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Mount Hebo Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Pacific Ocean and Cape Lookout in view from Mount Hebo's summit plateau (bobcat)
Alder-ringed Hebo Lake (bobcat)
Oregon wood sorrel (Oxalis oregana), Pioneer Indian Trail (bobcat)
Nearing the summit plateau, Mount Hebo (bobcat)
Summit moors and view, Mount Hebo (bobcat)
Mountain bog, Mount Hebo (bobcat)
South Lake, Mount Hebo (bobcat)
The eight-mile Pioneer Indian Trail traced in red (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: National Geographic Topo
  • Start point: Hebo Lake TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: South Lake
  • Hike type: In and out or car shuttle
  • Distance: 16.0 miles round-trip
  • Elevation gain: 3230 feet
  • High point: 3,145 feet
  • Difficulty: Difficult
  • Seasons: March into November
  • Family Friendly: No
  • Backpackable: Yes
  • Crowded: No


Hike Description

In the 1850s, settlers in the Tillamook area constructed a trail over the Coast Range using old Native American paths. Somehow, heading up over the wind-blasted 3,154’ summit of Mt. Hebo was deemed the way to go. In a few years, a wagon road was carved along the Nestucca River and the trail was lost. Mt. Hebo’s summit became the site of a weather station and, from 1956 to 1980, a U.S. Air Force radar outpost, part of the line of defense against a Soviet missile attack. A residential area of 27 homes existed where the horse trailhead now is. Mt. Hebo’s weather was not kind to the military: three times during the existence of the station, the radar dome had to be replaced after being destroyed by storms. None of the original Air Force buildings remain and the land has reverted to the Siuslaw National Forest. In 1975, a USFS employee rediscovered traces of the old settler trail and an eight-mile section of the route was reestablished for hikers and horses.

The trail is well-signposted and it is generally easy to follow the posts placed in strategic locations. Being in the Oregon Coast Range's wettest spot, Mt. Hebo can get several feet of snow in a winter, so check ahead of time for conditions. The first half of the trail, from Hebo Lake to the summit is done more frequently. The second half, from the summit area down to South Lake is far more remote and secluded. The entire trail can be done as a car shuttle if the road to the South Lake Trailhead is open. The descriptions below split the trail into these halves, the elevation gain shown as for an in and out day hike (There is some overlap, which is why the sum of the distances is greater than the single hike).

A hike and bike is also an option. Leave a bike at the Upper Pioneer Indian Trailhead or Mount Hebo Trailhead. Walk the eight miles from Hebo Lake to South Lake. Walk back to where you left your bike and then coast back down the mountain to Hebo Lake.

1. Hebo Lake to Mt. Hebo summit

Directions: From the Pioneer Indian Trailhead #1300, enter mossy woods of Douglas-fir, sword fern and elderberry. The forest here was burned in the 19th Century and then again in 1910, after which the replanting began. The trail drops into a bulrush bottom and then through groves of mossy Douglas-firs and Sitka spruce. Interpretive signs offer information on this lower part of the trail although not all of the original eleven signs still stand. Rising in Douglas-fir woods, pass a sign about the variety of the forest on homesteaded land. Traverse up the side of a slope and cross a gravel road.

The trail heads up, drops and levels, then rises in Douglas-fir/hemlock woods. There’s a clearing with a sign about “Braken Fern” [sic]. Then there’s a sign about industrious mountain beavers. Pass the Pioneer Indian-Pioneer Indian Tie In Trail Junction, where a spur leads left to the horse staging area. The trail levels with a skunk-cabbage swamp to the right which grades into a grassy meadow. Signs point to the newer trail track which keeps to the north of this meadow rather than crossing it as the old trail did. The trail crosses a draw and passes the junction with the old trail bed. There’s a larger meadow on the left and then the path heads gradually uphill in a Douglas-fir plantation on a rocky tread. Moss, sword fern, bracken, and oxalis form the carpet. Make a level traverse and then rise steadily. The trail reaches paved FR 14 and crosses it.

