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Lake Lenore Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Lake Lenore, Mt. Adams, and Mt. Hood from Baby Slide (bobcat)
Bull of the Woods Lookout (bobcat)
Mt. Jefferson from the Bull of the Woods Lookout (bobcat)
View to South and North Dickey Peaks, Schreiner Peak Trail (bobcat)
Old Alaska yellow-cedars, Schreiner Peak Trail (bobcat)
Parry's aster (Symphyotrichum foliaceum var. parryi), Lake Lenore (bobcat)
The route to Lake Lenore using the Bull of the Woods Trail (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo
  • Start point: Bull of the Woods TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Lake Lenore and/or Big Slide Mountain
  • Trail Log:
  • Hike Type: In and out
  • Distance: 13.6 miles
  • High Point: 5,526 feet
  • Elevation gain: 3345 feet
  • Difficulty: Difficult
  • Seasons: Summer to mid-fall
  • Family Friendly: No
  • Backpackable: Yes
  • Crowded: No

Contents

Hike Description

Lake Lenore, one of the more remote destinations by trail in the Bull of the Woods Wilderness, nestles below Big Slide Mountain and Knob Peak. Unfortunately, the 2008 Lake Lenore Fire, one of the first such conflagrations to alter the landscape of the wilderness, burned out the lake’s bowl entirely. With fewer visitors and a rapid invasion of fireweed, the trail down to the lake has become a scorched-earth bushwhack. If you don’t want to clamber down the slope, however, the hike in still offers a quick summit of Big Slide Mountain with its 250-mile views up and down the Cascades. You also won’t meet many other hikers along this route, so enjoy the solitude and the feeling of being far away from it all!

The Bull of the Woods Trail #550 heads in past the trailhead sign through a thicket of willow and Sitka alder. The trail switchbacks twice in an old clearcut, and there are views north to Thunder Mountain and Baty Butte. Looking back, there’s also a good view of Mount Hood. Step into a ridge forest of silver fir, noble fir, mountain hemlock and some Douglas-fir with a huckleberry/bear grass understory: the trail is getting a little brushier by the year, and it’s best to wear rain pants if it’s wet because of the overhanging huckleberries. Pass the old wilderness permit box. You’ll soon notice a lush meadow with a perennial tarn to the left. Then the trail rises under impressive noble firs. Enter the Bull of the Woods Wilderness, and switchback up the west slope of North Dickey Peak; then hike along the ridge crest. The trail undulates as it makes a traverse. In July, rhododendrons are blooming and Washington lilies brighten a part of the trail here. The trail rises again above tiny Terrace Spring, where you might notice a broken sign on a tree. There are more undulations along the slopes of South Dickey Peak before you reach the Bull of the Woods-Dickey Lake Trail Junction.

Keep straight at the junction, and rise to get a view west to Big Slide Mountain and north to Mount Adams from a talus slope blooming with fireweed and lupine: listen for the alarm calls of pikas here. Cross a more open scree slope, and reach the ridge crest. Next, hike above a talus slope below a rock outcrop, and reach a small meadow on the crest blooming with little sunflowers, creamy stonecrop and Gorman’s aster in mid-summer. A short spur leads left to a viewpoint looking east. The trail rises from here and switchbacks twice to a view of Mount Hood, Pasola Mountain, and South Dickey Peak from a small meadow. Ascend the grassy crest, and get a view east down to a small lake, Big Slide Mountain and Schreiner Peak’s fire-scarred slopes. The trail switchbacks up twice to offer another open ridge view to Big Slide Mountain, Olallie Butte, Mount Jefferson and back to Mount Hood. The route then heads along the ridge crest, and you’ll spot Big Slide Lake below. Now rise more steeply, and arrive at the Bull of the Woods Lookout.

As of 2017, you can still ascend the steps to the lookout balcony and enjoy expansive views from Mount Rainier to the Three Sisters. Big Slide Lake glistens below, and Mother Lode and Battle Ax are the wilderness peaks to the south. A sign on the steps proclaims the lookout is on the National Historic Lookout Register. The lookout cabin itself is shuttered down and locked with a cable. You’ll see the outhouse below the lookout: one side is missing, but the seat still offers a magnificent vista towards Mount Jefferson. The rocky summit supports clumps of stonecrop, common juniper, pinemat manzanita, catchfly, and sandwort.

Find the trail that switchbacks south from the Bull of the Woods Lookout and into shady mountain hemlock forest. Traverse down, and make a couple more switchbacks to an opening above a talus slope that offers a view to Battle Ax. Hike along below the ridge crest; a spur leads to a rocky meadow blooming with paintbrush and Oregon sunshine and offering a view to the Washington Cascades. Below this meadow is the Mother Lode-Welcome Lakes Trail Junction.

