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Lost Lake Butte Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

View of Mount Hood from Lost Lake Butte (Tom Kloster)
The Lost Lake Butte trail climbs the gentle western slope that rises from Lost Lake (Tom Kloster)
Wide-angle view looking south from Lost Lake Butte (Tom Kloster)
Former lookout tower site (Tom Kloster)
  • Start point: Lost Lake TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End Point: Lost Lake Butte
  • Trail Log: Trail Log
  • Hike Type: Out and Back
  • Distance: 4.6 miles round-trip
  • Elevation gain: 1,270 feet
  • High Point: 4,468 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: Summer through Fall
  • Family Friendly: Yes, for older kids
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: Rarely


Hike Description

If you're camping at Lost Lake and have already explored the loop trail around the lake, the hike to the top of Lost Lake Butte is the perfect follow-up. The climb is generally well-graded, and though trees block some of the view from the summit, the spectacular vista toward Mount Hood is still expansive. There are two approaches to the trail that are so close together that they really don't represent different trailheads - just different starting points in the maze of official and unofficial trails that criss-cross the Lost Lake area. However, the first approach does not require entry to the developed Lost Lake recreation area, and thus free parking for hikers who don't plan to visit the lake. Both approaches converge at the Lost Lake Butte Trail, proper. The map at the bottom of the page illustrates both approaches.

Old Skyline Trail Approach If you’re not planning to visit the lake you can save yourself the entrance fee and a confusing trail route through the campground by simply parking at the gated spur road immediately to the left of the campground entry sign. Simply look for a small sign marking the Skyline Trail (no. 655), where the gated spur road joins the main road. Before the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) was constructed in the 1960s, the Oregon Skyline Trail traversed the crest of the Cascades, with remnants like this one bypassed by the new PCT. Follow this old route along a recovering clearcut for a short distance, cross a gravel road, and resume where a second sign marks the trail as it enters dense forest. Here, the trail traverses above the Lost Lake Campground, with the sounds of children playing and the smell of burned marshmallows filling the air. At the 0.3 mile mark, reach a signed junction with the Lost Lake Butte Trail (no. 616). Here, you will turn left (uphill) and continue according to the "Lost Lake Butte Trail" description, below.

Lost Lake Campground Approach The campground trailhead is located on the upper loop of Lost Lake Campground, and a bit difficult to find. However, if you look closely for an unmarked trail emerging from the trees near the T-intersection where the main access road ends near the lake, you can follow this path through the campground to the trailhead. If you can't find that route, simply follow the campground lane uphill to its highest point, and watch for a trail between camp spots. You'll know you've found it when you see the large signboard, just a few yards up the trail. If you continue to have problems, stop at the camp store - which usually has maps on hand. Continue on this approach for another 0.2 miles to the junction with the Old Skyline Trail. Look for the Lost Lake Butte Trail just to the left, and begin your climb uphill, following the description below.

Lost Lake Butte Trail From the Old Skyline Trail junction, begin the meandering climb up west slope of the butte through forests carpeted with thickets of rhododendron and beargrass. Though occasionally steep, the path soon reaches a switchback and more gentle grade at 1.2 miles. From here, the trail continues at a more even grade through open forest through eight more switchbacks.

At the somewhat brushy summit area, stay right at a fork and immediately pass the stairway and footings for the Lost Lake Butte lookout, destroyed in the 1960s. Continue south along the summit to an open viewpoint marked by a jumble of huge boulders that make a fine lunch stop. Stately Mount Hood commands the view to the south, across the broad valley of the West Fork Hood River. Hood River Mountain and Surveyor’s Ridge make up the eastern skyline. The maze of clearcuts, below, are a reminder of the days when logging peaked in the 1980s, and most are now recovering, creating a green, quilted look across the valley floor. If you’ve visited the scenic basins along the north side of Mount Hood, you’ll be able to pick them out from this vantage point, too, ranging from Elk Cove on the east to Cairn Basin and Eden Park, on the west. Lost Lake and the high peaks of the Washington Cascades were once visible from the summit, but are now obscured by trees.



Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Northwest Forest Pass or special entry feed required at Lost Lake

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this destination

  • 60 Hikes within 60 Miles of Portland, by Paul Gerald

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.