Eagle Creek to Wahtum Lake Loop Overnight 27mi Loop 6/4-6/5

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HikerIan
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Eagle Creek to Wahtum Lake Loop Overnight 27mi Loop 6/4-6/5

Post by HikerIan » June 6th, 2014, 10:28 am

This is one of the most pleasant overnight trips I've done as the weather was perfect and the trails had a lot of new spring growth making them greener than ever. My buddy and I hiked Eagle Creek months ago and remembered how the trail kept going past the turn around point from our day hike. I looked on the field guide to see this awesome hike and thought it would be perfect for an overnighter.

After picking up an annual NW Forest Pass in Troutdale (at the Plaid Pantry for $30) we headed out to the trailhead and parked at the lower parking lot close to the campground host for extra security. I removed my stereo faceplate and made sure I didn't have anything valuable looking in the open. We got on the Eagle Creek trail at 8am and began the crowded trail to Punchbowl Falls. After Punchbowl we made it to Tunnel Falls which is quite amazing if you have never been. The field guide says to stay at 7 and a half mile camp which is very nice, however we needed to be in Portland by noon the following day so we had to hike at least 15 miles the first day. After 7 and a half mile camp the trail begins climbing at a very easy grade up hill to 3,700ft elevation to Wahtum Lake which sits along the PCT. The field guide said the lake would be busy but my buddy and I were the only ones there for about an hour until a solo hiker of the PCT hiked past where we were resting along the lake. I connected my hammock to a couple trees and rested my legs and feet for an hour before continuing up the trail. The trail to Wahtum Lake is very straight forward, I think there were just a couple turns but they had signs saying which way to go. I use an offline topo map GPS application I highly recommend called Backcountry Navigator and it had all the trails in the area listed on the topo map I downloaded before I lost cell reception (which there is none of out there). After resting at the lake we continued along the PCT about 3 or 4 miles to Camp Smokey. I didn't see a sign saying its name but my topo map listed a campsite which turned out to be Camp Smokey. The wind was howling a bit so the log shelter was a huge help. I really appreciate the effort someone took creating that. My buddy set up his cot on one side and I set up my hammock on the other. Mosquitoes weren't too bad up there at close to 4,000ft however they were quite noticeable at the lake. I'd recommend bringing some repellent. The coldest it got at night was maybe 40-45 which wasn't bad considering the elevation.

At 7am we were back on the PCT northbound to the Benson Plateau. I love the PCT because its so well maintained. We turned left onto trail 405B (first trail on the left) which seemed the most direct trail to get to Ruckel Creek. Stay on the 405B (another left turn) to get to Ruckel Creek. Ruckel Creek was flowing fairly well and was a very good creek to fill up our water bottles. There's not an established bridge to cross but there's a variety of methods you can take to cross the creek on logs. Turn left onto the Ruckel Creek Trail just after crossing the creek. This trail is one of the steepest trails I've ever taken and should be a one way trail as it seems impossible to hike up this. I don't know the exact stats but the trail drops about 3,500ft in elevation over the course of about 5 miles. Some spots are steep enough to make you slip and fall on the dirt so use cation when going down this trail. The last half of the trail was covered in poison oak for a mile or 2 so be sure to wear or bring pants. Once you get all the way to the paved road turn left which will take you half a mile to the hatchery and the Eagle Creek trailhead.

This trail is very doable as an overnight hike or you could take an extra night or 2 if you have the time and want to spread out the mileage. If you have any other questions about directions let me know and I'll be sure to let you know. I'd recommend printing a topo map of the area or using your smartphone like I do to view offline topo maps.


Eagle Creek
20140604_091656.jpg
Tunnel Falls
Tunnel.jpg
Wahtum Lake
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PCT
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PCT
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PCT
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Camp Smokey
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Campsite along Ruckel Creek
Camp Ruckel.jpg
Ruckel Creek
Ruckel (2).jpg
Ruckel Creek crossing
Ruckel Crossing.jpg
Several viewpoints while heading down the Ruckel Creek trail
20140605_113822.jpg

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Boozeman
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Re: Eagle Creek to Wahtum Lake Loop Overnight 27mi Loop 6/4-

Post by Boozeman » June 7th, 2014, 9:02 pm

GREAT TR!!! :D

Looks like you had an awesome hike. From the pictures, looks to be some great weather too. I've not gone too much further than High Bridge on that trail, but I've been planning on seeing more of the sights on down the line for a few years. Thanks for posting!!!

tednottodd
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Re: Eagle Creek to Wahtum Lake Loop Overnight 27mi Loop 6/4-

Post by tednottodd » June 8th, 2014, 3:47 pm

My wife and I are planning to do Ramona Falls to Wahtum lake to Cascade Locks all on the PCT this summer at some point. Did I understand you correctly that you left the PCT to take the Ruckle Creek trail that headed you back to Eagle Creek? I have some issues with ITBS in my knee and I try to stay away from anything with descents like you mentioned....We did Dog Mountain a week ago and I will never do that again....If the PCT is similar getting to Cascade Locks I might re-think our hike.

