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Difference between revisions of "Soda Springs Loop Hike"

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

(Add trailhead)
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[[Image:SodaSpringsLoopMap.png|thumb|400px|The suggested loop in the Soda Springs Unit, Klickitat State Wildlife Area (not a GPS track) ''(bobcat)'' Courtesy: ''Google Maps'']]
[[Image:SodaSpringsLoopMap.png|thumb|400px|The suggested loop in the Soda Springs Unit, Klickitat State Wildlife Area (not a GPS track) ''(bobcat)'' Courtesy: ''Google Maps'']]
{{Start point|Old Headquarters Gate Trailhead}}
{{Start point|Old Headquarters Gate Trailhead}} or
{{Start point|Old Headquarters-Anderson Road Junction Trailhead}}
* End point: [[Soda Springs Road End]]
* End point: [[Soda Springs Road End]]
* Trail Log:  
* Trail Log:  

Revision as of 18:55, 4 February 2018

View of the Klickitat River, Soda Springs Unit, Klickitat State Wildlife Area (bobcat)
Ponderosa pines, Soda Springs Unit (bobcat)
Rusting plow, Soda Springs Unit, Klickitat SWA (bobcat)
Pumphouse and cistern, Homestead Springs, Soda Springs Unit (bobcat)
Columbia desert parsley (Lomatium columbianum), Soda Springs Unit (bobcat)
The suggested loop in the Soda Springs Unit, Klickitat State Wildlife Area (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Google Maps


Hike Description

Extensive woodlands of Oregon white oak and open slopes blooming with wildflowers make the Soda Springs Unit of the Klickitat State Wildlife Area a compelling destination in the spring, especially since it is so little visited by hikers. In fact, there are no hiking trails, so visitors need to use the network of rough roads, old farm tracks, deer trails and open meadows to fashion a route. There is a catch: the area is best visited in April and May, but this is also turkey hunting season. You can visit before the season begins on April 15th, when some roads are still gated, but that misses the best of the bloom. The route described below, however, does keep you out in the open much of the time, however. When in the woods, just make a lot of noise (You’re sure to scare up dozens of deer), and the hunters will leave you alone.

Washington’s Department of Fish and Wildlife began making land purchases here in the late 1940s and expansion of the unit continued into the 1960s. Previous to that, the open slopes were grazed by cattle, sheep, and horses, and the benches were cultivated for fodder. You’ll even find some old farm equipment and the remains of buildings. The area protects large colonies of western gray squirrels; turkey and black-tailed deer are managed as game animals.

Directions below are given from the gate on Old Headquarters Road. If you’re hiking after the turkey hunt begins, start the hike at the Old Headquarters-Anderson Road Junction Trailhead.

Walk past the gate and head down the road in oak/ponderosa pine woods. Soon reach an open area, where the road dips to cross a creek at a lone ponderosa. Descend to a junction (the Old Headquarters-Anderson Road Junction Trailhead), and go left several yards before taking off to your right to cross an open, sometimes boggy bowl. Make for the tree line ahead. When you reach the oaks, find an old vehicle track that leads out to your right. The fence line to your left is the boundary with private property.

After the road peters out, follow the fence line across a landscape of balsamroot, buckwheat, and desert parsley. Drop down the slope with the Klickitat River sweeping in a wide bend to the south at its confluence with the Little Klickitat. Where the river flows directly ahead of you, you can make out the old Company Haul Road on its south bank (See the Klickitat Canyon Hike). Stacker Butte is the prominence on the horizon. The slope steepens considerably as you drop down towards a copse of oaks. Off to your left, you can make out farm buildings and grazing cattle on private land. Both Columbia and pungent desert parsley bloom profusely among the rock outcroppings, and you should be able to follow established deer trails that zigzag down into the oak woods. Join the road that runs along the bench, still 500 feet above the Klickitat.

Pass through a mature oak wood, crossing a steep draw. In open country now, get a view down to the river, and soon pass a rusting plow. Gradually rise to enter another band of oaks where ground squirrels scuttle away through the dry leaves. Pass below more open slopes and come to the junction with Old Headquarters Road below some a canopy of bigger oaks. Keep on walking straight along the bench and reach the area of Homestead Springs. Pass a foundation on the right, and then see a small pumphouse below right over one of the springs. Next, you’ll see the concrete foundation of the old farmhouse here – the house was removed when the land was purchased by Washington Fish & Wildlife. On the edge of a grove of white poplars, there’s a small shed. Keep walking up the road into a grove of oaks. To your left is a large open-sided shed that probably served as a garage.

