Battle Ax Creek-Battle Ax Loop

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bobcat
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Battle Ax Creek-Battle Ax Loop

Post by bobcat » August 13th, 2014, 8:48 am

I camped at Elk Lake to do some hikes in this area. This 16-mile loop drops through the middle of the Opal Creek Wilderness’ eastern section and then takes the high ridges back over Battle Ax. The 4697 road says “High Clearance Only”; it has potholes and can be rocky but is no worse than some other access roads (Think Grassy Knoll or the Frazier Turnaround). You can park at the campground junction, as Sullivan suggests, or take the 4697 road another 100 yards and turn around at a shady pullout. There was a Subaru Forester parked farther up at the Bagby Trailhead, but you have to be small and have clearance to be able to turn around there. Past this trailhead, there’s a washout that only a small jeep can negotiate and the navigable road ends about half a mile below Beachie Saddle.
From the west end of Elk Lake.jpg
Goldenrod meadow looking to Mt. Beachie, Elk Lake.jpg
Bagby Trailhead, Elk Lake.jpg
Beachie north ridge from Beachie Saddle.jpg
From the saddle, I made an attempt up Mt. Beachie’s knife-edged south ridge, but turned around after getting about halfway up when I realized I was going to have too much difficulty coming down to make it worth my time. I headed down the Battle Ax Creek Trail, which still has an old sign, pre-Opal Creek, stating “Bull of the Woods Wilderness Trail #3339.” This “trail” is really an extension of the 4697 road and was built by the Little North Santiam mining companies to connect to Detroit. Most of the culverts are washed out; some of them are interesting wooden structures. I took the Whetstone Trail to cross Battle Ax Creek, here a cool, inviting spot with a couple of campsites. Coming around the Whetstone and then the Big Slide ridges, I encountered a huge party returning from a campout at Twin Lakes: these are definitely not the places to seek overnight solitude!
Old trail sign, Battle Ax Creek Trail.jpg
Clodius parnassian (Parnassius clodius) on mountain boykinia, Battle Ax Creek Trail.jpg
Old mine road, Battle Ax Creek Trail.jpg
Old wooden culvert, Battle Ax Creek Trail.jpg
Crossing, Battle Ax Creek.jpg
Huckleberries were ripening, and there was a bear foraging below the ridge. I watched it, or rather bits of it, as it moseyed down the slope making quite a lot of noise but not exposing enough of itself for a decent photo. I also caught a mountain beaver gnawing on lady fern in plain daylight, but just for an instant; their burrow systems are common all around Battle Ax. There are a few examples of rather scraggly sugar pines along this ridge: this is at the very northern tip of their range. Also, in most ridgetop clearings, Gorman’s aster, a species endemic to the north-central Oregon Cascades, was blooming.
Sugar pine cone, Bagby Hot Springs Trail.jpg
Pipsissewa (Chimaphila umbellata), Battle Ax.jpg
Gorman's aster (Eucephalus gormanii), Bagby Hot Springs Trail.jpg
From the summit ridge of Battle Ax, you get views from Mt. Rainier to past the Three Sisters. The annual Warm Springs conflagration was billowing up behind Jefferson. There are great vistas down the Battle Ax Creek, Battle Creek, and Humbug Creek valleys as well as to Elk Lake itself. The concrete pillars from the lookout foundation and a length of stay cable are still there. Hiking down to Beachie Saddle, you get close to some of the andesite and basalt formations on Battle Ax’s north and west faces, a fitting close to a varied loop in two wilderness areas.
Mt. Hood and Mother Lode Mt. from Battle Ax.jpg
Mt. Beachie's south ridge from Battle Ax.jpg
Mt. Jefferson and fire, Battle Ax.jpg
Elk Lake and Mt. Jefferson from Battle Ax.jpg
Oregon stonecrop (Sedum oreganum), Battle Ax.jpg
Rocky spires, Battle Ax.jpg
Flytrap dogbane (Apocynum androsaemifolium), Battle Ax.jpg
Column, west face of Battle Ax.jpg

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forestkeeper
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Re: Battle Ax Creek-Battle Ax Loop

Post by forestkeeper » August 13th, 2014, 10:19 pm

:) Awesome trip report and beautiful photos! If you were gonna make this a two day trip, where's the best place you'd bed down for the night? I'd love to do this 16 mile loop, but right now I'm only good for 8-10 miles at a time.

Will

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Eric Peterson
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Re: Battle Ax Creek-Battle Ax Loop

Post by Eric Peterson » August 14th, 2014, 5:48 am

Nice, I didn't get those views a few weeks ago when I was there.

Did Elk Lake CG look full?

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bobcat
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Location: SW Portland

Re: Battle Ax Creek-Battle Ax Loop

Post by bobcat » August 15th, 2014, 7:46 am

@forestkeeper: If you do the loop clockwise, there are two good campsites, one right above the other, down at the Battle Ax Creek crossing. That's only about 6 1/2 miles in, though. Continuing up along the Whetstone ridge, then the next place with water would be Silver King Lake, down the Bagby Hot Springs Trail, but the opposite direction from where you want to go.

The Battle Ax Loop, using the Bagby and Battle Ax Mountain Trails is a great loop in and of itself, 6 1/2 miles, and you can car camp at Elk Lake and walk out of the campground.

@Eric: I was there mid-week, only one night (My wife left town to visit relatives, so I skipped town too). Only a couple of other sites were taken overnight, but there were quite a few day users who left late.

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