The path resumes on an old roadbed past a berm. These are Douglas-fir-Sitka spruce woods with some hemlocks and cedars. The road rises only gradually and then levels as you pass below the summit of Mt. Hebo. The trail reaches FR 14 again.

To reach a moorland viewpoint, continue on the trail, which now leaves the road bed and heads up in Douglas-fir/spruce woods to an open meadow with huckleberry and salal bushes. You can look back to the summit of Mt. Hebo and then west to the coast. Cape Lookout, Cape Meares and Tillamook are all in view on a clear day.

For the road loop to and around the summit, return to where the trail meets FR 14. Go right on the paved road and then go right on a gravel spur to the parking area on the Mt. Hebo summit by the microwave towers. The open plateau area gives expansive views. There was a large U.S. Air Force radar station here until 1980. The summit gets 180” of precipitation. To return, head back down the spur road and then go right on FR 14. Walk about 0.6 miles (You can add a spur road here to the South Point of Mt. Hebo) to the Upper Pioneer Indian Trailhead and take the trail back down to Hebo Lake.

2. Mt. Hebo summit to South Lake

  • Start point: Mount Hebo TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: South Lake
  • Distance: 9.4 miles in and out
  • Elevation gain: 1695 feet
  • High Point: 3,145 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate

Directions: After taking in the expansive views, walk back down the summit spur road to FR 14, and go left. It's about half a mile to where the Pioneer Indian Trail runs next to FR 14. Drop off the road and head right on the trail, rising more steeply in the forest before it reaches open moorland on the summit plateau. Here, there are meadows, huckleberry bushes and old snags, with views to the ocean at Cape Lookout, Cape Meares and the valleys of the Tillamook and Nestucca Rivers. The trail drops from here into Douglas-fir forest and then hits another open expanse with views across the plateau. A post shows the route of the trail towards the trees and below the summit road (FR 14), but the summit plateau can be further explored on an old jeep road and simply by meandering across the moors.

The trail veers into mixed coniferous forest of Douglas-fir, western red-cedar, western hemlock, and noble fir above a bog. Cross a footbridge over a creek and then rise to the summit road and cross it. Pass the Pioneer Indian-Mount Hebo Campground Trail Junction. Drop to cross another creek on a footbridge and then make a rising traverse. The trail now drops in salal-carpeted woods and makes two switchbacks down before dropping again in a carpet of Oregon grape. Switchback again below an old logging road bed and continue to descend in Douglas-fir forest. Switchback twice to a junction above secluded North Lake, where a sign indicates it’s 1 ½ miles to South Lake .

Go left here to circle around North Lake’s north and east shores (The tie trail leads from the junction to FR 14). Wind up a slope forested with Douglas-fir and hemlock. You may be lucky to see elk in this area although they are very shy. Cross an old road bed and then descend to a gravel road and cross it. Rise up the slope and see an alder bog below to the right. Finally, the trail drops to alder-rimmed South Lake , which has a primitive campground with an outhouse.

On the return, cross the summit plateau's moorlands and get off the trail where it runs next to the road about half a mile east of Mt. Hebo's summit. Walk along the paved road and then take the spur trail to the summit parking area.


Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Northwest Forest Pass (or America the Beautiful Pass) required in season - or $5 day-use fee
  • Dogs on leash near campgrounds
  • Camping prohibited in summit meadows and within 200 feet of the trail

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Portland by Paul Gerald
  • 100 Hikes: Oregon Coast by William L. Sullivan
  • 25 Hikes on Oregon's Tillamook Coast by Adam Sawyer
  • Oregon Campgrounds Hiking Guide by Rhonda & George Ostertag
  • 75 Hikes in Oregon’s Coast Range & Siskiyous by Rhonda & George Ostertag
  • Siuslaw Forest Hikes by Irene Lilja & Dick Lilja
  • Oregon Coast Camping & Hiking by Tom Stienstra & Sean Patrick Hill
  • Oregon Hiking by Sean Patrick Hill

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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