Grasshopper Point & Rocky Butte

Backpacking, Former Lookouts

Location.

Mt. Hood National Forest

Date visited.

October 29, 2022

Trip Report.

View from Rocky Butte
Conduit in tree
Where the trail meets NF-130
Dead end at NF-130
Where the trail continues from NF-130

Ever since our first trip up to Rocky Butte (post) last winter, we have wanted to connect the trail to Grasshopper Point. We also wanted to squeeze one last backpacking trip in before calling our end of season. This isn’t a traditional backpacking destination given that it’s not in a wilderness and the trail is short. We planned to hike to Rocky Butte and drop our gear before continuing our hike to Grasshopper Point. Directions to the trailhead for Rocky Butte can be found in my previous post. There is an old fire ring on the summit of Rocky Butte that was most likely left over from when it was in service and where we would set up camp for the night. Oregon Hikers (post) has marked this hike as a lost hike, so continue at your own risk. We pin pointed our bearing with a compass and ranger district map before starting the remainder of our hike. Or I should say, my partner did this and I watched to learn. This is helpful if you know where you are currently located on a map and where you are wanting to head. It will help keep you on track in the general direction from point A to point B. Continuing up and over Rocky Butte the trail is still well defined. We followed this to the first road crossing with NF-130 and picked the trail up down the road to the left. From here the trail alternated between visible tread and following the flagging. There were only a few spots that caused us to pause and search a bit harder for flagging, cut logs, or a blaze in the trees. The cross-country hiking here is fairly easy and could still be accomplished by following the path of least resistance along the compass bearing. We reached a second road crossing with NF-140 that had an OHV trail #475 sign on the ground pointing towards an old decommissioned road. We followed this well worn tread until we spotted an old trail sign for #475 nailed in a tree off to the left. Reading the detailed description from Oregon Hikers led us to believe we should turn here. There was also another old sign nailed to a tree off to the right side of the OHV trail. This implied that the hiker use trail crossed the OHV trail here. After searching around the signed tree we were unable to find any obvious tread or flagging to indicate a trail. We decided to follow the OHV trail instead since it was well defined and if it truly did follow the old NF-142 road it would get us close enough to cross country back to the actual trail.

Trail condition example: tree flagging & worn down log
Where the trail meets NF-140
Trail #475 OHV sign
Start of OHV trail on abandoned NF-142
Trail #475 hiker sign
Trail condition example: visible tread

We followed the road tread until it petered out and turned into a user trail with flagging to the left. This eventually connected to a more obvious trail that we could only assume was the one we needed. It seemed well defined heading both left and right, but given the lack of trail near the signs we found we didn’t believe it stayed that way for too long. We turned right to continue towards Grasshopper Point. There were patches of snow through out the trail as we gained elevation, but now most of the trail was covered. Someone had been here fairly recently as we started to follow footprints. I assumed they were a hunter given that it was Elk Season and not many other people head out this way during this time of year. It’s always good to be aware of your state hunting seasons when recreating in the shoulder season. We like to use the big game magazine to gauge the risk of the area by checking the type of hunt and number of tags taken out. We also wear blaze orange beanies while hiking during hunting season. This felt particularly necessary since we were hiking on a less traveled trail and somewhat cross-country. We followed the snowy track and footprints all the way to the NF-4860 road crossing. There is a post here to mark the trail for OHV users. The footprints and trail continued directly across the road to head up the final side of the point. We followed the footprints and flagging for a while but it seemed like the trail started to head down the slope. The footprints had also disappeared and deviated from the trail here. We decided to head straight up the slope instead of following the trail down. This is were things got confusing for us. We figured we were very close but couldn’t find anything in the obvious clearings. The description we had of the area wasn’t very helpful either and, if anything, confused us more. We spent a good chunk of time backtracking and circling around the broad summit. We were about to give up and start heading back when my partner stumbled upon the foundation blocks. Success! It looks like some of them have been moved from their original location, but they are still there. I will continue the directions from where we left the “trail”. After heading up the slope to the flat summit, you will continue farther until you reach a well defined road. This road was not listed on our ranger district map. Where we came out there was a post which made us think this was at one time a trail. Take a left on the road and follow it. The road makes a bend to the right where we found another post with a US Forest Service marker off to the left. This also seemed to be marking a “trail” and might be where the trail we were following earlier comes out but I can’t say for sure. We continued on the road past the bend. Shortly after this the road makes a fork. The left fork is faint while the right fork is defined. If you head down the faint left fork you can find the foundation off to the left of the road. It is in a rocky area and might be hard to spot if you’re not looking closely. We saved ourselves any further confusion on the way back by going the same way and avoiding the other potential “trails”. This hike was around 4.7 miles RT with 1,010′ in elevation gain.