Keep left here to continue along the ridge in a montane forest of mountain hemlock, silver fir, and noble fir. The trail rises to a trailside campsite and then drops to the Welcome Lakes-Schreiner Peak Trail Junction. A sign on the ground here points the way to Big Slide Lake. Go left to follow the sign, and drop steeply in a set of 14 switchbacks, encountering some talus slopes with squeaking pika populations. The trail levels for a short stretch, and then drops in three switchbacks to a saddle and the Dickey Creek-Schreiner Peak Trail Junction. Stay right on the Schreiner Peak Trail #555. You’ll see a campsite to your left and then a small tarn that offers a view up to the Bull of the Woods Lookout. Undulate along on a rocky tread to reach the unsigned Schreiner Peak-West Lake Way Trail Junction.

Stay left here, and hike up the slope of Big Slide Mountain through huckleberries and a carpet of pinemat manzanita. Switchback twice, and get a commanding view south to Mount Jefferson. Make another two switchbacks through lodgepole pines and Alaska yellow-cedar to a viewpoint towards the Dickey Peak ridge and the Bull of the Woods Lookout. Traverse up the south slope of Big Slide Mountain, getting views across the View Lake Fire Complex burn of 2010 to Mount Jefferson. You’ll soon be able to discern both Lower Welcome Lake and little Upper Welcome Lake in the burn as well as, closer to hand, West Lake nestled snugly in an unburned bowl. Cross an open grassy slope, and pass through a little copse of old Alaska yellow-cedars. Switchback at a view towards Olallie Butte, and reach the saddle between the two summits of Big Slide Mountain. You can get views from here across the Collawash and Clackamas River area. Rise to the ridge crest from this saddle, and come to the unsigned Schreiner Peak-Lake Lenore Trail Junction.

There are two short excursions you can make from this junction. First, go right on the Schreiner Peak Trail towards a rock outcropping. The trail rapidly deteriorates from this point, but a spur leads to the summit of the prominence, which I’ll call Baby Slide. You’ll pass an old helipad, and from the summit, scorched by the 2008 Lake Lenore Fire, there’s an expansive vista from Mount Rainier down to the Three Sisters. Lake Lenore sparkles below in its burned out bowl: from this viewpoint, you can decide if you want to complete the steep descent to its shore, mainly a bushwhack since the tread is lost for most of the way. Looking east along the ridge, you’ll note the burned over summits of Knob Peak and Schreiner Peak, the highest point in the Bull of the Woods Wilderness at 5,710 feet. These are also a possible destination, an off-trail adventure now since the Schreiner Peak Trail has not been maintained past Baby Slide.

The second excursion would be the short 130-foot scramble to the summit of Big Slide Mountain. This slope was out of the fire zone, so it’s a relatively simple rise through the skirt of scattered conifers to an exposed rock spine. It’s easier to cross over to the right side of this ridge to reach the summit from which you’ll get more views, including down to Big Slide Lake and the Bull of the Woods Lookout.

If you want to tag Lake Lenore, follow the trail from the junction. Switchback through a lupine meadow, and then enter the fire zone. You’ll see below you a steep slope studded with a dense collection of burned snags and lit with a brilliant display of fireweed. The trail can be followed a short distance as it plunges rapidly. To avoid a steep outcropping to the right, keep left along a shallow draw. Cross the draw at a lip, and then switchback down the slope. The old tread becomes almost impossible to follow from here, so you’ll just need to improvise a passage down the slope towards Lake Lenore, which is always visible below. When you get to the shore of this remote, kidney-shaped lake, you can see Mount Hood through the trees at the north end. Newts float lazily and unafraid: you will be one of only a handful of human visitors in any given year. It’s possible to swim here (The deepest spots are at the north end), and you’re guaranteed to have privacy! There were several campsites in the trees around the lake: if you’re spending a night, you’ll have to check around as some of these have downed trees lying across them. Off in the trees on the south shore of the lake, there was an outhouse that burned down, but the toilet itself is still there!


Maps

  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • Bull of the Woods Trail #550 (USFS)
  • Welcome Lakes Trail #554 (USFS)
  • Schreiner Peak Trail #555 (USFS)
  • Green Trails Maps: Battle Ax, OR #524
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness, Bull of the Woods Wilderness, Opal Creek Wilderness, Opal Creek Scenic Recreation Area
  • Geo-Graphics: Bull of the Woods and Opal Creek Wilderness Map
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Clackamas River Ranger District
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Mt. Hood National Forest
  • National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map: Mount Hood

Regulations or Restrictions, etc.

  • Self-issued wilderness permit

Trip Reports

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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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