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Junction Lake-Bear Lake Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Looking across Bear Lake in the Indian Heaven Wilderness (bobcat)
Fir-rimmed meadow, East Crater Trail (bobcat)
Crossing the Middle Fork of Rush Creek on the Pacific Crest Trail (bobcat)
At Lemei Lake, Indian Heaven (bobcat)
The loop hike in Indian Heaven accessed via the East Crater Trail(not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo/USFS
  • Start point: East Crater TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End Point: Bear Lake
  • Distance: 8.7 miles
  • Hike type: Lollipop loop
  • Elevation gain: 1220 feet
  • High Point: 5,045 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: Summer into Fall
  • Family Friendly: Yes, for older kids
  • Backpackable: Yes
  • Crowded: Yes


Hike Description

The Indian Heaven Wilderness offers several loop opportunities for day hikers. While the popular Thomas Lake Trailhead, which leads to a string of lakes, gets a lot of attention, this lollipop loop from the East Crater Trailhead attracts somewhat smaller crowds and adds a little more variety, with more remote lakes and the meadow-studded Lemei Lake Trail being the highlights. Optional diversions include a trip up the East Crater (See the Junction Lake Hike), the spur to Elk Lake (See the Elk Lake Add-on Hike), and visits to Cultus Lake and Deep Lake.

The trail heads in past a wilderness permit station in montane forest of lichen-draped mountain hemlock, Douglas-fir, noble and silver fir as well as the odd western larch. Note the hemlock drilled with sapsucker holes right at the trailhead. Stepping stones take you over a boggy area. The path rises through bear-grass and huckleberry bushes and crosses a couple of rocky stream beds, the second on a footbridge. There are two more footbridges before you pass an abandoned trail bed leading to the right. A footbridge spans a stream, and then you pass a wet meadow and wind up a slope. The trail bypasses a couple more small meadows and then one more with a shallow tarn, where you'll observe charred conifers from the 2017 East Crater Fire. The route continues to ascend alongside small creek; then it heads along the south side of a linear meadow with the steep slope of the East Crater to the left. Get a view of Junction Lake on the right. When you reach the Pacific Crest-East Crater Trail Junction, make a right.

Soon you'll cross a footbridge over the south fork of Rush Creek and then keep left at the Pacific Crest-Lemei Lake Trail Junction (This is the return point to close the loop). The trail traverses a slope forest of silver fir before a rock-hopping crossing of the tumbling middle fork of Rush Creek above small meadows. Soon, you'll encounter the north fork of Rush Creek: below the trail, there's a pretty three-tiered waterfall, but you'll have to bushwhack through huckleberries to see it. The trail rises, and you'll see Acker Lake down to your left through the trees. Come to the Pacific Crest-Elk Lake Trail Junction, with Bear Lake glistening below (You can make a quick diversion to Bear Lake's south shore from the junction). The Pacific Crest Trail gradually ascends through the conifers, where you'll note some impressive old-growth noble firs. Soon, Deer Lake appears below as you come to the Pacific Crest-Indian Heaven Trail Junction.

The Indian Heaven Trail rises above Clear Lake. A spur leads down to the quiet shore and a couple of campsites. After traversing a massive scree slope, you will hike a short, steep rise to the junction with the Lemei Lake Trail #179.

The rutted Lemei Lake Trail descends very gradually. You'll pass the east end of an abandoned section of the Elk Lake Trail on the right. Cross a big meadow, and then reenter old-growth montane forest. A creek runs to the right, and you'll come close to it when you hike through the next meadow. Rush Creek's north fork, east of where it enters Lemei Lake, entails a quick rock hop. The trail then skirts boggy meadows at Lemei Lake, from which you can get a view east to Lemei Rock. A footbridge and turnpike lead through a linear meadow before the trail switchbacks twice up a slope. From a couple of meadows with shallow tarns, you'll enjoy more vistas to Lemei Rock. Descend the deeply incised track to a small meadow, and cross three creeks, the last one being Rush Creek's middle fork. After crossing a large open expanse, The Lemei Lake Trail begins to drop gradually, winding down through pocket meadows onto a ridge of old growth. A switchback and traverse take you down to the shore of Junction Lake, where you'll walk past a campsite and reach the Pacific Crest-Lemei Lake Trail Junction.

Turn left for the Pacific Crest Trail's junction with the East Crater Trail, and return to your vehicle along that 2.3 mile trail.


  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • Green Trails Maps: Wind River, WA #397 and 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
  • Wilderness rules apply

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this destination

  • Hiking Washington's Mount Adams Country by Fred Barstad
  • Day Hiking Mount Adams and Goat Rocks by Tami Asars
  • 100 Hikes in Northwest Oregon & Southwest Washington by William L. Sullivan
  • Portland Hikes by Art Bernstein & Andrew Jackman
  • Best Hikes With Kids: Western Washington & the Cascades by Joan Burton
  • 33 Hiking Trails: Southern Washington Cascades by Don & Roberta Lowe
  • Exploring Washington's Wild Areas by Marge & Ted Mueller
  • Indian Heaven Back Country by Mel Hansen

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.