Terry Richard picks Oregon’s best mountain hikes
August 6, 2006
By Terry Richard
Wizard Island – The water of Crater Lake creates two islands. The lake’s fleet of tour boats lands on Wizard Island, allowing passengers to debark and hike the trial to the summit. The Phantom Ship, the lake’s other island, is off-limits to visitors, but the tour boats offer a close-up inspection on the way back to the dock.
Tidbit: Wizard Island was named by William Steel in the 1880s because its shape reminded him of a magician’s hat. Trail log: The trail down to Cleetwood Cove on the north side of Crater Lake is wide and well-graded. This is where the tour boats dock. The route to the top of Wizard Island has some very rough sections through head-sized lava rocks. The trail to the lake drops 1.1 miles and 654 feet. The trail that climbs Wizard Island is 2.5 miles round trip, including a loop of the crater at the summit, with a gain of 757 feet. Scenery: It is an understatement to say that the boat tour of Crater Lake is spectacular. As interesting as the caldera is from the Rim Drive, visitors get a much better feel for its size by seeing it from the water.
Get there: Take Rim Drive four miles east of North Junction, or about 10 miles clockwise from Crater Lake Lodge. Details: Boat tour tickets cost $24.50, plus $5 if you get off on Wizard Island. Ages 3 to 11 are $15 plus $3. Buy tickets in the parking lot before hiking down to the lake. Hikers who get off on Wizard Island are given a priority number to board another boat. Plan for two hours on the island to hike to the top, but prepare to be there until the last boat of the day in case all spots on the boats are taken. Hikers are guaranteed a spot on the last boat because staying overnight on the island is not allowed Take it easy: Stay on the boat and skip the hike to the top of Wizard Island.
The boat ride is more than worth the price of admission. Map: Crater Lake National Park, by Trails Illustrated Info: Crater Lake National Park, 541-594-3100, www.nps.gov/crla
Cooper Spur – The route up Cooper Spur is the highest constructed trail on Mount Hood, reaching 8,514 feet in elevation. The rugged road to the start of the trail at Cloud Cap keeps the northeast side of the mountain from being overrun by visitors. Tidbit: Look for the 10-foot-square warming shelter built by the Civilian Conservation Corps about 200 yards up the Cooper Spur Trail from its junction with the Timberline Trail. Trail log: Begin from the small campground at Cloud Cap, 35 miles southwest of Hood River. Hike 200 feet south to the intersection of the Timberline Trail, then follow the pointer to Gnarl Ridge uphill to the left. Stay left on the trail, avoiding an intersection created by climbers who use a short cut to the glacier. The Timberline Trail climbs gradually to the southeast, passing a canyon with running water, before it reaches the junction with the Cooper Spur Trail after 1.2 miles. Turn right and switch back up Cooper Spur, stopping at Tie-In Rock where the trail ends and the climbing route begins. Scenery: The surface of the Eliot Glacier is contorted by midsummer with crevasses and ice towers called seracs. The Columbia River near The Dalles is also visible. Get there: Drive up the Hood River Valley to Cooper Spur Mountain Resort and take Forest Service Road 3512. The road is nine miles of pothole torture, but passable in a car, before it ends at Cloud Cap. Details: A Northwest Forest Pass is required for parking; a self-register wilderness permit is needed for hiking. The trailhead has a small campground, with piped water and outhouses. Cloud Cap Inn, built in 1889, is the oldest building on Mount Hood, and is used as a rescue base by the Crag Rats climbing club. Tours are given on summer Saturdays, from mid-July on. Make a reservation by calling 541-352-6002. Take it easy: Midway along the Cooper Spur Trail above the shelter, end the upward slog by taking one of several side paths to the edge of a lateral moraine and views of Eliot Glacier, which created the moraine. Map: Mount Hood Wilderness, Geo-Graphics. Info: Hood River Ranger District, 541-352-6002, www.fs.fed.us/r6/mthood
Eagle Cap – The Wallowa Mountains, Oregon’s “Little Switzerland,” are most often viewed from the surrounding valleys. For a bird’s-eye view from the center of the Eagle Cap Wilderness Area, make the 19.6-mile round-trip day hike to Eagle Cap’s summit a goal for the summer. Tidbit: Eight valleys fan out from the slopes of Eagle Cap, making it the most significant mountain in the Wallowas even though it’s only eighth highest. Trail log: Follow the trail south from the parking lot, 16 miles south of Lostine at Two Pan trailhead. Just after the horse trail joins on the left, take the left branch (East Fork Lostine) at a fork. The right branch goes to West Fork Lostine. Hike 7.3 miles to the edge of Lakes Basin, then turn right and immediately left, following signs to Horton Pass and Eagle Cap summit. Horses frequent the trail to Lakes Basin. Scenery: