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Observation Peak Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

The view of Mt. Rainier from Observation Peak (Cheryl Hill)
Lower end of the Observation Trail (bobcat)
Avalanche lilies (Erythronium montanum), Observation Trail (bobcat)
The view of Mt. Hood from Observation Peak (Cheryl Hill)
The Observation Peak hike from FR 58 (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo
  • Start point: Observation Peak TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Observation Peak
  • Trail Log:
  • Hike Type: Out-and-back
  • Distance: 5.6 miles
  • High point: 4,207 feet
  • Elevation gain: 1400 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: Summer and Fall
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable: Yes
  • Crowded: No


Hike Description

This hike along the northern edge of the Trapper Creek Wilderness is recommended for a clear summer day when you can see four snowy mountains from the summit of Observation Peak. Wildflowers bloom in the forest and on the summit in early July, but early July is also mosquito season up here. The pests will plague you for about the final two-thirds of the climb up to the peak.

The trail climbs up through the forest at a steady rate, but it's never never steep. In early July the first part of the trail will have blooming bunchberry and you'll soon pass through nearly a mile of glacier lilies. Avalanche lilies will be blooming along the same section in late spring. You'll also see lots of huckleberry bushes, and if you time your visit right in August, you can feast on the yummy berries while you hike.

After 1.1. miles, you will reach the Observation-Sister Rocks Trail Junction. That trail heads off to your right and is labeled with a wooden sign (See the Sister Rocks Hike). On your left you will see a path heading over to a big boulder pile. This very short side trail takes you to a viewpoint of Mount Adams and Mount Rainier. There is also a second side trail to this bouldery viewpoint, which you will have passed just before reaching the Sister Rocks Trail; however, I recommend the one I mention above as it takes you directly to a view of Mount Adams. The first side trail takes you to a part of the boulder pile that has trees blocking the view and you have to scramble over the boulders to reach an unobstructed view.

Back on the main trail, you will now find yourself going downhill. It's a pleasant descent now, but you have to climb back up this trail on your way out! After 0.7 mile you will reach another trail junction. The Big Hollow trail heads downhill to your left. There is also a campsite here, labeled Berry Camp. Continuing on, just a short distance later you will pass the Observation-Trapper Creek Trail Junction.

After another 0.4 mile you will see Shortcut Trail on your right (This meets up with the Trapper Creek Trail) and then the Observation-Observation Peak Trail Junction only 25 yards later. Here, Trail 132 goes left, but you will go right, climbing up a final 0.6 mile to the open summit of Observation Peak, a former lookout site. This is a great place to catch your breath, eat your lunch, and soak up the views. On a clear day you can see Mount Hood to the south, and if it's really clear you can just make out the tip of Mount Jefferson in the distance. To the east and north are Mount Adams, Mount Rainier, and Mount Saint Helens. In early July, the summit of Observation Peak is covered in beargrass blooms and low-growing phlox, but you pay a price for this wildflower wonderland: mosquitoes. Expect swarms of them in late June and early July, not only here but along the majority of the trail.

The best views are at the summit, but if you want another view of the Washington peaks, look for a side trail about 0.3 mile from the summit as you're heading back down. This trail travels a ridge and climbs up to a rocky ledge with good views of Mount Saint Helens, Mount Rainier, and Mount Adams, as well as the vastness of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest spread before you. Return the way you came back to the main trail.


  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • Green Trails Maps: Lookout Mtn, WA #396
  • Trapper Creek 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 hike

  • 100 Hikes in Northwest Oregon & Southwest Washington by William L. Sullivan
  • Hiking Washington's Mount Adams Country by Fred Barstad
  • Day Hiking: Columbia River Gorge by Craig Romano
  • Take a Hike: Portland' by Barbara I. Bond
  • 95 Virtual Hikes of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest and the Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument by Northwest Hiker
  • Day Hiking: South Cascades by Dan A. Nelson & Alan L. Bauer
  • 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles by Paul Gerald
  • Portland Hikes by Art Bernstein & Andrew Jackman
  • Skamania 231: A Scrambler's Guide by Kelly Wagner
  • Exploring Washington's Wild Areas by Marge & Ted Mueller
  • 33 Hiking Trails: Southern Washington Cascades by Don & Roberta Lowe
  • Washington Hiking by Scott Leonard
  • Pacific Northwest Hiking by Scott Leonard & 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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