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McClellan Meadows Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Bunchberries, McClellan Meadows Trail bobcat)
Old logging road bridge, McClellan Meadows Trail bobcat)
McClellan Meadows in the fall, with Lone Butte behind bobcat)
Cottonwoods on Road 6701, McClellan Meadows Trail bobcat)
McClellan Meadows Trail to the meadows (not a GPS track) bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo
  • Start point: McClellan Meadows Upper TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: McClellan Meadows
  • Hike Type: In and out
  • Distance: 6.8 miles
  • Elevation gain: 815 feet
  • High Point: 3,575 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: Summer into Fall
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable:No
  • Crowded: No


Hike Description

McClellan Meadows, in the high country on the western edge of the Indian Heaven volcanic ridge, is the headwaters of the Wind River. It is part of a popular winter recreation area and ski trails lead there from Oldman Pass and Koshko Sno-Park. This hike is a gently descending amble from the McClellan Meadows Upper Trailhead near the Falls Creek Horse Camp. Graded for mountain bikers, the trail never actually reaches the meadows. However, a short road walk on a little traveled forest road will take you there: the meadows are some of the most expansive in the area and the hike offers a good, fast adjunct to the Indian Racetrack Hike from the same trailhead area.

The trail and the meadows, as well as other landmarks around, are named for Captain George B. McClellan, who was part of the 1853 Northern Pacific railroad survey team which came through here and was led by the recently appointed governor of Washington Territory, Isaac Stevens. This was one of five railroad surveys conducted between 1852 and 1855 to determine the best route for a transcontinental railroad. McClellan was later commander of the Army of the Potomac and, briefly, leader of the Union forces during the Civil War. He was often contemptuous of his Commander-in-Chief, President Abraham Lincoln, and was replaced for his overly cautious approach. He challenged Lincoln for the presidency in 1864 and later served as Governor of New Jersey.

The sign at the trailhead says Road 6701 is 1.4 miles and Road 3053 is 3.1 miles. The trail is closed to horses because of “unsafe” bridges. Begin your hike under noble fir, Douglas-fir, silver fir and mountain hemlock with some lodgepoles and western white pines. Blue diamonds on trees mark the ski route. The trail gradually descends in mature forest, but there’s clearcut to the left. Cross a couple of dry, alder lined draws and then head up. Skirt the edge of another clearcut under mountain hemlocks, lodgepole pine, silver fir and western white pine on an old road bed. Bear-grass is the principal ground cover. Past a large noble fir, the trail levels at a copse of alders. Reach Road 6701, which is ablaze with yellow cottonwoods in the fall, and cross it.

Vanilla leaf and vine maple dominate the woods here and put on quite a spectacular display in the fall under silver fir, Douglas-fir and Engelmann spruce. The trail levels in a forest of cedar, mountain hemlock and silver fir and crosses a creek on an old, decaying road bridge consisting of four big logs. The creek here runs down through Pete Gulch to the Wind River. From here, the path drops to cross a second creek on the same type of bridge. Head up and then hike on the level. There’s a continuous drop past a trail sign down to Road 3053 and the McClellan Meadows Lower Trailhead.

To actually visit McClellan Meadows, you’ll need to walk along narrow, potholed Road 3053 to the right. You’ll pass the Snow Foot Ski Trail (a.k.a. Terminator Trail #159) leading off to the right and, 0.3 miles from the McClellan Meadows Lower Trailhead, the Snow Foot Ski Trail joins the road coming in from Oldman Pass on the left. On the right is a path that leads through the trees to the expansive meadows, lined with spiraea and willow and very soggy in the wet season. A path does lead into the meadows and Lone Butte juts up on the skyline. In summer, the meadows host a variety of swamp flora, including marsh cinquefoil, white bog orchid, buttercup, and bog paintbrush.


  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • Green Trails Maps: Wind River, WA #397
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Mt. Adams Ranger District
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Gifford Pinchot National Forest
  • Adventure Maps: Hood River, Oregon, Trail Map
  • National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map: Mount St. Helens, Mount Adams

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • The Columbia Gorge: Short Trips and Trails by Oral Bullard & Don Lowe

More Links


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.