Backpacking Oregon From Rugged Coastline to Mountain Meadow  by Douglas Lorain

Backpacking Oregon: From Rugged Coastline to Mountain Meadow Guide Book

by Douglas Lorain (Wilderness Press)
Backpacking Oregon From Rugged Coastline to Mountain Meadow  by Douglas Lorain
Backpacking Oregon details the premier backpacking opportunities across the Beaver State. Each of the 29 trips (plus 16 bonus ones) described here provides a scenic escape whether you have three days or two weeks. Enjoy some of the continent’s best scenery along the world-famous Oregon coast or visit the stunning mix of white granite peaks, sparkling lakes and streams, alpine meadows, and attractive forests of the Wallowa Mountains. Explore the peaks of Mount Hood and the Three Sisters in the High Cascades and the gaping chasm of Hells Canyon where you might choose, spectacular scenery and superb vistas await. All existing trips are fully up-to-date, and three new ones take you through some of the most isolated parts of the Wallowa Mountains and the Three Sisters Wilderness. Discover impressive old-growth forests and secluded wilderness lakes, a long alpine ridgeline with spectacular views, and a deep, river-carved wilderness canyon.

© 2007 Douglas Lorain/Wilderness Press. All Rights Reserved.

Trails from the "Backpacking Oregon: From Rugged Coastline to Mountain Meadow" Guide Book
Displaying trails 20 of 29.

Displaying trails 1 to 20 of 29.