The user trail we connected via NF-142 (left); Main #475 trail (right)
Where the trail meets NF-4860
NF-4860
Where the trail continues across NF-4860
Old post where we met the unmarked road
Unmarked road heading left
Where I think the real “trail” meets the unmarked road
Post at real “trail” junction
Fork in unmarked road, head left to find foundation

History.

Grasshopper Point (5,385′).

Former Fire Lookout Site Register: US 597; OR 38

A tower was first built on Grasshopper Point in 1933 as a 72′ timber tower with L-6 cab. The following winter it was blown over during a storm. They re-erected the tower in 1934. I’m inclined to believe they built it taller given other sources list it as an 84′ treater timber tower, but it’s also possible these are conflicting heights. It was used as an Aircraft Warning Station in the 1940s. Old photos show there was a cabin for living quarters and another structure that was either used for storage or a garage at the base. It was last staffed in 1964 and destroyed sometime between 1967 and 1969 by intentional burning.

Rocky Butte (4,796′).

Not registered on the National Historic Lookout or the Former Fire Lookout Site Register.

There is minimal information on when Rocky Butte was built but it pre-dates 1930. It was most likely abandoned in the 1930s or 1940s, but still stands today. This crows nest sits atop a 60′ Ponderosa pine. The guy wires, some of the top boards, and most of the ladder are still present.

a rudimentary outline of our route

Backpacking: Packwood Lake

Backpacking

Location.

Gifford Pinchot National Forest; Goat Rocks Wilderness

Trail(s).

Packwood Lake Trail #78

Estimated drive time from Portland, OR.

3 hours

Date(s).

August 21-23, 2020

Mileage.

10 miles RT

Elevation gain/loss.

700′

Trip Report.

I’ll set the scene for this one. The year was 2020 and we were at least 5 months into a world wide pandemic. Portland was in the height of their Black Lives Matter movement. The overall status of our world was not great. The summer provided a sense of false hope as cases lowered and more people were outside. But, as we know now, things came crashing down again in fall. I clung to that glimpse of hope and decided to plan a backpacking trip with my friend, Anjelica, and her roommate. It felt safe since we were outside, I was only meeting up with people from one other household, we drove separate, and I brought my own tent. I won’t dive into the deep end of how the pandemic effected us or the mental gymnastics that came with it to get here. The last time I had a chance to see my friend was in 2019, pre-pandemic.

Packwood lake was a place I had wanted to hike or backpack to since a previous girls cabin trip to the area in April 2019. We weren’t able to round up everyone for a hike at the time but it stayed on my radar. My partner wasn’t interested in going here either due to the popularity of the area. I left pre-dawn on Friday morning to get to the trailhead as early as possible. I knew it was busy and I was worried about finding a camp spot. I reached the trailhead around 8AM before my friend and her roommate got there. It was an almost full parking lot but there were still a few spots left. It is an easily accessible trailhead off a paved road, NF-1260, that leaves directly from the east side of Packwood. You will need a NW Forest Pass or equivalent to park here. My friends rolled in about 30 mins after me. The excitement that comes with seeing someone you haven’t seen in a long time and doing something you love that you haven’t been doing as much of because of a pandemic is unmeasured. We headed out on the trail shortly after they arrived. The trail is fairly straight forward and undulated gradually through a forest setting for 4 miles. You don’t enter the Goat Rocks wilderness until you are directly at the edge of the lake. There are self issue permits here for when you do enter the wilderness, please make sure to fill one out. As we started to hike around the lake the closest spots were already taken. The first open spot we came upon was on a slope, but we were worried that if we continued on we wouldn’t find anything better. Anjelica decided to run on ahead to check out other options without her pack on. Her roommate and I occupied the spot in fear of losing it during further exploration. She came back a short while after saying there were better options farther down. We continued on to a flatter spot with a private beach to access the lake. I’m glad we didn’t settle!

