Mt Adams backpacking loop - Not around the mountain

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Mt Adams backpacking loop - Not around the mountain

Post by Darin » July 6th, 2019, 11:54 pm

I love backpacking loops since I usually travel with only one car and my son. Backpacking is hard work, so I always want to see new territory and not walk over something I've already done. Mt Adams has stumped me as close enough for a great trip, but with no great loop options except going around the mountain. Why are there so few trip reports here? This trip I was planning with my younger son, so climbing to to the top, or going around the mountain on the trail-less section seemed unwise. We did a fantastic ~24 mile loop in the Northwest corner of Mt Adams on 6/28-30/2019 which took 2 nights and 3 days and was only moderately difficult. We saw only 7 people* the whole loop but with so many different locations and moments to fill every hikers checklist. EPIC.

We started with an early 2hr 45 minute drive from Portland. Road 23 is paved most of the way, and even the gravel sections for the last ~8 miles were decent. I parked the car just outside the Takhlakh Lake campground (to avoid paying the daily fee), but this would be a great campground (~4300 feet elevation) to start your trip if you wanted to drive up the night before. We hiked the 2+ miles around the lake and through the Lava Flow and Takh Takh meadow. We walked up the lava flow since the view is pretty great from the top. We then road walked up Forest Road 2329 around the meadow. There was no traffic on a Friday morning, and it was beautiful with some nice signs. We made it to the Divide Camp trailhead (trail 112) about 10am. Here's a view of the road, which was quiet and not dusty. In short, not a bad road walk to make the loop.
We hiked up the Divide camp trail 1.8 miles for a nice late lunch in the meadow. We encountered the first few mosquitoes on this section, but as long as we were moving it was not bad. We stopped to throw rocks in the Adams creek, but you could get water there if needed too. The wildflowers were just starting in the meadow. There is a huge 20ft snow measuring pole there, so it must be deep in the winter.
WE hiked another mile up to joint he PCT at about 5100 feet elevation. The Adams creek crossing was pretty mild, but it was a good experience for my son to put on water shoes and trek across with a pole. Five minutes later we found the log bridge upstream and practiced a faster, drier method of crossing the creek. We took a nap on a gravel bar with a view of the Goat Rocks. The PCT is beautiful in this section - mostly flat with meadows and a few trees. Here is one of the larger snow sections - no match for a young boy with energy.
We camped near the split of the Highline trail from the PCT. There are two or three fantastic campsites on the edge of the meadow here with a waterfall nearby and the great view of the mountain (the top picture to open this report). We had it all to ourselves Friday night. Absolutely no mosquitoes up here.
We were having such a great hike on the higher mountain, that we took the Highline trail (trail 114) to where it meets the top of the Muddy Meadows trail (trail 13) . There were great views again of the Goat Rocks, and the clouds were more cooperative so we could see Mt Ranier.
There is water and nice campsites at the top of the Muddy Meadows trail if you were doing this loop in another direction or time. We stopped for a dry lunch at the sunny spot where the Muddy Meadows Trail (#13) intersects again with the PCT. Obviously you could cut a few miles off here, but you would miss a beautiful section. The worst part of the mosquitoes on the whole loop was from here to to Muddy Meadows trailhead - but again not too bad if you kept moving. When we first arrived at Muddy Meadows, I said, "this is a nice meadow." But then I hike a little farther so I could see across the meadow and up to Mt Adams. Stunning. The Lupine was in full bloom. The sky was about perfect. On a Sunny Saturday there was one car at the Trailhead. Please don't tell the rest of Portland you can drive to this amazing spot. We were starting to get different views of the mountain that I began to truly appreciate this loop.
THis is the second Road portion of the hike, so clearly you could start/stop here. WE Road hiked down Road 085 to Road 2329 where it meets the Keene's Horse Camp. There were no horses or vehicles on a sunny Saturday in June. We hiked South down Road 2329 for a quarter mile to where the Keene's Loop trail (#120A) ducks back into the woods. The Huckleberries were not ready yet, but would be amazing a month later. In Late June, it just made for some deep and quiet forest walking next to Spring Creek.
We got a little lost at this point in the deep woods before the connection with the High Lakes Trail (#116). This area is flat and would had a nice campsite or two if you wanted a quiet one near water. Suffice it to say, once again, trust yourself and your map, not your GPS device. After 30 minutes of wayfinding we found the correct trail. The High Lakes trail (#116) took us to Horseshoe Lake where we camped for the night.
I paid the $12 for the managed campsite at Horseshoe Lake. For all that is written about Takhlakh Lake I thought this one was better. Maybe the longer, bumpy drive keeps folks away. No motors are allowed on this lake and the few people there all looked like they were there to fish. This is a great campsite that I will visit again. The toilet was clean and great at this point in the trip! On a Sunny Saturday night in June there were 0 large motorhomes, 1 small pop-up trailer, and 2 other sites with tents. No mosquitoes here, but we did enjoy the ducks.