Emerge from the oaks to pass a faded No Motor Vehicles sign, and begin walking across a grassy expanse that blooms with Columbia desert parsley, balsamroot, and death-camas. If you angle to the left over the edge of the slope, you’ll pick up an old farm track that bends around the nose of an open ridge (You can hike up this ridge and across the bench on top to complete a loop about half the length of the one described). The rough track gradually descends into the oak woods that cloak the slopes of a deep gully. You’ll clamber over a fallen ponderosa pine and then begin winding through choke cherry bushes that have colonized the road bed. Douglas-firs begin appearing among the oaks, and soon you arrive at the creek itself. Step across, and find the trace of the road rising up the slope to your left. It’s easy to lose the track among the oaks and lupines here, but keep up a gentle ascent until you reach Soda Springs Road.

While Soda Springs Road is not gated, only high-clearance vehicles can use it, and you’re unlikely to encounter any traffic early in the season. Follow this rough 4WD track down the slope, getting views of the Klickitat below. Pass in and out of a gully and enter the thick oak woods that cloak the bottomland. You’ll pass one opening to the slopes above (This will be your return point for completing the loop) before continuing down in woods carpeted with glacier lilies in early spring. Reach an open area where the road swings to the left and then out to the river verge at a stand of ponderosa pines. There’s little clear access to the bank, but at low water a wide gravel bar can be reached.

Return up the road. At the first clearing in the oaks, scramble up the steep bank and begin your ascent to the plateau 1,200 feet above. Frist pass through a meadow that blooms with frasera and milk-vetch later in spring and, after passing through a band of oak trees, pick a course that more or less keeps to the nose of the ridge. You’ll find deer trails here and can eventually settle on one that takes you all the way up. The gradient becomes steep as you scramble up among clumps of fescue. As you get higher, you’ll see a rocky outcrop ahead. A good deer trail takes you to the left of this and up to a rocky meadow. You’ll see oak woods ahead, so begin trending right until you reach a vehicle track that follows the forest edge. There are expansive views across the Klickitat Canyon all the way to Stacker Butte. At a road junction, keep right and drop past a contraption called a wildlife guzzler, a trapping device that provides water for critters out of a partially covered tank. The road ends above an open meadow, so keep right and walk out to Point 2085 to get more views. Drop down off the point and find an obvious deer trail leading back into the oaks. Follow one of these and keep to a level contour until you come out at a wide meadow. Beware the loose strands of barbed wire here as you follow the east edge of the meadow and then reenter the woods to descend a steep slope to your right. Soon, you should see Soda Springs Road below where it is crossed by a creek. Descend steeply to this crossing, and walk left on the road after crossing the creek.

Look to your right to find a good place to cross the main creek. After doing this, hike up a slope that blooms with Columbia desert parsley in early April. You’ll reach an expansive meadow dotted with ponderosa pines; Old Headquarters Road runs along the north edge of the meadow. You can join the road for a short spell (and return to your car this way if you wish), but if you want more meadows and views, peel off to pass through a grove of ponderosa pines. Reach the edge of oak woods and follow it out to get views of the Klickitat River below. Reach a grassy road track and go right, heading out to a view of Stacker Butte on the skyline. Go left, again roughly following the edge of the oak forest. Death-camas flourishes here, and choke cherry bushes flower in late spring. Drop through a line of oaks, and cross a very well-trafficked deer trail. Descend into a depression and, 100 yards before a creek, take a deer trail that leads left (Do this if you’re parked at the gate; otherwise, keep straight to get back to the Old Headquarters-Anderson Road Junction Trailhead).

Pass through some oaks and reach a meadow. Angle up to your left here, passing over a trickling brook, to reach Old Headquarters Road. Walk to your left about 0.6 miles back to your car.


Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Discover Pass required
  • $1.00 toll for the Hood River Bridge
  • Turkey hunting season is from April 15th to May 31st.

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • none

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.

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