It was overcast and muggy when we got there. After setting up camp, the first thing I wanted to do was jump in the lake to cool off. I brought a swimsuit with me, but I couldn’t be bothered to change. I striped down to my sports bra and boy shorts for a quick dip (both cover more than a standard swimsuit anyway). The water was too cold for Anjelica, but her roommate followed me in fully clothed. I had lugged 3 liters of bagged wine in for us to enjoy. I figured we could sip on it all weekend, but it was gone before the first day was over. Oops! Throughout the day, more people had started to trickle in and even our secluded spot ended up having close neighbors. I’m not sure if this area is as crowded during a normal year or if everyone was desperate to get outside because of the pandemic. But, we would have been hard pressed to find a spot if we had come in on the Saturday instead. This was a trip dedicated to relaxing, which meant most of Saturday was spent in camp. We were either reading, swimming, or playing cards in the sun. I discovered my air mattress doubles as a decent floaty too. We decided to take a walk to the main view point for lunch and check out the old ranger station. Nothing like a quick leg stretch to prepare you for more lizard time (aka lazying around in the sun). Near dusk we walked to the other end of the lake where the trail starts to head steeply up into the wilderness. There is a view of Mount Rainier from this end of the lake, but it can be hard to see due to brush. We also would have had to walk through someones camp if we wanted to get a better view. It should also be noted that Washington was in a burn ban during this time, but tons of people were still having fires. I wish I would have had more confidence to say something, but there were too many of them. We would jokingly talk about the ban and emphasize the word BURN-BAN as we walked by some camps, but we knew it wasn’t going to stop anyone. A guy who was even cutting up a downed log asked if we needed fire wood. No sir, we do not. Please always check your states current rules and regulations on fires if you’re going to recreate outside. Even when you think you’re being safe things could easily go wrong and quickly get out of hand.

We had a slow morning on our last day trying to soak up as much scenery as possible. Instant coffee never tasted better than in the backcountry. None of us wanted to go back to reality. It was the closest thing to normalcy we had felt in a long time. We passed a lot of day hikers on our way out and the trailhead was overflowing with cars. It’s not a trail to find solitude, but it was sure fun. The good-bye was extra long as well since we didn’t know when we’d be able to see each other next.

More Information.

Washington Trails Association

US Forest Service

AllTrails

Backpacking: Lower Crystal Lake

Backpacking

Location.

Mount Rainier National Park

Trail(s).

Crystal Lakes Trail

Estimated drive time from Portland, OR.

3-1/2 hours

Date(s).

July 6-7, 2019

Mileage.

6 miles RT

Elevation gain/loss.

2,300′

Trip Report.

This trip was just shy of a year from our first backpacking trip and the small little trio that I started with had grown. Alex had met his partner, now fiancĂ©, Emily the year before. While I had also started dating my partner by then too. Emily is an avid planner like me and put together this trip for us. She submitted for the permits through the system used back then, which was a mail-in form. You are now able to get these permits online through Recreation.gov if you plan ahead. Otherwise, you are left to the mercy of walk-ups. One thing I like about the permit system of Mount Rainier NP is that they only release the amount of permits equal to the amount of camp spots at each back country location. I’ve come to find that not all National Parks treat their permit quotas the same. This trail was conveniently located in between Seattle and Portland which meant no one had to drive any farther than the other.

We all left relatively early in the morning to get to the park as early as possible. We had to pick up the permits from the White River Wilderness Information Center beforehand which is conveniently located just down the road from the needed trailhead. Emily, Alex, Garnet, and I all carpooled together from Portland while Anjelica drove down from Seattle to meet us. The trailhead is located off of HWY-410 just north of the White River park entrance. There is parking on both sides of the highway that can accommodate roughly 20 cars. The trail to Crystal Lakes leaves from the east side of the highway and starts by crossing Crystal Creek on a log bridge. Your hike will begin in a sub-alpine forest and switchbacks up to the lakes basin. The trail climbs 1,600′ of elevation in the first 1.3 miles, but don’t let the numbers deter you. Although you climb a decent amount of elevation in a short amount of time, the trail is a consistent gradual grade with no significantly steeper sections. You will pass a trail junction for Crystal Peak that can be added as a 5 mile RT side with an additional 1,800′ of elevation gain for the heartier adventurers. From that junction, it’s only another 1.7 miles to upper Crystal Lake. Our permits were for the Lower Crystal Lake which is smaller and only offers two back country camp spots. A wilderness ranger passed us on the way up and checked our permits. A friendly reminder that you need permits to camp in this area and they do indeed check. There are rumors of being able to see Mt Rainier from parts of the trail, but we had no such luck on our trip. We were socked in by a fog cloud. We were able to reach Lower Crystal Lake just before noon. There was no one else there and we had our pick of the spots. Upper Crystal Lake is the more popular destination for day hikers.