On Day #3 we started early on the ~3 miles down the High Lakes Trail (#116) Southwest. I should state that this is a mixed use trail allowing bicycles and motorcycles. That gave me some cause for concern, but for this section at least, I would not worry much. The trail down to Adams Creek involved a small river crossing that required water shoes and lots of roots, rocks and an occasionally steep grade. That would be a tough ride on a motorcycle so I don't think it would ever get very busy. I'm willing to share this beautiful forest trail with them. We saw 0 bikes or motorbikes. The trail was in the same shape as the PCT section that gets a little more human wear. The other issue is the Bridge crossing Adams Creek is out. There was a warning sign at the Horseshoe Creek Campground. There is a rope to assist the crossing, but it was thigh high and moving fast. I still felt safe, but carried my son across. It would be tough to carry a motorcycle across this section.
WE hiked up out of the canyon and across a nice lava flow. Hiking out of the canyon brought us up a gully that seemed reminiscent of some hiking in the Gorge. We made it to the Chain of Lakes at late lunch. There is a dirt road here and we saw one truck pull into the parking lot and turn around. After lunch we followed the HIgh Lakes Trail #116 back to Road 5601. This 1.3 mile section of the HIgh Lakes Trail is flat and more near major roads. It is maintained by a Motorcycle Group, so I expected to see some more cycles on this section but we did not. Thanks to them the trail is beautiful and well maintained.
The High Lakes Trail (#116) meets paved road 5601. We walked a quarter mile east on this to where it meets Road 2329, and then walked on that road the 3/4 mile back to the car at Takhlakh Lake.
I'm not so great with manipulating photos to get them all upright and edited. My apologies, but they get the idea across even though rotated. I am also not great at distances. My map says it was about 21 miles. Day one 7.5 miles, day two 8 miles, day three 6 miles. My GPS device said closer to 27 miles. I suspect the truth is in the middle. Either way it was three majestic days with lots of variety in scenery. I did it over three days with my younger son. With adults I think it could be a longer miles per day single overnight loop. Since there are two road crossings it would be easy to parcel this trip into a large variety of start and stop points. The least driving from Oregon would have your car somewhere near Takhlakh Lake or the parking lot at the junction of roads 2329 and road 5601. I noted we only saw 7 people on the trail during a sunny late June weekend. That does not count the few extra people at Takhlakh Lake and Horseshoe Lake Campgrounds, but both were pretty quiet. During the road walking section we saw 7 cars and one road motorcycle. We saw zero dirt motorcycles, but did see one trailer in use. Thanks to them for sharing this great trail.

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retired jerry
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Re: Mt Adams backpacking loop - Not around the mountain

Post by retired jerry » July 7th, 2019, 5:09 am

Thanks, that's a great area. Good loop idea. Looks like the snow is receding

Time for the black flies :)

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Re: Mt Adams backpacking loop - Not around the mountain

Post by drm » July 7th, 2019, 3:45 pm

Some people don't like to do loops that require road connections, but I just did a different one in the same area, using trail 113A to connect the trailheads for Killen Ck and Muddy Meadows. Mosquitoes are out now up high but not peaking yet. They are worst at about 5000 feet but are there on the PCT too.

You can also do a loop on the 2000 (PCT), 64, and 64A on the west side of Mt Adams (off of Road 23) with no road walking. That's a shorter loop, but you could add side trips to Lookingglass Lake and Mutton Creek.

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