Home  •   Field Guide  •   Forums  •    Unread Posts  •   Maps  •   Find a Hike!
| Page | Discussion | View source | History | Print Friendly and PDF

Rooster Rock Trail Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Revision as of 17:15, 8 September 2018 by Bobcat (Talk | contribs)

View up South Santiam valley from the Rooster Rock cabin site, Menagerie Wilderness (bobcat)
Madrones, Rooster Rock Trail, Menagerie Wilderness (bobcat)
The Rooster's Tail, Menagerie Wilderness (bobcat)
Rooster Rock from the climber's trail, Menagerie Wilderness (bobcat)
The Rooster Rock Trail to the viewpoint in the Menagerie Wilderness (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo


Hike Description

The Menagerie Wilderness, a small forested area in the South Santiam drainage, protects a singular section of the Old Cascades. Here, rock spires and arches jut out of the forested slopes, the eroded plugs of primeval volcanoes whose cones have been whittled away from erosion. Climbers have found this an intriguing challenge, and the various pillars have been given names like Rabbit Ears, Hen Rock, The Possum, Camel Head, and Turkey Monster. Most of these are only accessible to climbers part of the year, as a six-month closure to protect nesting peregrine falcons is in effect. There are only two trails in the wilderness. The Rooster Rock Trail is the shorter but steeper approach, while the longer, more gradual Rooster Rock via Trout Creek Trail Hike ends up in the same place, at a rocky viewpoint far above the South Santiam River.

Fill out a wilderness permit at the kiosk, and hike into lush forest along the bottom of a slope. Cross a perennial creek under young Douglas-firs and moss-draped vine maples. Here, the trail skirts private property, but soon begins its relentless rise. Traverse up under Douglas-firs and big-leaf maples. A short spur leads to a viewpoint down to the South Santiam River and the highway. Continue up the slope through salal, Oregon grape, and sword fern, and pass a trickling spring issuing next to an old Douglas-fir. Continue up, making a couple of switchbacks, to begin a lengthy traverse. Note insulator coils on some of the trees: These once carried the wire to the lookout atop Rooster Rock. Walk around a mossy outcrop hosting a few madrones, and then, hiking higher, round a rocky prominence. Rhododendrons, vine maple, and bear-grass also appear in the understory. Later, pass through a slope of madrones, and traverse up to reach the Rooster Rock-Trout Creek Trail Junction. Here, make a right.

The trail continues to rise from the junction. Soon, you’ll enter the top end of the madrone corridor with a few attendant patches of poison oak. Switchback twice, and make a steep traverse up. You’ll glimpse Chicken Rock below through the trees, and then come to a rocky outcrop next to Rooster Rock. You can make your way to the north face and note the large bolts which held the ladders that led to an exposed lookout, dismantled in 1963, that once perched atop the Rock. For a better look up at Rooster Rock, find the climber’s trail leading steeply down the east side of the rock. This will eventually allow you to get a view up the vertical south side from near the base. You can also make your way across the steep slope about 80 yards to the east to get a view of the Rooster’s Trail, a more colorful (and crumbly) climber’s destination.

From the switchback, the trail heads up through manzanita bushes to a switchback. A climber’s trail leads left. To get to the Rooster Rock Viewpoint, go right. This exposed prominence was once the site of the small staff cabin for the lookout. Nothing remains today, but there are views up the South Santiam valley. Cone Peak and Iron Mountain can be distinguished to the east. Over the ridges to the south, the snowy tops of the Three Sisters can be seen, well at least North Sister and Middle Sister. Looking north through the trees, you may make out the rocky cliffs of Panorama Point, a headland that looms above many of the other volcanic pinnacles in the wilderness.

To add a little to your hike, you can take the climber’s path that leads north along the ridge crest from the switchback below the Rooster Rock Viewpoint. Keep looking northeast through the trees to get glimpses of some of the other formations: You should be able to get partial glimpses of the Rabbit Ears, below them The Spire, and farther back Turkey Monster. This is about as good as you’re going to get. The user trail continues to a logging road and Panorama Point, but the northern area of the wilderness is closed from January 15th to July 15th to protect nesting peregrine falcons from disturbance.

This hike can be done as a hike-and-bike loop with the Rooster Rock via Trout Creek Trail Hike. Leave a bike at the Rooster Rock Trailhead, and hike to Rooster Rock from the Trout Creek Trailhead. Descend via the Rooster Rock Trail to the Rooster Rock Trailhead, and cycle back along the Santiam Highway the 2 3/4 miles to the Trout Creek Trailhead. Be careful: there is not much of a verge on the highway, so keep strictly to the edge of the lane.


  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Menagerie Wilderness and Middle Santiam Wilderness
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Sweet Home Ranger District
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Willamette National Forest
  • Pacific Northwest Recreation Map Series: Willamette Cascades

Regulations or Restrictions, etc.

  • Self-issued wilderness permit
  • Share trail with horses
  • Information kiosk
  • Campgrounds nearby

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • 100 Hikes in Oregon's Central Cascades by William L. Sullivan
  • Central Oregon Wilderness Areas by Donna Ikenberry Aitkenhead
  • Hiking Oregon's Central Cascades by Bruce Grubbs
  • Hiking Oregon's Three Sisters Country by Bruce Grubbs
  • Oregon's Wilderness Areas by George Wuerthner
  • 60 Hiking Trails: Central Oregon Cascades by Don & Roberta Lowe
  • Oregon's Southern Cascades: Camping & Hiking by Tom Stienstra & Sean Patrick Hill
  • Guide to the Middle and South Santiam Roadless Areas edited by Julie Ambler
  • Oregon Hiking by Sean Patrick Hill
  • Pacific Northwest Hiking by Scott Leonard & Sean Patrick Hill

More Links


Oregon Hikers Field Guide is built as a collaborative effort by its user community. While we make every effort to fact-check, information found here should be considered anecdotal. You should cross-check against other references before planning a hike. Trail routing and conditions are subject to change. Please contact us if you notice errors on this page.

Hiking is a potentially risky activity, and the entire risk for users of this field guide is assumed by the user, and in no event shall Trailkeepers of Oregon be liable for any injury or damages suffered as a result of relying on content in this field guide. All content posted on the field guide becomes the property of Trailkeepers of Oregon, and may not be used without permission.