We set up camp after having lunch and explored the area around the lower lake. Besides the two camp spots there is also a back country privy and bear pole to hang your food. The shore of the lake is a bit marshy and the better water source is from an outlet stream near one of the camps. There is also a very overgrown user trail that circles the lake. You can tell it sees significantly less use than the rest of the area. We had hoped the fog would clear off for some better views before heading the remaining 0.7 miles to the upper lake, but it didn’t look promising. Eventually we all hiked up to explore around some more since it seemed too early for drinks and games. We had learned from our first backpacking trip that if you start drinking the wine early, it is also gone early. The upper Crystal Lake is much larger than the lower lake and is surrounded by towering peaks. On a clear day it’s worth it to continue the hike up to Sourdough Gap to get a great view overlooking the lake and part of Mt Rainier. This is also where the trail leaves the National Park and connects with the Pacific Crest Trail. We were still settled in a fog cloud and none of us felt it was worth the effort to continue past the lake. Similar to our backpacking trip to Green Point, I had a strong urge to jump in the crystal clear water while everything else was already damp. There were more people around this time and no campfire to warm myself afterwards. I had talked myself out of it, but debated it the remainder of the trip. After taking a sufficient amount of pictures at the foggy upper lake, we headed back to camp for drinks, dinner, and card games. Since there were more of us, we opted to plan our meals separately instead of relying on Alex to do all the work. Garnet and I had a backpacking staple of soy sauce ramen with tuna added. It was warm, salty, and delicious. The fog started to break up a little after playing a couple rounds of Pay Me, a long card game that my family plays often and I have since taught to my friends. We decided to pack up the wine and head to the upper Crystal Lake hopeful for some views. Although it was never truly clear of fog, we did get a better view of the surrounding peaks. We decided to enjoy our drinks on the rocky shore for a while soaking in the scenery. We all headed back to camp before it was dark and settled in for the night.

Everything was damp the next morning. It didn’t rain but there was a constant mist in the air that clung to our gear. Knowing we were only going for one night, Garnet and I had decided to be a bit fancier with our breakfast. We packed up fresh eggs and made a scramble with cheese and tomatoes. Our friends were skeptical of the non-refrigerated eggs but we had no issues with it. There were still no signs of the sun planning to come through to break up the mist and help dry us all out. We cleaned up our camp, filtered water, and packed up our wet gear. Always remember to Leave No Trace and pack out everything you pack in. No one ever ended up joining us at the other camp by the lake. The hike down was pretty uneventful and we passed another park wilderness ranger. I think they frequent this trail often due to it being off a main highway and the close proximity to the wilderness center. There were still no views of Mt Rainier on our way down, but we seemed to have finally hiked our way out of the fog cloud. The sun was even shining when we reached the car. We said our good-byes to Anjelica and headed back towards Portland. We made a quick pit stop at the Packwood Brewing Co for tacos and beer.

More Information.

Washington Trails Association

National Park Service

AllTrails

Backpacking: Green Point

Backpacking

Location.

North Cascades National Park

Trail(s).

Ross Dam Trail; Big Beaver Trail

Estimated drive time from Portland, OR.

5-1/2 hours

Date(s).

September 15-16, 2018

Mileage.

5.4 miles RT

Elevation gain/loss.

515′

Trip Report.