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HikerIan
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Re: Eagle Creek to Wahtum Lake Loop Overnight 27mi Loop 6/4-

Post by HikerIan » June 8th, 2014, 4:07 pm

You definitely want to avoid the Ruckel Creek Trail then if you have some sort of knee injury or condition. It's one of the steepest trails I've hiked and was even worse with a 30lb pack on my back. I haven't hiked the PCT any north of the Ruckel Creek junction so I'm unsure what kind of grade the trail takes to get down to Cascade Locks. I'm sure its not as steep since the PCT is more of an interstate rather then a small backroad like Ruckel Creek. If you want a moderate slope and probably more scenary I'd recommend taking the Eagle Creek Trail 14 miles from Wahtum Lake to the Eagle Creek trailhead.

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retired jerry
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Re: Eagle Creek to Wahtum Lake Loop Overnight 27mi Loop 6/4-

Post by retired jerry » June 8th, 2014, 4:36 pm

PCT pretty steep - 3 miles, 3000 feet down from Benson Plateau

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HikerIan
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Re: Eagle Creek to Wahtum Lake Loop Overnight 27mi Loop 6/4-

Post by HikerIan » June 8th, 2014, 7:39 pm

Screenshot_2014-06-08-20-31-34~02.png
Topo
What the Ruckel Creek Trail looks like on a topo map. I believe it drops over 1000ft per mile in some areas. Wish I could upload a higher resolution screenshot but this site doesn't seem to like full resolution photos. I had to crop my DSLR photos about 90% in resolution for them to upload.

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kepPNW
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Re: Eagle Creek to Wahtum Lake Loop Overnight 27mi Loop 6/4-

Post by kepPNW » June 8th, 2014, 7:55 pm

HikerIan wrote:Wish I could upload a higher resolution screenshot but this site doesn't seem to like full resolution photos. I had to crop my DSLR photos about 90% in resolution for them to upload.
There's a 1MB size limit on each attachment. With only moderate compression (10-15%), it's pretty easy to get a fullscreen-size JPG under that.
Karl
Back on the trail, again...

(Tracks · Photos · PortlandHikers)

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retired jerry
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Re: Eagle Creek to Wahtum Lake Loop Overnight 27mi Loop 6/4-

Post by retired jerry » June 8th, 2014, 7:56 pm

I agree, Ruckel Creek probably steeper.

You could go down Herman Creek but it's more miles to get over to Eagle Creek trailhead.

Maybe go up PCT or Ruckel Creek and down Eagle Creek which is less steep.

Maybe use trekking poles and go slow?

payslee

Re: Eagle Creek to Wahtum Lake Loop Overnight 27mi Loop 6/4-

Post by payslee » June 8th, 2014, 7:59 pm

Great TR. I especially like your tunnel falls pic - that's hard to get from top to bottom.

As for trails down - you sure you were on Ruckel Creek and not Ruckel Ridge? Although there's plenty of descent on both, Ruckel creek is really well-graded with tons of switchbacks. Ruckle Ridge is not a trail I'd even descend on. Crazy steep.

Eagle Creek is both the mellowest descent from Wahtum Lake and also has spectacular scenery. Most of the thru hikers take this option. Way I heard it, it wasnt made into official PCT route because it is in no way a horse trail.

-payslee

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HikerIan
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Re: Eagle Creek to Wahtum Lake Loop Overnight 27mi Loop 6/4-

Post by HikerIan » June 8th, 2014, 8:11 pm

Thanks. I took it with my Canon 6D with my Rokinon 14mm.

I'm pretty sure we were on Ruckel Creek. There were a few sections with switchbacks and some steep sections without.

I'd have to recommend taking the Eagle Creek trail as well as Tunnel Falls and High Bridge are awesome and the grade is very moderate. I prefer loops which is why I took the Ruckel Creek Trail

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