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Old Baldy Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

View to Wildcat Mountain, Old Baldy Trail (bobcat)
Wilderness boundary sign, Old Baldy Trail (bobcat)
Western rhododendron (Rhododendron macrophyllum), Old Baldy Trail (bobcat)
The lookout site on Old Baldy (bobcat)
Map showing the route to Old Baldy (bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo
  • Start point: Old Baldy West TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End Point: Old Baldy
  • Trail Log:
  • Hike Type: Out and Back
  • Distance: 7.5 miles round-trip
  • Elevation gain: 1470 feet
  • High Point: 4,485 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: Summer into Fall
  • Family Friendly: No
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: No

Contents

Description

The Old Baldy Lookout once offered commanding views over the western wilderness of the Mt. Hood National Forest, but the decommissioning of the structure in the 1960s has allowed the trees to grow up. As a result Old Baldy remains a destination by way of an historic trail but has lost its status as a viewpoint. Luckily, however, there is another viewpoint on the rim of Githens Mountain and high above the Eagle Creek valley that includes a splendid vista to Mount Hood and points north. This ridge hike is best done in early summer, when the rhododendrons are in bloom and there is a carpet of avalanche lilies near the trailhead. The trail once ran almost entirely along the ridge, but has been rerouted below the ridge in two major areas. In the late 1990s, the access road to the trailhead here was the site of sit-ins and tree occupations by activists opposing a timber sale; for a considerable time, access was severely restricted. The sale was called off and the area is now part of the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness.

There is an arrangement of boulders at the trailhead intended to prevent ATV incursions. Walk past the boulders to the trail, and go left. Avalanche lilies and violets are in bloom in early summer. Head up, paralleling the road, in old growth silver fir, noble fir, and western hemlock ridge forest with a carpet of oxalis. Reach a viewpoint at an old helispot and see cliffs across the way on the slopes of Githens Mountain. Rhododendron, bear-grass, and huckleberries proliferate in this clearing. Keep up, sometimes steeply, with Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness boundary signs to your right. Then make a traverse to the left and drop past an arrow stuck in a tree. Reach a saddle and then drop down to the Old Baldy-White Iris Trail Junction, which is above a spring. There is an Old Baldy Trail #502 sign at this junction.

Keep right, and ascend gradually before making a traverse. Keep close to edge of the ridge and then wind down in silver fir, noble fir, hemlock, rhododendron woods with a carpet of bear-grass. Rise and pass a campsite on the right in a rim forest of mountain hemlock. A spur to the right arrives at a great viewpoint across the Eagle Creek valley to Wildcat Mountain. Mount Hood rears on the horizon, with Mount Adams tucked behind it. There’s a slope bog directly below and rhododendrons bloom all around in early summer. Walk along the ridge crest before the trail drops to the right down the slope. Eventually, rise again up a forested slope and pass the Old Baldy-Bissell Trail Junction at an old sign (1/2 mile) and keep right.

The trail is level in Douglas-fir, silver fir, noble fir and western hemlock woods with an understory of huckleberry, rhododendron and bear-grass. Drop slightly to a saddle and then wend up in noble and silver fir woods. There’s a last short, steep climb to the Old Baldy summit and the site of an old fire lookout with no views: trees once trimmed have now grown back with a vengeance. Some straggly Scouler's willows and a carpet of bunchberries have colonized the lookout site.

Note: The White Iris and Bissell Trails are user-maintained trails that are rough and can be hard to follow. Good off-trail skills are required (See the White Iris-Bissell Trail Loop Hike).

Maps

  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • Old Baldy Trail #502 (USFS)
  • Green Trails Maps: Fish Creek Mtn, OR #492 and Cherryville, Oreg #460
  • Adventure Maps: Mt. Hood Area
  • Discover Your Northwest: Mt. Hood National Forest North: Trail Map & Hiking Guide
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness, Bull of the Woods Wilderness, Opal Creek Wilderness, Opal Creek Scenic Recreation Area
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Mt. Hood National Forest
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Clackamas River Ranger District
  • National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map: Mount Hood

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Afoot and Afield: Portland/Vancouver by Douglas Lorain
  • 105 Virtual Hikes of the Mt. Hood National Forest by Northwest Hiker
  • Oregon's Columbia River Gorge: Camping & Hiking by Tom Stienstra & Sean Patrick Hill
  • Oregon Hiking by Sean Patrick Hill
  • Pacific Northwest Hiking by Scott Leonard & Sean Patrick Hill

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.