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Penny ridge to monte carlo hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Timberhead Mountain view, Penny Ridge (bobcat)
Deer brush (Ceanothus integerrimus), Penny Ridge (bobcat)
Herald-of-summer (Clarkia amoena var. caurina), Penny Ridge (bobcat)
Buck Creek Trail, Penny Ridge (bobcat)
Mt. Adams from Monte Carlo (bobcat)
The Buck Creek Trail along Penny Ridge to Monte Carlo (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo
  • Start point: Buck Creek Falls TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Monte Carlo
  • Trail Log:
  • Hike Type: In and out
  • Distance: 15.2 miles
  • Elevation gain: 3455 feet
  • High Point: 4,055 feet
  • Difficulty: Difficult
  • Seasons: Mid-spring into Fall
  • Family Friendly: No
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: No
Poison Oak


Hike Description

There are many roads to Monte Carlo: this approach begins from Buck Creek in the Washington Department of Natural Resource’s Buck Creek Area west of the White Salmon River. You’ll ascend Penny Ridge, making use of the Buck Creek Trail and then old jeep tracks, to reach the summit of Monte Carlo, at the eastern horn of the U-shaped Monte Cristo Range (Little Huckleberry Mountain is the western horn). Although only a few old growth trees remain in this heavily logged area, it is a paradise for wildflower enthusiasts: there are no vast, color-saturated meadows for the photographing hordes, but an impressive variety of species survives on these slopes due to the microhabitats of the east/west transition zone and the changes in elevation. A series of meadows interspersed with small copses of montane woodland run along Monte Carlo’s level one-mile summit, which offers view west and eventually north to the massive snow-covered hump of Mount Adams.

Note that if you want to cut out the lower reaches of this hike, a shorter excursion of 9.8 miles round-trip begins at the McIlroy Saddle Trailhead.

Walk right to the lower entrance of the parking lot and then onto Road B1000. Hike about 150 yards down the road and look for the trail to resume uphill to the left, several yards before you would reach a dirt track (B1200) leading off B1000. Ascend on a bracken-lined tread under Douglas-firs and oaks and switchback. The trail traverses through deer brush, thimbleberry, and snowberry. Drop briefly into a small gully and rise again under Douglas-firs and maples with an Oregon grape carpet. Come to the junction with the Buck Creek Trail, which leads up Penny Ridge to Monte Carlo.

Go left at the junction on an old road bed overhung with brush. Head up through oak woodland on a grassy tread with deer brush blooming in blue puffs in late spring. There are lots of ticks in this area. The path levels in a lovely oak forest and then heads up again. Cross a trickling brook and head into Douglas-fir/big-leaf maple woods. The trail switchbacks in a gully and, where the road bed levels, there are views down the Buck Creek valley through breaks in the vegetation. Reenter Douglas-fir/vine maple woods, and keep rising. Then there’s a steep drop and you reach a mixed oak/Douglas-fir forest. At a trail sign, go left on a jeep track. The trail leaves the track on the right and heads along a fence line to Road B1300 and the McIlroy Saddle Trailhead.

Head to the right to find the Buck Creek Trail leading up on an old road bed in secondary forest of Douglas-fir and big-leaf maple. Switchback up and, at a break in the trees, catch a view to the east. Switchback again and ascend the ridge in a brushy area dominated by ocean spray. The trail continues to rise just below the ridge crest in a vanilla leaf carpet among older trees. Reach the ridge crest at an oak-lined meadow that offers views to Timberhead Mountain, Nestor Peak, the Columbia River, and Mount Hood. Balsamroot, paintbrush, and tapper-tip onions bloom here in the spring. The trail reenters Douglas-fir woods with some openings where balsamroot, penstemon, cryptantha, paintbrush, and lupine bloom along the path. Then little sunflowers take over and crowd the tread for a stretch. Pass a trail sign and a couple of weathered posts to reach the Buck Creek Trail-Road B10 Junction.

Hike up the old jeep road, which keeps to the crest with meadows and oaks to the left and mixed woodland to the right. You can catch views back to Mount Hood from here. A few large, old growth Douglas-firs shade the way. The track drops in a thicket of thimbleberry and then rises to reach another road junction, where you keep left and continue to rise alongside more meadows. Nine-leaf desert parsley carpets the road until it drops steeply to a saddle. Here you can go left to get a view of Mount Hood from a steep meadow. Ascend the road and then drop gradually in a shady vine maple understory to the Buck Creek Trail-Road B13 Junction.

Go left here on this heavily bermed track that is occasionally used by ATVs. Pass an old campsite on the right and head up steeply. The trail then undulates a little and then winds up gradually in a Douglas-fir plantation. Soon silver fir and noble fir enter the conifer mix. A grassy jeep track leads off to the right. Reach the Monte Carlo-Buck Creek Trail North Junction at a meadow near the high point of Monte Carlo, which is obscured by a dense stand of conifers.

Go right to begin the one-mile, fairly level hike along Monte Carlo’s summit ridge. Pass a knoll on your right that offers viewpoints east. The trail briefly enters a band of conifers and then crosses another small meadow on the ridge crest. Walk along the crest in another wooded area and reach the longest meadow on the ridge. There are no views from here, but when you enter another area of woodland, you can step over to your left to get views from the top of a talus slope to Little Huckleberry Mountain and the spine of Indian Heaven. Continue along the crest through these woods to reach the Monte Carlo's northern meadow, where you are immediately greeted, on a fine day, with a full-on vista of Mount Adams. From the meadow’s rocky spine, there are views east to peaks of the Monte Cristo Range and farther to Lemei Rock. A rock garden of penstemon, stonecrop, and desert parsley cascades below you. At the north end of the meadow, a series of cairns leads you to the trail which drops to the saddle between Monte Carlo and Monte Cristo (See the Monte Carlo-Monte Cristo Hike).


Regulations or Restrictions, etc.

  • Discover Pass required
  • Share trail with mountain bikes
  • $2 toll at the Hood River Bridge

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • none

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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