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Pepper Mountain Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

On the old lookout road heading up Pepper Mountain (bobcat)
Rotting car below the Pepper Mountain lookout road (bobcat)
Oregon wood-sorrel (Oxalis oregana), Pepper Mountain (bobcat)
View to Ross Mountain and the Tualatin Hills from the south slope of Pepper Mountain (bobcat)
The short hike to Pepper Mountain on abandoned roads (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo/USFS
  • Start point: Pepper Mountain TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End Point: Pepper Mountain
  • Hike Type: Out and Back
  • Distance: 2.6 miles
  • Elevation gain: 700 feet
  • High point: 2,149 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Seasons: Spring to late fall
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: No

Contents

Hike Description

A short hike on abandoned logging/lookout roads takes you to a viewless summit at the very western edge of national forest lands on Larch Mountain. Pepper Mountain is a member of the Boring lava field, a scattered group of late Pliocene and Pleistocene volcanoes that include Mount Sylvania, Mount Tabor, Mount Scott, Beacon Rock, Nesmith Point, and Larch Mountain itself. A small lookout once stood on top of Pepper Mountain, but it was abandoned in the 1950s. For some views down the western slopes of Larch Mountain towards the Sandy River valley, a short side trip is also recommended.

Walk back up Brower Road to Road 1500. The latter, even though it is on public land, serves as a private driveway, so stay on the road. This is typical woodland for this elevation in the Gorge, a canopy of Douglas-fir and western hemlock with Oregon grape and sword fern dominating the understory. As you approach the house at the end of the driveway, you’ll see an abandoned track leading up to the right. There’s a No Vehicles forest service sign at the junction.

Head up the mossy track, and pass around a berm and then a barricade of boulders. Vine maple and salmonberry overhang the road bed, while oxalis, false lily-of-the-valley, bleeding heart, candy flower, woods violet, and starry Solomon plume all bloom here in the spring. Pass another track coming in from the left and reach a clearing on a saddle where blackberries want to take over. The second and lower vent of the Pepper Mountain volcano is to your right. There’s a junction here and for Pepper Mountain, take the trail leading up to the left.

You’ll pass through salmonberry thickets and then hike up through a carpet of false lily-of-the-valley and candy flower. An old logging cable lies embedded in the track. Pass under a canopy of alders as the road curves to the right. Here, you’ll get a glimpse of the silhouette of Larch Mountain through the trees. The track opens up, and you’ll eventually reach the clearing at the summit of Pepper Mountain, once the site of a small lookout cabin constructed in 1937. Tall trees have now grown up, so there are no views, but a few clumps of daffodils attest to the former human presence.

For a side trip that at least offers a view, walk back down to the saddle and trail junction. Make a left on a level track that passes through a deep forest where tall rotting snags are remnants of a big forest fire. The trail then drops through an alley of young hemlocks and passes a tall berm at the national forest boundary. Now you’re entering the secondary forest of private timberland, and the route winds through a thicket of young alders. Hop over a boulder barrier, and pass along the edge of a replanted clearcut. This becomes a grassy track that offers a view west over the low hump of Ross Mountain, another Boring volcano, towards the Sandy River valley. The track continues through the plantation to Larch Mountain Road, but it’s best to turn back at the viewpoint.


Maps

  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • Green Trails Maps: Bridal Veil, OR #428
  • Green Trails Maps: Columbia River Gorge - West #428S
  • National Geographic: Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Respect private property

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Day Hikes in the Columbia River Gorge by Don J. Scarmuzzi (longer road hike described)

More Links


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.