Our second backpack was a little less planned than the last. We picked a weekend that worked for all of us and decided on the North Cascades NP for our destination. My friend, Anjelica, lives in the Seattle area and had came down to the Portland area for the first backpacking trip. This meant it was our turn to make a trip up to her. Alex had a wedding to go to Friday evening and then we planned to leave around 3AM Saturday morning to get there before the ranger station was open for permits. Permits are now reservable online through recreation.gov which is a blessing and a curse. Online permits are easier to access but it drives more people to the park and makes getting permits more competitive. When we visited the North Cascades NP you had to submit for permits during a certain time period. Otherwise, you were at the mercy of what is left in walk-ups. We didn’t plan far enough in advance to have permits secured ahead of time, but we were winging this one. The plan was to ask for a recommendation on a permit within a certain area of the park that fit within a certain mileage. We didn’t really care where we ended up, we were just happy to be there. Alex and I drove to Anjelica’s house first from Portland and then she drove the remainder of the way to the park. We arrived at the Marblemount Wilderness Information Center an hour after it had opened. There were a few people there and we hoped they had something available for us. The ranger we spoke with was very helpful and had a few recommendations for us. We knew we wanted to be near Diablo Lake since pictures of the lake were what first piqued my interest in the North Cascades. Her first recommendation was a 6-mile one way camp along the East Bank Trail on Ross Lake. I wasn’t confident in my backpacking mileage yet, so I requested something shorter for one night. Her second recommendation was Green Point on the other side of the lake. It was a little under 3 miles one-way and had the luxury of a back country toilet, fire rings, picnic tables, and bear boxes. It is technically considered a boat in campground but there is a hiking route to get there and it still requires permits. We all agreed this sounded like a decent option and if we wanted to explore more we could continue farther up the Big Beaver Trail. We headed back out on the road with permit in hand. It was only another 45 minutes to the trailhead from the Wilderness Center. The trail starts from the paved Ross Dam Trailhead right off of HWY-20. We made a quick stop at the Diablo Lake Vista Point on the way. It is an impressive overlook of the lake and mountain range. It is also where most people stop to take their picture in the North Cascades NP. I used to constantly see this exact picture on Instagram and thought it was on some impressive hike in the back country. It was still gorgeous nonetheless.

Diablo Lake Vista Point

The trail moderately switchbacks down towards the Dam from the parking area. It will briefly meet up with a service road that will take you to the Ross Lake Dam. You will need to walk across the Dam to reach the other side of the lake and connect with the Big Beaver Trail. Once on the other side you will continue along this trail for less than a mile before you reach the junction towards Green Point. On your way there you will pass the Ross Lake Resort which is a boat or hike in only resort. It offers boat rentals, overnight camping, and cabin stays along the lake shore. From the signed junction to Green Point it is another half of a mile of switchbacks down to the camp. The Big Beaver Trail continues farther into the wilderness and connects with longer routes through the park. It was nice having mostly elevation loss on the way in, but I wasn’t looking forward to only gain on the way back to the car in the morning. There are a five camp spots to choose from when you reach the campground. It also has a dock for those that choose to boat in to the sites. We had the whole place to ourselves for the weekend and only saw a few day hikers on the trail before we crossed the Dam.

The forecast for the weekend wasn’t great. We knew that. There was a definite chance of showers with small breaks in between. We were lucky enough to only get cloudy skies with a bit of sun on the hike in to camp. The weather was even kind enough to wait for us to set up camp before the rain clouds rolled in and it started raining. We all huddled in one tent for a round of cards with wine and charcuterie. Anytime we heard a break in the rain we would exit the tent to enjoy our wine on the shores of the lake instead. Eventually we surrendered to the fact that we were going to be damp this whole trip. This made the draw of jumping into the crystal clear water more appealing as the day went on. I was already wet, so why not take a dip in the lake? We decided to build a fire before committing. This way we would have somewhere warm to dry off immediately afterwards. I had brought way more clothes than I needed for this trip too and knew I would have something dry to change into. I was the first to take a dip and the water was FRIGID. I made it up to my chest before deciding to run back to shore. Anjelica and Alex eventually worked up the courage to take a quick dip as well. Alex went all the way in putting his head underwater. I ran back in for another dip with them and then we all ran out to huddle around the fire for warmth. We hung around the fire for the rest of the evening until well past dark. The rain started to come down a bit heavier forcing us to retire to our tents. It continued to rain heavy all through the night.

I woke up early the next morning to the sun rising behind the peaks overlooking the lake. I sat on the dock for a bit by myself while everyone was still asleep. It was a calm morning that gave the impression of a nice day ahead. Once everyone started to wake up we made another fire. Alex, once again, planned the meals for this trip which consisted of miso noodle soup for dinner and avocado toast for breakfast. The avocado toast was so good. We roasted the bread over the fire and had pickled roasted peppers, feta cheese, and balsamic vinaigrette for toppings. Talk about gourmet! Shortly after we finished breakfast the rain rolled in again. It was heavy and had no plans of letting up. We packed up in the wet and hiked out in the wet. I was completely soaked by the time we reached the car. The ride home consisted of car karaoke and a late sushi lunch.

