23 Nov

Tygh Creek

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32. Tygh Creek

Distance: 5.6 miles out and back
Elevation Gain: 1,700 feet
Season: April – November
Best: May – June
Pass: None needed.
Map: Flag Point (Green Trails #463)

Hike: The Badger Creek Wilderness is a paradise for the solitude-seeker. With mile after mile of un-crowded trails and spectacular scenery that straddles the transition zone between lush western Oregon and arid eastern Oregon, there are many fantastic hikes to be discovered here. One of the best is the steep climb up to the ridge above Tygh Creek on the eastern edge of the wilderness. Here you will see an almost sublime melding of west and east and be treated with views from Mount Hood to the Three Sisters. The price for this awesomeness is steep though – or rather, the middle third of the hike is one of the steepest stretches of trail in this book. Bring trekking poles!

Begin by following Tygh Creek for the first half-mile. Given the name of the trail, you would expect to continue following the stream – instead, reach a vague trail junction at 0.5 mile. Here you should bend to the right uphill (going straight will lead you to a dead end at the creek) and begin climbing. The uphill begins gradually but soon intensifies into some of the steepest, dustiest trail in the Badger Creek Wilderness. In the summer this dry, south-facing slope can be quite hot, so be sure to pack lots of water and rest when needed. On the flip side, this slope also hosts an impressive variety of flowers, among them balsamroot, lupine, paintbrush, larkspur and yellow fawn lilies. Be on the lookout for juniper trees here, at the far western end of their habitat in Oregon, as well as several impressive groves of ponderosa pines. After 1.4 miles and 1,450 feet of ascent, reach the top of the ridge. Behind you, central Oregon stretches out into the horizon. To the south, Mount Jefferson and the Three Sisters loom in the distance over nearby Ball Point. This is an impressive spot!

Rather than stopping, however, crest a small ridge and reach a junction with a user trail on the left. Turn here and 100 feet later reach a large, rocky meadow that is sometimes used as a helispot. Ahead of you looms Mount Hood over the crest of the Badger Creek Wilderness. While this makes for an excellent rest spot, you have only hiked 2 miles; if you wish to continue I encourage you to do so.

After only 0.2 mile, reach a junction with the Jordan Butte Trail to your right. This seldom-used path continues 2 miles to a trailhead on an obscure side road. Instead, continue straight on the Tygh Creek Trail. The way climbs over downed trees and meanders through grove after grove of huge ponderosa pines. The trail here is often quite faint but should not be difficult to follow as there is almost no undergrowth. After another 0.7 miles, look for a spur trail darting off to your left – hike this out 100 feet to a rock garden with a view up to Mount Hood. As this is the last viewpoint for many miles, you should return the way you came. The Tygh Creek Trail continues another 3.5 miles to the Flag Point Road, about 0.5 mile below the lookout (see Hike 31).

2014 update notes: The trail has become very faint in spots. Hikers with navigational skills will have no problem but many will find this trail difficult to navigate. This trail needs some friends – it is very beautiful and is worth the long drive and steep hike. There is no longer a sign at the trailhead.

Here’s a map:

20 Mar

Jackpot Meadows

Distance: 6.0 miles out and back
Elevation Gain: 1,200 feet elevation gain
Season: June – November
Best: August and September
Pass: None
Map: Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness (USFS)

Directions: From Portland, drive US 26 east for 49 miles to a junction signed for Trillium Lake. Turn right here onto FR 2656. Stay on this paved road for 1.8 miles and keep left to stay on FR2656 for another 1.8 miles to a junction with FR 309. Turn right here and follow signs for the Salmon River Trail for 2 miles to a pullout on your right. There is room for 3 – 5 cars here. The trail continues straight down the hill – do not turn onto the Salmon River Trail to your right.

Hike: Most people prefer to hike in the warm, sunny days of summer. But not every day can be warm and sunny, even in July and August. Don’t let that keep you from exploring the mountains. You should go to Jackpot Meadows on one of these days. Though only ten miles from Mount Hood, there are no great views of the mountain. Though the trail crosses the waterfall-rich Salmon River, there are no waterfalls or any of the massive old-growth that marks the canyon downstream of here. So why should you visit Jackpot Meadows? Because it is a peaceful, lovely place that you will have to yourself, especially on rainy days. This trail is great in early summer when rhododendrons turn the forest pink but much, much better in fall, when the mosquito hordes have departed the meadow and the forest burns orange and red with fall color.

Jackpot Meadows tree

Huge cedar tree on the way to Jackpot Meadows.

