Ever on the lookout for a different way to get to the top of Bonney Butte, I decided to try this loop, which has been maintained primarily for mountain bikers. In fact, I began at the old trailhead for the Swamp Creek Trail, right where Swamp Creek passes beneath the road to Boulder Lake, which was the beginning of both the Forest Creek and Hidden Meadows (formerly Swamp Creek) Trails. This trailhead is actually on a square of private land that was intensively logged in the 1980s resulting in the near-obliteration of the lower ends of these trails as well as the lower end of the Boulder Creek (formerly Crane Creek) Trail down in the valley. Time, rhododendrons, and snowbrush have done the rest. I thrashed about above Swamp Creek for a while, finding traces of the old trails, but soon lost them among brush and competing deer tracks and, not wanting to spend my day making little progress and fighting bushes, I retreated half a mile down the road to a lower trailhead for the Hidden Meadows Trail.
The lower section of this trail is not shown on any maps, not even the newest publications, perhaps because it still crosses that enclave of private land. It is minimally signed at the trailhead and maintained, however, and heads gradually up to the west of Swamp Creek on the track of an old logging road for a couple of miles. The main feature of this section was the scat of carnivores, primarily bear and coyote, which had augmented their kills with berries, now mostly rose and mountain ash. This is all former clearcut and regenerating forest, sometimes very meadowy, until you reach the gated FR 4881-121 spur road, where new signs announce the Hidden Meadows Trail.
It’s 3 ½ miles from the road to Bonney Meadows, hiking through a checkerboard of old clearcuts and patches of old growth, with some sizable noble firs and mountain hemlocks to admire. Hidden Meadows themselves are a linear meadow which runs parallel to the trail, but screened from it by a dense band of young conifers, and thus very easy to miss. After a few miles of rising, I dropped to the junction with the Bonney Meadows Trail.
I headed down to the awful 4891 road and walked up it, past the entrance to the Bonney Meadows Forest Camp, to the gated road that leads up to the old lookout site on Bonney Butte. There were several vehicles at the trailhead, indicating that Hawkwatch’s raptor count was in full swing. At the lookout site itself the birders were having a bad day. Few raptors had passed own the ridge on their fall migration, which seems to be very late this year. The current spell of very cool weather may give them a nudge. It was somewhat cloudy up and down the Cascades, but the day was warm and bright.
I didn’t stay long with the bird counters (0 feathered carnivores while I was there) and headed down to the campground. I picked up the Boulder Lake Trail there, then took the Hidden Meadows Trail to the Forest Creek Trail. This path led fairly quickly up to Echo Point, which offers expansive views down into the Boulder Creek valley and across to Gunsight Butte, Badger Butte, and Grasshopper Point. Behind these, I could make out the profiles of Lookout Mountain and Flag Point. The southern end of Boulder Lake is also visible. The trail keeps close to the rim, but there were few viewpoints until I reached a wonderful viewpoint at a rocky cliff that overlooks Little Boulder Lake. From the viewpoint, I alternated clearcuts and old growth to cross the gated road that leads to Little Boulder Lake. Descending farther, there was more large old growth until the trail swung west to meet the 4881-121 spur. I hiked up this a short distance to find the Hidden Meadows Trail and return down the slope to my car.
(The map is a sketch, not a GPS track)
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2 posts • Page 1 of 1
Thanks, Bobcat! That overlook of Little Boulder Lake is a favorite spot of mine -- nice little slice of Mount Hood country. Great job on finding the lower end of that trail -- nice option for Prius/Mini drivers looking for an alternative to the boulder-dodge on the road to Bonney Meadows and the washboards-from-hell on the gravel road to Boulder Lake trailhead.
Thanks for posting!
Thanks for posting!