Nearly every major peak in the Wallowas is in view from the summit of Eagle Cap. Bring a map to help with identification. Get there: From Interstate 84 at La Grande, drive 52 miles northeast on Oregon 82 to Lostine. In the center of town, turn south and drive 16 miles to the end of the road. Details: A $5 Northwest Forest Pass can be purchased at a dispenser at the trailhead. Also fill out a self-issue wilderness area permit at the trailhead. Take it easy: After climbing steeply for the first three miles, the trail levels off and crosses a beautiful meadow. Turn back where a log bridge crosses the stream at five miles, or continue to Lakes Basin and reach Mirror Lake at 7.5 miles. Map: Wallowa Mountains Eagle Cap Wilderness, Imus Geographics. Info: Wallowa Mountains Visitor Center, 541-426-5546, www.fs.fed.us/r6/w-w
Broken Hand – A distinct peak atop the ridge that reaches east from much larger Broken Top, Broken Hand provides an awesome view of the most rugged scenery in the Oregon Cascades. The Three Sisters, each fully in view, make up the only cluster of 10,000-foot peaks in the entire range. Tidbit: Broken Hand was named for Thomas “Broken Hand” Fitzpatrick, a mountain man who passed through Oregon in 1843. He earned his nickname from the accidental explosion of a musket he was firing. Trail log: Beginning at the signed trailhead at Three Creeks Lake, the trail has no signed junctions. Just keep going until it ends at the base of Broken Hand. Several unsigned paths veer to the right. These lead to overlooks of Tam McArthur Rim before they wind back to the main trail. Expect to encounter equestrians on this part of the trail. Scenery: An open pumice plain affords great views, first of Mount Bachelor, then the Three Sisters and the chain of volcanoes reaching to Mount Hood. Reddish volcanic soil contrasts sharply with the dun color of the pumice. Get there: Turn south on Elm Street from the center of Sisters and drive 16 miles to road’s end at Three Creeks Lake. Details: The trail first climbs Tam McArthur Rim, a prominent ridge that extends east several miles from Broken Top volcano. The rim is named for Lewis A. “Tam” McArthur, original author of “Oregon Geographic Names.” Continue hiking toward Broken Top, passing the rim overlooks, to where the trail dwindles out at the base of Broken Hand. Reach the top of cliffy Broken Hand by following its eastern base 200 yards to a scramble route where the cliffs yield to broken terrain. Take it easy: Making it to the overlook atop Tam McArthur Rim is enough for most hikers. Map: Three Sisters Wilderness, Geo-Graphics. Info: Sisters Ranger District, 541-549-7700 www.fs.fed.us/r6/centraloregon
Strawberry Mountain – Part of the Blue Mountains, the Strawberry Mountain subrange faces the John Day River to the north and the vast Great Basin to the south. The valleys that surround the Strawberry Range offer some quintessential Western scenery, with cattle ranches, irrigated hay fields and, in autumn, spectacular color from aspens, cottonwoods and larch (known locally as tamarack). Tidbit: The Strawberry Range was named by early pioneers because of an abundance of wild strawberries in one of its valleys. Trail log: From Strawberry campground, 11 miles south of Prairie City, hike south on a wide trail 1.2 miles to Strawberry Lake. Trails are numerous around the lake, so walk above the east side of the lake and follow signs to Little Strawberry Lake. The turnoff for the smaller lake is just above Strawberry Falls, but keep going on the main trail for three miles, climbing to a ridge above Strawberry Basin. After looping around the basin, the summit trail follows the ridge north and traverses the mountain before making a switchback south to the summit. Scenery: The Strawberry Range surprises a lot of hikers with its beauty. The three-mile-long ridge that runs northeast from the unassumingly named Indian Spring Butte is one of the most spectacular mountain walls in Oregon, especially in early October when the larch needles are golden and the precipitous cliffs are dappled with fresh snow. Get there: Get on U.S. 26 and keep going all the way to Prairie City, 280 miles east of Portland. Look for Bridge Street in the center of town, turn south on it and continue to the end of the road in 11 miles. Details: The only fee is for overnight camping in the 12-site Strawberry campground ($6) at the end of the road. Take it easy: Hikers who don’t want to make it to the top of Strawberry Mountain can spend the day at Strawberry Lake, one of the most beautiful spots in the Blue Mountains, or go another mile to Strawberry Falls. For a much shorter but less scenic hike to the summit, drive to Road’s End trailhead on the south side of Strawberry Mountain. From here, it’s 7.6 miles round trip, with a 1,170-foot gain, to the summit. Map: Strawberry Mountain Wilderness, U.S. Forest Service. Info: Malheur National Forest, 541-575-3000, www.fs.fed.us/r6/malheur
Terry Richard, 503-221-8222 firstname.lastname@example.org