The trail leaves from the same trailhead as the Upper Salmon River Trail and immediately begins a gentle descent through mixed forest. Look for the usual Douglas firs, cedars and mountain hemlock but also note the other varieties of trees not usually found in this neck of the woods, such as Alaska cedar and Pacific yew. After about a mile of gradual downhill, curve right around the slope and begin to lose elevation at a steeper clip. Shortly thereafter gain a view of the Mud Creek canyon to the right. For a better view head up the slope to the edge to see Mud Creek tumbling through an open canyon that seems to be one massive talus slope. If you are looking for a short day in the woods, this makes for an excellent lunch spot. Otherwise, continue downhill to a lonely wood bridge over the Salmon River at 1.2 miles. A relic of the time when trails crisscrossed national forests, it is amazing that this bridge has survived as long as it has (another bridge downstream at Linney Creek washed away some years ago and has never been replaced).

Mud Creek's canyon in fall.

Mud Creek’s canyon in fall.

Cross the bridge and parallel the river for about 100 yards before turning inland. From here the trail launches uphill through a lovely forest of second-growth pines and firs. Look back over your shoulder for occasional views of Mount Hood but take what you can get; there are no clearer views of the mountain to be had anywhere on this hike. After a mile of steady climbing, top out and work your way around and over an unnamed creek. The trail follows this lovely stream with its banks of wildflowers up to a junction with FR58-240. The mosquitoes control this forest early in the season and by the time you reach the road you might be tempted to turn back. Let the flowers be your tradeoff.

Cross the road and follow the trail a couple hundred yards to Jackpot Meadows. The first time I came here the entrance to the meadow was a waterlogged mess guarded by (literally) millions of mosquitoes. We had to run back the other direction. If you are not bothered by bloodsucking vermin, continue into the meadow. Look for pink shooting stars and many other lovely wildflowers in this narrow meadow. If you’ve come here after the mosquitoes are gone, take your time to enjoy this beautiful spot. Otherwise, lick your wounds and turn around to your car.

Jackpot Meadows in fall

Jackpot Meadows in fall

20 Mar

Umbrella Falls

Distance: 4.4 miles out and back
Elevation Gain: 800 feet
Season: July – October
Best: July – October
Pass: NW Forest Pass
Map: Mount Hood Wilderness (Geo-Graphics)

Directions: From Portland, drive US 26 east to Government Camp and then another 2 miles to a junction with OR 35. Turn right and then cross over the highway headed north. You will drive 7.8 miles on this highway, passing signs for Mount Hood Meadows Ski resort. At the first intersection after the Meadows junction, turn left on what is part of the old Mount Hood Loop. You will find the trailhead 0.5 mile up this road, at an unmarked pullout on the right.

Hike: The Umbrella Falls loop samples all of the best that Mount Hood has to offer: tumbling waterfalls, vast meadows of wildflowers and huge views of Oregon’s tallest mountain. Even better, at less than 5 miles long and with minimal elevation gain the hike is quite easy. This is a great place to bring friends and family from out of town. Admittedly, the Umbrella Falls loop does not offer a true wilderness experience, but the charms of this short and spectacular loop are more than enough to balance the heavy hand of man here on the southeast side of Mount Hood.

Mount Hood on the trail to Umbrella Falls

Mount Hood on the trail to Umbrella Falls

Begin by hiking the level and well-known Elk Meadows Trail for 0.3 mile to a junction with the Umbrella Falls Trail. Turn left here and skirt by a large open barn and parking lot, visible through the trees to your left. Begin climbing through forest and you soon reach the huge hanging meadows and chairlifts that are part of the Mound Hood Meadows ski resort. While busy in the winter, the lifts are silent and the crowds non-existent in the summer. The flower show here is spectacular from late-July through the end of August; look for copious amounts of blue lupine, purple aster and red paintbrush (and many more). Re-enter the forest and continue climbing at a gradual rate. You will reach a junction with the Sahalie Falls connector trail (667C) at 2 miles from the car. Ignore this trail for the moment and continue straight 0.3 mile more to reach beautiful, cascading Umbrella Falls. Great picnic sites abound.

Beautiful Umbrella Falls.

Beautiful Umbrella Falls.

After leaving the falls, remember to backtrack 0.3 mile to the Sahalie Falls connector junction. Turn right here and begin descending on a scenic trail just above the rim of the East Fork of the Hood River. Approximately 1 mile from Umbrella Falls, the trail curves to the left. To find Sahalie Falls, however, scramble the short distance down to the old Mount Hood Highway and a bridge over the East Fork. Turn right onto the bridge for a look at the falls in the canyon. If the bridge and falls look familiar, it should: the Sahalie Falls Bridge was used in a scene in the 2007 film Into the Wild. After viewing the falls, you are faced with a choice; you may scramble back up to the trail or you can follow the road back to your car. Both options are good, but I have often chosen to hike the road back as it offers better views of Hood River Meadows and Mount Hood. To follow the road from Sahalie Falls, hike in the opposite direction of the falls (heading northeast) and follow the road 0.7 mile to your car. Be sure to stop at vast Hood River Meadows for a stunning view of Mount Hood. The wildflower display here is hard to beat. To return to the trail, scramble back up the slope to the Sahalie Falls Trail and turn right. Follow the Sahalie Falls Trail 0.7 mile back to your car.