Despite being a relatively successful trip, I was once again ill prepared. I only mention this in hopes that you can learn from my embarrassing mistakes. Invest in proper rain gear people! Even if you aren’t planning on backpacking in the rain. In the Pacific Northwest, no matter what, the rain will eventually follow and find you. My rain gear for this trip consisted of a jacket that was water-resistant but not water-proof, the rain cover from my day pack since I hadn’t bought one big enough for my backpacking pack yet, and rain pants. The rain pants were my only effective piece of gear. I layered the jacket over my puffy which worked to a point but it would’ve been a poor choice for a longer trip. The rain cover for my day pack barely covered my larger pack but it did help keep the top of it dry. The hike in had been dry so all my gear was dry when we set up and it really only got wet on the hike out. I was pretty lucky this trip.

Why it’s called Green Point
Wet and tired on the ride back

More Information.

WTA: Ross Dam Trail

WTA: Big Beaver Trail

AllTrails: Ross Dam Trail

AllTrails: Big Beaver Trail

NPS: Ross Dam Trail

NPS: Big Beaver Trail

Backpacking: Burnt Lake

Backpacking

Location.

Mt. Hood Wilderness

Trail(s).

Burnt Lake Trail #772

Estimated drive time from Portland, OR.

1-1/2 hours

Date(s).

July 14-15, 2018

Mileage.

7.5 miles RT

Elevation gain/loss.

1,420′

Preface.

This was my first backpacking trip. None of us had any experience besides our extensive day hiking knowledge. My friends and I decided the year before that we wanted to get into backpacking. It was motivated by our urge to go to the popular backpacking destination on the Havasupi Indian Reservation in the Grand Canyon. It took over a year to collect all the gear we thought we needed to start. I did a lot of research, fittings, and waiting for things to go on sale. You don’t have to buy all your gear overnight. The basic essentials you are going to need will be a sleeping pad, sleeping bag, backpack, water filter, and stove. Keep in mind most gear will be personal preference and not all gear will fit the same for everyone. I recommend going into REI to get fitted for a pack. You can even test out how it feels weighted down in store to make sure it’s exactly what you want. Another option, if you’re non-committal, is to rent gear or borrow from a friend. It has been close to 5 years since I’ve purchased most of these items, so a lot of them are no longer available. This is also not an accurate reflection of the exact gear I use now, but I wanted to show you what I bought to start. I’ve linked their closest matches below.

Backpack: Osprey Aura AG 65 Pack – Women’s

Sleeping pad: Klymit Static V Sleeping Pad

Tent: Kelty Gunnison 1 Tent with footprint

Sleeping bag: Kelty Tuck 20 Sleeping Bag – Long

Stove: Snow Peak GigaPower Auto Stove

Water filter: Katadyn BeFree Gravity Water Filter – 3.0L

My main tip for getting started is committing. There will always be a million reasons why you’re not ready but committing to start is the biggest hurdle. If you would have asked me about backpacking when I was still getting back into hiking, I would have laughed in your face. This is not because I wasn’t interested but because I felt like I wasn’t capable. Backpacking is intimidating. It’s marketed for the extreme outdoors enthusiast that loves to go the extra distance. Or at least that’s how it felt to me before I started. I’ve also struggled with weak ankles due to overuse during my high school cross country running years. These weak ankles have only caused mild issues for day hiking but I worried it would be hazardous for backpacking. I only mention this as encouragement to not let similar issues stop you from doing what you want or at least trying. After deciding to start, you will need to choose your first trail. I would recommend keeping it short, staying close, and bringing a friend for your first time. All of these will be helpful if something goes wrong. A shorter trail will help you get acquainted with your pack weight and how a backpack feels without overexerting yourself. What might be an easy trail for you day hiking might not translate the same for backpacking. Staying close to home gives you more time in the day for hiking to your destination and keeps it in your familiar bubble. This will also give you extra time for finding and setting up a camp. Bringing a friend or two is not a requirement but will add to the fun, help your confidence level and disperse the weight among packs. If possible, pick a trail you can day hike beforehand as well to get an idea of the terrain. Less surprises, less stress.

Trip Report.

