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Salt Creek Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Mt. Adams from the debris basin, Salt Creek (bobcat)
Beaver pond in Cascade Creek valley (bobcat)
Official end of trail in the cedar swamp (bobcat)
Salt Creek coming out of its canyon at the end of the unofficial trail (bobcat)
Sketch of the Salt Creek Trail (bobcat)
  • Start point: Salt Creek Trailhead
  • Ending Point: Salt Creek Debris Field
  • Trail Log:
  • Hike Type: In and out
  • Distance: 8.4 miles
  • Elevation gain: 730 feet
  • High Point: 3,775 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: Summer, Fall
  • Family Friendly: No
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: No


Hike Description

The Salt Creek Trail is one of Mount Adams’ least-trodden pathways but, in lieu of alpine meadows and snowy slopes, it does offer some interesting natural sights: an expansive wetland of ponds and marshes created by beaver activity, transition zone coniferous forest with at least 11 species, and the outflow of debris avalanches from the mountain’s aptly-christened Avalanche Glacier. NOTE: The entire area of this hike was affected by the 2012 Cascade Creek Fire. Snags may be down on the trail and be prepared for lots of debris.

The trail heads into a varied conifer woodland (including Douglas-fir, western hemlock, silver fir, Engelmann spruce, ponderosa pine, western white pine, lodgepole pine, western red-cedar, western larch) along an old road bed, which is sometimes hemmed in by saplings. Pinemat manzanita and huckleberry form a sparse understory. After about a mile, the road bed splits at the old trailhead and the trail heads left to cross a lush draw.

Once past the Mt. Adams Wilderness sign, the path undulates high above Cascade Creek and, in relatively short order, arrives above an expanse of beaver ponds and marshes with Stagman Ridge framing the opposite horizon. This large wetland has been made shallower by silt deposited by the glacial torrents of Salt and Cascade Creeks and many of the ponds are too shallow to be navigated by beavers any longer.

After more undulation above Cascade Creek, which the trail never really accesses, and many intersections with elk trails, the trail crosses a creek on a footbridge, passes above a small bog, and offers some glimpses of bouldery Cascade Creek. The tread continues to rise and fall before it drops steeply to a cottonwood/cedar swamp and the sudden announcement that the fun is over at a “Trail End” sign nailed to a cedar.

You may continue, however. An unmaintained tread heads behind this sign and across a small bog into a dry woodland, passing through a grove of larger Douglas-firs. Mountain hemlock and noble fir also enter the forest mix here. This trail is sometimes partially obscured by debris and there are a couple of spots where it is obliterated by blowdown. However, it is easy to spot the sawn-off logs that edged the original tread. The path gradually ascends along the base of a slope and fetches up at the raging torrent of Salt Creek about a quarter mile above its confluence with Cascade Creek.

A 1921 debris avalanche came roaring down the upper reaches of Salt Creek and resulted in the large outwash fan at this confluence. More recently, the floods of November 2006 deposited more debris and killed the forest of trees that had established themselves on the older deposits. You cannot see the mountain clearly from the trail’s (unofficial) end, but you can scramble along the steep bank and down onto the debris field to get a view and look for water-loving wildflowers.

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Self-issued Wilderness Permit at the trailhead
  • $2 toll each way at the Hood River Bridge


  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • Green Trails Maps: Mount Adams, WA #367S
  • Green Trails Maps: Mount Adams West, WA #366
  • 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 destination

  • Day Hiking Mount Adams and Goat Rocks by Tami Asars
  • Portland Hikes: Day Hikes in Oregon and Washington Within 100 Miles of Portland by Art Bernstein and Andrew Jackman
  • Day Hike! Columbia Gorge by Seabury Blair, Jr.
  • Hiking the Gifford Pinchot Backcountry by the Columbia Group Sierra Club

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.