Buck Peak, at 4,751 feet, is Multnomah County’s high point. It sits along the ridge that divides the drainages of the Sandy and Hood Rivers, and the hike to the summit along the PCT is almost entirely within the boundaries of the Bull Run Watershed, meaning you cannot leave the trail upon pain of a maximum $5,000 fine and 6 months in jail. While there’s only a 1,300 foot difference between the start at Lolo Pass and the summit of Buck Peak, the 7 ½ mile hike (one way) is an undulating one with over 3,300 feet of elevation gain going and coming.
After passing across the powerline corridor, the PCT hugs the steep rocky east face of Hiyu Mountain, offering the first of several spectacular views to Mt. Hood’s west face as well as to Mt. Adams above Waucoma Ridge. Then, the trail traverses some gnarly old-growth woods exhibiting some impressive noble firs. There’s a talus slope scurrying with pikas, some flowing springs, and then a traverse around the east side of Sentinel Peak.
At the junction with the Huckleberry Mountain Trail, which comes up from Lost Lake, you can get a glimpse of a sliver of Bull Run Lake through the trees. The Huckleberry Mountain Trail once connected the two lakes. I visited Salvation Spring, which gushes copiously all year and offers several campsites. Then it was up to the saddle between Preachers Peak and the Devils Pulpit in climax sliver fir forest.
There’s another glimpse of Bull Run Lake where the PCT runs along the narrow ridge crest. Lost Lake becomes visible below, and behind Indian Mountain on Waucoma Ridge, I could see the snowy summits of Adams and Rainer. Soon Buck Peak itself came into view and, after another traverse I came to the unmarked junction with the Buck Peak Trail.
This trail swishes through bear-grass and huckleberry up to the former lookout site on Buck Peak. On the way, I got a good view to Tanner Butte. The summit is forested now, but there’s an opening that produces a splendid view to Lost Lake, Mt. Hood and down to Mt. Jefferson. A short thrust through a tangle of noble fir boughs enabled a vista north to Indian Mountain, Adams, and Rainier. A couple of rusting “artifacts”, perhaps from the lookout days, lay in repose.
On the way back, Mt. Hood stood out brightly facing the western sun. A balmy day on a lonely ridge not often day-hiked and with this year's through hikers only a memory.
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