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Lookingglass Lake via Shorthorn Trail Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

West Fork Salt Creek, Round the Mountain Trail (bobcat)
Creek crossing, Shorthorn Trail (bobcat)
Bog paintbrush (Castilleja suksdorfii), Round-the-Mountain Trail (bobcat)
Middle Fork Cascade Creek, Lookingglass Lake Trail (bobcat)
Lookingglass Lake in Summer 2014 (bobcat)
Route to Lookingglass Lake via the Shorthorn Trail shown in red (bobcat)
  • Start point: Shorthorn Trailhead
  • Ending Point: Lookingglass Lake
  • Trail Log:
  • Distance: 11.8 miles
  • Elevation gain: 2495 feet
  • High Point: 6,205 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: Mid-summer into Fall
  • Family Friendly: No
  • Backpackable: Yes
  • Crowded: No


Hike Description

Several old stock ways, used by Basque shepherds in the late 19th century and, by the mid-20th century, becoming conduits for cattle, run up through Mount Adams’ montane forest to the timberline. The Shorthorn Trail is one of these and, although you may still see cattle near the trailhead, it is now used principally by hikers. This hike takes you up to the Round the Mountain Trail and crosses some of Mt. Adams’ most volatile slopes, the scene of frequent debris slides over the decades. Every so often, the trail needs major repairs as the rubbly moraine slopes above and the gullies carved by the headwater streams of Crofton Creek, Salt Creek, and Cascade Creek readjust themselves and wipe out the tread. In 1997, a large lahar came down these drainages from the aptly-named Avalanche Glacier, the largest such slide since 1921, when a massive wall of debris carried four miles down the Salt Creek valley. In the fall of 2006, the Crofton and Salt Creek gullies were gouged 10-15 deeper by tides of pooled water flowing off the glaciers above after heavy rains (This was the same storm that wiped out Highway 35 in Oregon at the Robin Hood Campground). The goal of this excursion is little Lookingglass Lake, which still offers its reflection of the mountain even though its girdle of conifers was reduced to blackened posts by the 2012 Cascade Creek Fire. Although you begin and end the hike in this burn, much of the middle section of the hike offers unsinged alpine parklands and streams as well as little human traffic.

Fill out a wilderness permit at the trailhead and hike up the wide, gullied, but nicely stepped trail through a bear-grass carpet into the burn. This will become a recovering montane woodland of mountain hemlock, silver fir, noble fir, and Engelmann spruce. Cross Morrison Creek and crest a small rise to continue the gentle ascent. After crossing a dry watercourse, continue upward in a bear-grass, grouseberry, wood-rush carpet. Look up on a burned tree and see a remaining, barely legible tin plaque marked CENTER STOCK DRIVEWAY. Off to the right is Morrison Creek plunging through a deep gully. The trail now veers away from the creek and you enter tongues of unburned woodland carpeted with lupine. Pass through a park-like meadow and cross a creek. Shortly, you will encounter another small creek braiding and running down the trail itself in a lush garden of monkey flower, yellow willow herb, and arrow-leaf groundsel. Cross Crofton Creek’s rubbly gully, rise up the west side of the ditch, and then wind up steeply on rocky, subalpine slope of mountain hemlock, subalpine fir, and whitebark pine. Views lead back to Crofton Ridge, the Trout Lake Valley, and Mount Hood. Reach the Round-the-Mountain-Shorthorn Trail Junction and turn left.

The trail undulates towards the west through a stony parkland with a carpet of lupine. This is the area of a huge landslide a couple of centuries old. Hear a gushing spring issuing below in a thicket of willow. Drop into a gully and get a view to Sleeping Beauty, Steamboat Mountain, Lemei Rock, and Mount Saint Helens. Cross Salt Creek at a waterfall head up across a dry gully. Soon hear another gushing spring below. This one is more visible from the trail and can be easily accessed. The water pours out of the hillside on a spongy, four-inch-thick carpet of moss. Cross two more gullies with flowing creeks, the second with a lacy waterfall far above. Views up the mountain include the expanses of the Avalanche and White Salmon Glaciers as well as the Pinnacle, or north summit. Step over another creek and drop to pass through a tongue of the burn. Traverse an open slope with more views south to Mount Hood. Reenter unburned alpine parklands with glades of lupine, subalpine daisy, and Gray’s lovage. The trail now drops gently to cross the East Fork of Cascade Creek. Next, step across small creek flowing through an exuberant growth of lovage, monkey flower, and groundsel. There’s another small creek and then you reach the Middle Fork of Cascade Creek. Take care with the crossing here as the stream course changes every year. Pick up the trail on the west bank, pass through glades that bloom with aster in late summer, and come to the Round-the-Mountain-Lookingglass Lake Trail Junction.

Take the Lookingglass Lake Trail, which here has a somewhat stony tread as it heads down through subalpine glades along Cascade Creek’s Middle Fork. Cross the creek, and then cross two small streams, each with its own little waterfall tumbling above. The second creek has a shady campsite. Cross another little creek and pass a second campsite on the right. Now negotiate the East Fork of Cascade Creek and descend past a viewpoint of Mount Saint Helens. The trail gently descends a low ridge. Pass the unsigned Lookingglass Lake-Graveyard Camp Cutoff Trail Junction (see the Lookingglass Lake via Stagman Ridge Hike), and make one last drop to the verdant shore of Lookingglass Lake, now unfortunately nestled amid the scorched snags of the Cascade Creek Burn. Keep to the west shore of the lake to get your view of Mount Adams’ southern flanks. There are also campsites here.

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • $2 toll each way at the Hood River Bridge
  • Sign in at the Wilderness Permit box at the trailhead


  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • Green Trails Maps: Mount Adams, WA #367S and Mount Adams West, WA #366
  • Mt. Adams Wilderness (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

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this destination

  • Off the Beaten Trail by Matt Reeder
  • Day Hiking Mount Adams and Goat Rocks by Tami Asars
  • Hiking Washington’s Mount Adams by Fred Barstad
  • Day Hiking: South Cascades by Dan A. Nelson & Alan L. Bauer
  • Hiking the Gifford Pinchot Backcountry by the Columbia Group Sierra Club

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.

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