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Silver King Lake via Whetstone Ridge Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Silver King Lake (bobcat)
Tarn below the Whetstone Ridge (bobcat)
Rocky outcrop on the Whetstone Ridge (bobcat)
Large hemlocks on the Bagby Hot Springs Trail (bobcat)
Route along Whetstone Ridge to Silver King Lake (bobcat)
  • Start point: Whetstone TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Silver King Lake
  • Hike Type: In and out
  • Distance: 10.2 miles
  • High Point: 4,535 feet
  • Elevation gain: 2215 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: Summer to mid-fall
  • Family Friendly: No
  • Backpackable: Yes
  • Crowded: No


Hike Description

Silver King Lake resides in a small bowl below the peak of the same name at the head of the long valley created by the Hot Springs Fork of the Collawash River. The Bagby Hot Springs Trail is one way to reach the lake. The approach described here, giving you a ridge hike with viewpoints in places, begins at the Whetstone Trailhead. Both the lake and the mountain are named after one of Bull of the Woods' numerous small mining operations.

From the trailhead, the Whetstone Trail #546 drops down from the entrance to the parking area through rhododendrons, huckleberries, bear-grass, and second-growth silver fir, Douglas-fir, and mountain hemlock. Reach a wilderness sign-in box. Then, about 100 yards farther on, the trail enters shady old growth with some lovely trees: big Douglas-firs, western hemlock and silver fir. Pass the Bull of the Woods Wilderness sign. The trail rises and switchbacks three times past more large conifers. Then there’s a level traverse where you encounter a huge Douglas-fir and cross the bottom of a talus slope with its squeaking pikas. See a willow and alder lined tarn to the left and rocky cliffs above. The trail makes six shortish switchbacks upward and then levels at a small tarn. It then crosses a small creek and rises to the Whetstone-Whetstone Mountain Trail West Junction, the latter being the Willamette National Forest's Trail #3369. From here, there is the optional diversion, of about two miles round-trip, to the summit of Whetstone Mountain (see the Whetstone Mountain Hike).

To continue on towards Silver King Lake, go left down Trail 546, which shares this section of the ridge with the 3369 trail. Silver fir, Alaska yellow-cedar, mountain hemlock, noble fir and Douglas-fir forest this wide ridge crest. The trail drops gently through rhododendrons. Pass some large noble firs and come to the Whetstone-Whetstone Mountain Trail East Junction, where Trail #3369 peels off down the slope in shady forest. Keep left on Trail #546.

The trail makes a traverse in Douglas-fir, silver fir and western hemlock forest and then heads up before dropping rather steeply. Ascend again along the forested ridge crest, and then undulate through bear-grass, rhododendrons and huckleberries. You can get glimpses of Silver King Mountain through the trees. Mountain hemlock and noble fir begin to dominate. Pass a campsite on the right and then head up, switchbacking four times up a more open slope cloaked with common juniper, pinemat manzanita, and snow brush. There are views of Battle Ax and Mount Jefferson. The trail drops and makes a traverse along a brushy saddle. Pass below a rocky prominence and traverse an open boulder slope supporting clumps of vine maple, cascara and thimbleberry. Skeletal snags stand like candles. Reach an open saddle and the Whetstone-Bagby Hot Springs Trail Junction. Down to the left, the Bagby Hot Springs Trail #544 leads to Silver King Lake.

The trail drops down the steep slope in mountain hemlock forest with sickle-top louseworts blooming all along the path in late summer. Then, there’s a switchback and the trail traverses down a lush hillside with large hemlocks, silver fir and Douglas-fir. Switchback two more times and pass more big western hemlocks. Six more switchbacks take you to the bottom of a boulder slope with its alarm-calling pikas. Swish through huckleberry and vine maple bushes before reentering the woods. From the Bagby Hot Springs-Silver King Lake Trail Junction, a trail heads up a steep, forested incline to a campsite and the shore of Silver King Lake. You will find serene scene with newts languidly gliding below the lake surface and dragonflies darting along the shore.


  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • Green Trails Maps: Battle Ax, OR #524
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness, Bull of the Woods Wilderness, Opal Creek Wilderness, Opal Creek Scenic Recreation Area
  • Geo-Graphics: Bull of the Woods and Opal Creek Wilderness Map
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Clackamas River Ranger District
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Mt. Hood National Forest
  • National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map: Mount Hood

Regulations or Restrictions, etc.

  • Self-issued wilderness permit

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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.