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Salmon Butte Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

View to Mt. Hood from Salmon Butte (bobcat)
Large Douglas-fir, Salmon Butte Trail (bobcat)
View to Salmon Mountain from the Salmon Butte Trail (bobcat)
Cardwell's penstemon (Penstemon cardwellii), Salmon Butte (bobcat)
Candy stick (Allotropa virgata), Salmon Butte Trail (bobcat)
Trail to Salmon Butte (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo
  • Start point: Salmon Butte TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Salmon Butte
  • Trail Log:
  • Hike Type: In and out
  • Distance: 11.8 miles
  • Elevation gain: 3170 feet
  • High Point: 4,877 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: Late spring into fall
  • Family Friendly: No
  • Backpackable: Possibly, but no reliable water sources close to the summit
  • Crowded: Somewhat

Contents

Hike Description

The Salmon Butte Trail #791 is one of the more popular trails in the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness, but the hike got longer by about 2 ½ miles and gained more elevation with the decommissioning of FR 2618 in 2010. Like other Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness trails, the optimal time to visit is on a clear day in June, when the rhododendrons, bear-grass, and other wildflowers are in full bloom and the views from the summit of Salmon Butte stretch from Mount Rainier to the Three Sisters. After the initial road walk, this is mostly a shady forest hike with a few small clearings supporting microhabitats and limited views – until you get to the top, that is.

The Salmon Butte Trailhead sign is nailed to a tree above a wide trail. Do NOT take this trail: it leads to campsites and the river, which is where most of the occupants of the vehicles at the trailhead are ensconced. Instead, take the road bed up past the boulders blocking it. You’ll pass above campsites above the Salmon River, always busy on a summer weekend. Cross the road bridge over the South Fork Salmon River and continue hiking up the old road bed shaded by red alder, big-leaf maple, western red-cedar, and western hemlock. As you ascend, you’ll pass some massive Douglas-firs on the South Fork side of the road. There are several creeks to cross: when the road was decommissioned, culverts were removed and the trails dips into shallow creek gullies and swings from one side of the original road to the other. Not surprisingly, it is mostly non-native species that have colonized this disturbed area, including foxglove, creeping buttercup, ox-eye daisy, and herb-robert. The road makes a big switchback up to the left and curves up the hill. The trail soon leads right through a thicket of Sitka alder and off the road into the woods at the Salmon Butte Former Trailhead.

The trail follows an old road bed past a campsite in a secondary forest of cedar, hemlock, and Douglas-fir. Pass a grassy logging landing and traverse up an unlogged slope with a creek running below to the right. Cross a gully and enter the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness. Rhododendrons, which bloom here in June, line the trail. Pass through a couple of brushy windfall openings before entering a dense, dark woodland. Soon you’ll encounter larger old-growth trees, including a six-foot diameter Douglas-fir by the trail. The trail rounds the nose of the ridge at a small opening and traverses up a slope in the Mack Hall Creek drainage. At a steep sunny meadow decorated with contorted manzanita bushes get a view across to Salmon Mountain and ahead to Salmon Butte.

Continue to ascend in shady forest, crossing a damp devil’s club gully. Pass around the nose of another ridge, and traverse up. Switchback at a spur trail that leads to a steep meadow near a trickling waterfall and a view to Salmon Mountain. In spring, rosy plectritis, woolly sunflower, blue field gilia, and yarrow bloom here. Swtichback again and make a traverse, crossing a trickling brook. Make three more switchbacks before traversing along a gravelly slope of pinemat manzanita, rhododendron, and bear-grass with views over the Copper Creek valley. Look back to get a splendid sighting of Mount Hood. Hike up a wooded ridge crest, now in the domain of silver fir with a few noble firs sprinkled about. Pass across a lush spring area and take the trail up the east side of the ridge. Make a couple of switchbacks at a vine maple talus field and hike up through bear-grass. Pass through a small clearing, and make two short switchbacks before reaching the old lookout road for Salmon Butte.

Go right here and ascend the old road bed in an avenue of rhododendrons. Lupine, penstemon, paintbrush, and common juniper grow here also. Soon get your first views of Olallie Butte, Mount Jefferson, and the Three Sisters. The road switchbacks and you get a full-on view of Mount Hood. Take one of the little use trails to the summit rocks and get more expansive views in all directions except the west. The Salmon River and its tributaries lie below and you can see as far as Mount Rainier to the north.


Maps

  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • Salmon Butte Trail #791 (USFS)
  • Green Trails Maps: Government Camp, OR #461 and High Rock, OR #493
  • 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: Zigzag Ranger District
  • Discover Your Northwest: Mt. Hood National Forest North: Trail Map & Hiking Guide
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Mt. Hood National Forest
  • National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map: Mount Hood
  • Adventure Maps: Mt. Hood Area

Regulations or Restrictions, etc.

  • none

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • 100 Hikes in Northwest Oregon & Southwest Washington by William L. Sullivan
  • Afoot & Afield: Portland/Vancouver by Douglas Lorain
  • Take a Hike: Portland by Barbara I. Bond
  • 105 Virtual Hikes of the Mt. Hood National Forest by Northwest Hiker
  • 70 Hiking Trails: Northern Oregon Cascades by Don & Roberta Lowe
  • 62 Hiking Trails: Northern Oregon Cascades by Don & Roberta Lowe
  • 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
  • Oregon Campgrounds Hiking Guide by Rhonda & George Ostertag

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.