1st through May 31st (see under "More Links" below). Return to the trailhead by heading down the road in woods dominated by mountain hemlock. Pass the locked gate. There are brilliant meadows to the left blooming with gilia, sunflowers, lupine, and penstemon. You can also take in the views down into the Badger Creek valley.


Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Trails are officially abandoned.

Maps

  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • Green Trails Maps: Flag Point, OR #463
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Columbia Wilderness and Badger Creek Wilderness
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Barlow Ranger District
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Mt. Hood National Forest North
  • National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map: Mount Hood
  • Adventure Maps: Mt. Hood Area
  • Adventure Maps: Hood River, Oregon, Trail Map

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this destination

  • Hiking Oregon's Mount Hood & Badger Creek Wilderness by Fred Barstad
  • Oregon's Columbia River Gorge: Camping & Hiking by Tom Stienstra & Sean Patrick Hill (Douglas Cabin Trail only)
  • Pacific Northwest Hiking by Scott Leonard & Megan McMorris (Douglas Cabin Trail only)

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.