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Surveyors Ridge Rim Rock Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Shellrock Mountain from Surveyor's Ridge (bobcat)
Breccia formations, Shellrock Badlands, Surveyor's Ridge (bobcat)
Scarlet gilia (Ipomopsis aggregata), Surveyor's Ridge (bobcat)
Lupine and balsamroot, Yellowjacket Viewpoint (bobcat)
The hike described along a section of the Surveyors Ridge Trail (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo

Contents

Hike Description

The Surveyor’s Ridge Trail undulates north-south above the East Fork Hood River offering transit through a variety of meadow and forest habitats as well as frequent views to the west and north. Somewhat surprisingly, hikers tend to focus on the Bald Butte area, while mountain bikers seem to be the principal users on the rest of the trail. The section of trail described here is one of the most interesting and scenic, from the astounding views at the summit of Shellrock Mountain to the eroded volcanic breccias of the Shellrock Badlands Basin and the Rim Rock Fire Lookout Site to a series of stunning wildflower meadows that also offer commanding vistas to Mount Hood.

From the trailhead, descend an old road bed to join the Surveyor’s Ridge Trail #688 and go left. Get immediate views down the Hood River Valley and to Shellrock Mountain, your first destination, with Mount Hood’s Barrett Spur peeking out behind Shellrock. The trail drops off the road bed and enters Douglas-fir/grand fir forest with a vine maple understory. Then the path rises along the east shoulder of Shellrock Mountain: you can begin the bushwhack to the top where you like, but if you’re not sure, hike to the high point on the trail.

Departing from the main trail, you’ll have to find your way through Shellrock’s skirt of thickets: conveniently, there are a few deer and elk trails that will assist you in the endeavor. Soon enough, you’re on an open slope that is partially cloaked with serviceberry, bitter cherry, pinemat manzanita, and even sagebrush. You’ll also have to scramble up slopes of scree (Old timers called this platy andesite ‘shellrock,’ perhaps a corruption of ‘shale rock’). At the summit, with a few contorted ponderosa pines scattered about, there are magnificent views to Mount Hood and the Washington volcanoes. The two Mill Creek Buttes can be seen just to the southeast and Laurence Lake, on the Clear Branch, can be seen due west. The lookout cabin which was once here was destroyed in 1945 and no evidence remains. Down the west ridge of Shellrock Mountain, there’s a solar-powered USGS volcano monitoring station. From the summit walk down the north ridge as you descend to get good views of the Shellrock Badlands Basin. Then follow a critter trail through the brush to reach the Surveyor’s Ridge Trail.

Head north past your vehicle, and begin enjoying views back to Shellrock Mountain and over the formations of the Shellrock Badlands Basin. The breccia ridges and pinnacles here issued from vents millions of years ago and have been weathered into knobs and protrusions studded with bonsai-like ponderosa pines. The trail rises into coniferous woods and then passes through a bitter cherry thicket. Reach an open slope above the northern badlands where the trail is lined with bitterbrush. Reenter the forest and gradually descend to pass through a serviceberry-hemmed glade and come to an open view of Mount Hood. Continue dropping among Douglas-fir, grand fir and mountain hemlock, passing a junction with a road bed and then a small clearing with a campfire circle. Reach the Surveyors Ridge-Gibson Prairie Horse Camp Tie Trail Junction and keep left. From here, the trail rises, with jagged rock formations above. Pass through an open area of snow brush, manzanita, and bitter cherry, and take the short spur trail up to the Rim Rock Fire Lookout Site. There’s a makeshift path up the rocks and only the concrete foundation blocks remain: the lookout, an L-4 cab, was abandoned in 1941. However, views still extend to Mount Hood as well as Mount Saint Helens, Mount Rainier, and Mount Adams.

Return to the main trail and continue hiking north, passing through another opening and then winding down to cross an old road bed (FR 1700-671). A side excursion here is to go left on the road: in short order, you'll come to the road end and a sign pointing left to a "viewpoint" (To the right is a small shed concealed among the trees). At the viewpoint, there's a lone picnic table on the rimrock with a magnificent view to Mount Hood. Back on the Surveyors Ridge Trail, vine maple bowers reach over your head, and currant bushes and luina line the trail in an area of dense thickets and secondary forest. Cross a second road bed (FR 1700-670) and pick up the trail ten yards to your left. Soon the route rises again in unlogged forest. Pass across a lovely ridgetop meadow of little sunflowers (Helianthella), which bloom in early June. Mount Hood forms a perfect backdrop. Then reach an open balsamroot/sunflower meadow, and rise past larger Douglas-firs to reach an unmarked trail junction (The signpost that was once here has fallen over).

Go left here, and hike past some big Douglas-firs to reach the Yellowjacket Viewpoint at a lone ponderosa pine. There are views to the south, west and north across the orchards of the Hood River Valley. Yellowjacket Creek drains the deep valley to your left. In mid-May, the slopes below display a carpet of blooming balsamroot. Earlier in the spring, endemic Columbia desert parsley blooms below the rock outcropping.

Tarry a while and take in the views; then return the way you came unless you want to extend your day another six miles (round-trip) and continue north along the ridge to Bald Butte (See the Bald Butte Hike).


Maps

  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • Surveyor's Ridge Trail #688 (USFS)
  • Green Trails Maps: Mt Hood, OR #462 and Hood River, OR #430
  • Adventure Maps: Mt. Hood Area
  • Adventure Maps: Hood River, Oregon, Trail Map
  • Adventure Maps: 44 Trails Area plus the best of the G.P.N.F.
  • Geo-Graphics: Mount Hood Wilderness Map
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Mt. Hood National Forest
  • Discover Your Northwest: Mt. Hood National Forest North: Trail Map & Hiking Guide
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Hood River Ranger District
  • National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map: Mount Hood

Regulations or Restrictions, etc.

  • Share trail with mountain bikers

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Pacific Northwest Hiking by Scott Leonard & Sean Patrick Hill
  • Kissing the Trail by John Zilly
  • Mountain Biking Oregon: Northwest and Central Oregon by Lizann Dunegan

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.

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