I had hiked this trail a month before with my friend, Alex, as a day hike which is how we landed on it for our first overnight trip. We knew it was backpackable, had multiple camp spots, and was a fairly easy trail. We originally planned the trip with four people but one couldn’t make it down from the Seattle area. We decided to divide the weight since there was only three of us and we all didn’t need multiples of the same thing. We still managed to overpack our packs for one night though. I was carrying the stove, pot, and water filter along with my own sleeping bag and pad. All essential and necessary for the trip. But I also managed to stuff a hammock, an extra blanket for sitting, my DSLR camera that I didn’t use, extra layers, and clothes in my pack. I was sharing a tent with my friend, Anjelica, so my one-person tent stayed home. That’s the only thing I ditched to “save” myself in weight. I also managed to forget to pack one of the most important items, toilet paper. I was lucky enough that my friends had enough to share. NOTE: DO NOT FORGET TOILET PAPER. Alex ended up carrying all the food plus three liters of wine and his dad’s old 6lb Eureka tent. Anjelica’s pack was probably the most reasonably packed of the bunch.

Crossing Burnt Lake Creek

This is a busier trail due to its proximity to town, so it is good to get to the trailhead earlier than later. We started at the North trailhead off of FS-1825 spur 109. The road will dead end at the trailhead and is paved up until the last mile and a half when you reach Lost Creek Campground. I drove us in my Civic and remember the gravel being well maintained. But it’s always good to check current conditions before you go. You will need a NW Forest Pass or equivalent to park at the trailhead. You will shortly pass into the wilderness boundary after you start hiking. Make sure to fill out a free self issue wilderness permit at the kiosk. The trail starts out very flat on an old decommissioned road in dense green forest. It is sandwiched between two creeks for half of the way; Lost Creek on the left and Burnt Lake Creek on the right. You will start to gain more elevation after you cross Burnt Lake Creek and continue up a few switch backs. It is a long gradual ascent until you reach the lake. There are a few small creeks to cross but Burnt Lake Creek is the most substantial. You will know you’re getting close to the lake when you’ve reached a no campfire sign. A reminder that there are no campfires allowed while camping at the lake and to only camp in designated camp spots. There is a small user trail that wraps around the lake and will take you to a day use area plus some of the camp spots. The shore of Burnt Lake is brushy and doesn’t offer many views unless you are directly on it. The main trail continues further into the wilderness where it connects with other trails. We found an available camp spot following the main trail just past the lake. It was off the trail a bit to the left and was secluded. You could still hear noise from other backpackers and day hikers near by, so you never felt completely alone.

After setting up camp, we decided to take a break by opening the wine. My body was sore from my improperly packed and over weighted pack. The bugs here weren’t great either but the wine helped. We had plans to hike further up the trail to East Zigzag Mountain but I didn’t want to push myself and the wine hit a little harder than expected. Before we drank too much we took a stroll to the lake to try and filter water for the first time. Filling up the gravity filter wasn’t working very well with the still water from the lake. It was a bit murky and didn’t fill as much as we needed. We remembered passing a small creek shortly before we reached the lake and decided to try that as a water source instead. A pump filter would’ve worked better for filtering directly from the lake. The creek we found ended up working better for what we had brought. We headed back to our camp to start a game of cards, drink the remainder of the wine, and eat. Alex was kind enough to do all the food planning for this trip. The dinner was a pesto pasta with a fancy meat, cheese, and cracker appetizer. We took a collective trip to the lake shore for dishes and to watch the sunset. It was a perfect sunset to end the day. After the dishes were done and the food was hung, we played cards until well after dark. Climbing into the tent was one of the highlights of the trip for me. We had left the rainfly off the tent and there were so many stars above. I had been camping plenty of times before this but I had never seen so many stars that were so clear. We truly fell asleep under the stars that night.

The next morning we woke up to the sun rising and debated getting out of bed to watch it rise over the lake. The coziness of our sleeping bags easily won that debate and we slept in for a couple more hours. We had bagels with homemade nut butter for breakfast and had a relatively uneventful pack up. The hike out was much easier than the hike in since it was all down hill to my car. My shoulders were still sensitive and sore from the unfamiliarity of the heavy pack. While hiking out we ended up taking a short out and back side trail to check out Lost Creek Falls. It was worth the detour if you like waterfalls. The remainder of the hike out flew by and we returned safely to my car. There’s always a sigh of relief when I see my car still there and find everything is still intact. We ended our first backpack by getting a late lunch and drinks in Portland to celebrate our success.

Lost Creek Falls
A map of our route

More Information.

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