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Monte Carlo-Monte Cristo Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Rock penstemon (Penstemon rupicola), Monte Carlo (bobcat)
Mt. Adams from Monte Carlo (bobcat)
Bumblebee on balsamroot, Monte Cristo (bobcat)
View to Indian Heaven ridge from Monte Cristo (bobcat)
The trails to the summits of Monte Carlo and Monte Cristo (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo
  • Start point: Monte Carlo Upper TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End points: Monte Carlo and Monte Cristo
  • Hike Type: In and out
  • Distance: 5.8 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1940 feet
  • High Point: 4,171 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: Summer into Fall
  • Family Friendly: Yes, for older kids
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: No


Hike Description

The Monte Cristo Range forms a horseshoe around the headwaters of the Little White Salmon River, with these two peaks on the eastern horn of the ridge. While views of snow-capped Cascades peaks are part of the attraction in hiking to these summits, these are prime wildflower destinations from June through mid-July. Only a mile and half separates the two peaks, yet they are quite different. You'll reach the north end of Monte Carlo's mile-long ridge, a basalt spine enclosed by conferous woods, to admire the rock gardens and lush meadows. Monte Carlo, on the other hand, is an open former lookout site with a sunny summit meadow that supports some species, such as scarlet gilia or skyrocket, that are not found in the Columbia River Gorge.

Explore the flowery meadow at the trailhead, which will be alive with flitting butterflies on a sunny day. Then head up through a clearcut from the south side of the meadow on the Monte Carlo Trail #52. Brush through the thimbleberries along the trail. Enter a shady montane forest, following diamonds attached to the trees. The path rises steeply with three switchbacks. The balsamroot in small meadows blooms in early June. Pass over an open knoll and then reenter the shady forest. Reach a cleared area and go south a few yards then up to the left. Reach the grassy, rocky spine of Monte Carlo, where you'll find lots of deer droppings and a profusion of wildflowers: shrubby penstemon, rock penstemon, worm-leaf stonecrop, showy phlox, upland larkspur, naked broomrape, broad-leaf lupine, woolly sunflower, heart-leaf buckwheat, Martindale's desert parsley and many others put on a colorful display in late spring/early summer. Walking along the ridge crest, marked by small cairns, look back for a spectacular view north to Mount Adams and get a view west over a scree slope to the very top of Mount Saint Helens, Little Huckleberry Mountain, Lemei Rock, Bird Mountain and East Crater in Indian Heaven.

Continue along the trail to enter a stretch of woodland. You can step off to the right and, from the a steep meadow, get more views of Little Huckleberry Mountain and the spine of Indian Heaven. Soon enter the longest meadow on the ridge, which blooms with lupine, prairie star, blue-eyed Mary, and waterleaf. Reach another wooded area and then emerge at a small meadow. Pass through a band of conifers and get to the last meadow. A rise on your left offers views down the Buck Creek valley to the White Salmon River drainage. Come to the signpost at the Monte Carlo-Buck Creek Trail North Junction, a good turnaround point. (The actual summit of Monte Carlo is a little east of this junction in dense secondary woodland.) Return the way you came to the Monte Carlo Upper Trailhead.

The Monte Cristo hike starts 0.6 miles up Road 1840-100 at the Monte Cristo Upper Trailhead. From the end of the road, hike up the Monte Cristo Trail #53 along western edge of a clearcut, with thimbleberry bushes overhanging the trail. Make a steep traverse up and switchback twice in shady woods. Traverse up again and switchback and then make a traverse again and switchback in a meadow. The trail passes a clump of little sunflowers and then makes three short switchbacks in an open meadow before winding up to the ridge crest. You'll see the remains of the lookout here and a USGS marker. Get better views of Mount Saint Helens across Indian Heaven as well as a good view south to Mount Defiance and Mount Hood. Mount Adams is partially obscured by a band of conifers, but you can see east over the dry Klickitat Plateau. Notable wildflowers include scarlet gilia and frasera, but the summit is dominated by a sunny display of woolly sunflower in early summer. Deer and elk droppings indicate this a popular spot for ruminants.


  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • Monte Cristo Trail Map (USFS)
  • Green Trails Maps: Willard, WA #398
  • 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

Regulations or Restrictions, etc.

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Day Hiking: South Cascades by Dan A. Nelson & Alan L. Bauer (partial)

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.

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