Tucked away in a lesser used corner of the Wallowa Mountains, this loop provides an excellent opportunity for experienced hikers to explore some outstanding country, see plenty of wildlife, and enjoy lonesome trails. Although there is only one lake along the way, anglers have ample opportunity to try their luck catching Bear Creek’s many brook and rainbow trout. (Artificial flies or lures are required, and any bull trout must be released unharmed.) The hike also features two historic log cabins, both of which are worth exploring. This trip’s main attraction, however, at least from a scenery standpoint, is the spectacular hike along Washboard Ridge, one of the most outstanding ridge walks in Oregon. Although the views are awe inspiring, the hike is quite rugged, so only fit hikers should consider this trip.
Wallowa, OR - Backpacking,Hiking - Trail Length: 39
Backpackers who want a taste of what the Old Cascades used to be like will enjoy this loop through the Opal Creek and Bull of the Woods wilderness areas. The massive trees along Opal Creek drew national attention for many years as conservationists and timber interests debated their future. The battle was eventually decided when Congress officially designated Opal Creek as a wilderness and scenic area in 1996. In addition to cathedral forests, this loop hike features an excellent sampling of the Old Cascades’ other charms, including lots of blooming rhododendrons, view-packed ridges, small but scenic mountain lakes, cascading streams, and surprisingly uncrowded trails.
Salem, OR - Backpacking,Hiking - Trail Length: 41
Close proximity to Portland and a wealth of easily accessible attractions ensure that dayhikers will always dominate the trails of the Columbia River Gorge. For those willing to invest more time in exploring the gorge’s wonders, however, a backpacking trip is ideal. This loop provides an excellent sampling of all the gorge has to offer. There are deep forests, waterfalls, splashing creeks, high viewpoints, and cliffs. It includes busy trails beside major highways as well as rarely traveled paths in the remote backcountry. There is no better way to get to know and appreciate this special place.
Hood River, OR - Backpacking,Hiking - Trail Length: 39
Until recently, almost no one in Oregon had heard of the Pueblo Mountains. If you told someone you were going to “the Pueblos” they assumed you were driving to the American Southwest to check out old Native American dwellings. Even today, despite a good paved road along their base and a segment of the Desert Trail running through them, the Pueblos remain isolated and receive relatively little use. But this desert range has a great deal to offer. Views seem to stretch to eternity. There are permanent streams and springs (rare for southeastern Oregon). Enough snow falls that the high cliffs and peaks are picturesquely streaked with white into June, and spring wildflowers put on a beautiful show. Don’t expect much shade, however, as trees are limited to a few mountain mahogany and aspen.
Fields, OR - Backpacking,Hiking - Trail Length: 22
The high, snowy ridge of Diamond Peak rises impressively over the lush forests and quiet lakes south of Willamette Pass. Despite easy access and beautiful scenery, the wilderness surrounding this mountain receives less use than other areas. Like a neglected stepchild, Diamond Peak is ignored by most Oregonians in favor of the Three Sisters to the north or Mount Thielsen to the south. Diamond Peak, however, provides scenery to rival any other major Cascade peak—and this trip proves it.
Oakridge, OR - Backpacking,Hiking - Trail Length: 27
Here is yet another remarkably beautiful loop hike through the spectacular Wallowa Mountains. The focus here is on the southeast part of the range. As is true everywhere in these mountains, this trip features a wealth of breathtaking mountain scenery. The author’s vocabulary of adjectives is simply inadequate to convey the glories. In the “Newspeak” language of George Orwell’s 1984, the scenery is “double plus good”.
Baker City, OR - Backpacking,Hiking - Trail Length: 38
The jagged spine of the Elkhorn Range rises dramatically above Baker City and the Powder River Valley. Strangely, although countless thousands of people drive past these impressive peaks on Interstate 84, relatively few stop to explore. This narrow range hides many of the same treasures that make the nearby Wallowa Mountains so popular (granite peaks, glacial lakes, and clear streams), but for some reason it receives only a tiny fraction of the publicity. Lovers of solitude would prefer it stayed that way. Unfortunately, most of this range is unprotected and therefore open to mining (once an important business in these mountains), logging, and motorbikes. A trip along the view-packed Elkhorn Crest Trail is the ideal way for backpackers to enjoy this lovely range and learn what is at stake. This relatively easy trail closely follows a high ridge for its entire length. Side trails drop to numerous lakes and meadows with scenic campsites. The trip is beautiful in either direction, but south to north is marginally easier, since the start is some 400 feet higher.
Baker City, OR - Backpacking,Hiking - Trail Length: 28
For lovers of canyon scenery and wildflowers, the Bench Trail through Hells Canyon is the experience of a lifetime. Following a mid-canyon route about halfway between the river and the Summit Ridge, this spectacular tour provides a greater variety of scenery than any other long trail in the canyon. Not only are there views across the canyon to the peaks in Idaho, but also down into the depths below, up to the contorted canyon walls above, and, often most impressive of all, of the scenic meadows right at the hiker’s feet. Photographers must become very choosy to avoid running out of film. This trail also travels through the finest examples of native bunchgrass in Oregon—a plant community lost elsewhere to the hooves of cattle and introduced plant species. In season, wildflowers and wildlife are perhaps more abundant here than on any other long trail in the state.
Imnaha, OR - Backpacking,Hiking - Trail Length: 63
Of the three long trails in Hells Canyon described in this guide, the Western Rim Trail is the most comfortable for backpackers. There are comparatively few steep ups and downs here since the path follows the surprisingly gentle Summit Ridge. The unbearable heat of the lower canyon is replaced by higher-elevation temperatures that are 20 or more degrees cooler. Nights too are more comfortably cool for sleeping. There is also plenty of shade among the rim’s evergreen forests. On the other hand, the rim route has fewer water sources, so camping choices are limited.
Imnaha, OR - Backpacking,Hiking - Trail Length: 53
Tucked away on the east side of Owyhee Reservoir is a land of striking beauty. In the dry canyons of this desert country are a collection of oddly shaped rock pinnacles, towers, and cliffs painted in a colorful array of browns, reds, and oranges. In spring, especially after a wet winter, the sagebrush and grasses turn green, and wildflowers like balsam root and paintbrush add yellows, reds and other colors to the scene. Hikers familiar with the canyonlands of southern Utah will feel right at home. From the south end of the cliffs, you walk up a scenic draw that heads initially south and then loops around to the northeast. This gulch goes through the heart of the "Honeycombs"--a spectacular region with a dizzying display of colorful rock formations, many pockmarked with holes and small caves. The north side of the canyon is particularly impressive.
Jordan Valley, OR - Backpacking,Hiking - Trail Length: 17
This is one of several classic loop hikes in the Wallowa Mountains. Like the others, this one includes all the major attractions of this wonderful range. There are mountain lakes, high alpine passes, wildflower-filled meadows, clear streams, and granite peaks. These features make this hike fairly popular, but it’s not as crowded as the Wallowa River Loop. For those with less time or ambition, this route lends itself nicely to a shorter version. In fact, the most common way this trip is done skips East Lostine Canyon and Minam Lake, and heads directly up the West Lostine River to the Copper Creek Trail. Without side trips this alternate loop is only about 32 miles long. Don’t forget your fishing gear (lots of lake and stream fishing is available), binoculars (to search for elk, bighorn sheep, and mountain goats), swim suit, and, most of all, your camera (the scenery is terrific).
LaGrande, OR - Backpacking,Hiking - Trail Length: 43
Although this western third of the Eagle Cap Wilderness is easier for most Oregonians to reach, who drive from the populous Willamette Valley, it receives far fewer visitors than the central portion of the preserve. The reason for this seeming incongruity is that this part of the wilderness has none of the fish-filled lakes or high granite peaks that draw crowds to other parts of the Wallowa Mountains. Nonetheless, there is still plenty of great scenery, most notably high alpine ridges that boast terrific views, plenty of wildflowers, and the remarkably clear Minam River, which flows through an impressive 3500-foot-deep forested canyon. In addition, while you probably won’t have the trails all to yourself, you also won’t have to fight off other backpackers for a good campsite, which is sometimes a problem in the more popular areas to the east.
Cove, OR - Backpacking,Hiking - Trail Length: 35
The south half of the Three Sisters Wilderness has a totally different character than the north. There are no tall peaks, no glaciers, few meadows, and only limited views. What the hiker will discover, however, are miles of pleasant forest trails and enough lakes to impress even Minnesota natives. Every turn of the trail seems to reveal another lovely mountain pool ranging from a small pond to a large lake. Each is different enough in character that lovers of lake fishing, swimming, rafting, or just viewing can stay happy for weeks. The second nice thing about this country is the easy hiking. Since almost everything is at roughly the same elevation, extended ups and downs simply don’t exist—which means a lot less work for tired backpackers. This trip is perfect for hikers of advancing years with knees that suffer on long downhills, or as a first long backpack for younger travelers. Easy trails and numerous lakes allow for short hiking days and lots of time for lazy afternoons.
Sunriver, OR - Backpacking,Hiking - Trail Length: 24
The Pacific Crest Trail traces the entire mountainous backbone of Oregon. Along the way it visits most of the scenic highlights of the Cascade Range. Most hikers rank the section through the Mount Jefferson Wilderness as the best part of the PCT’s route through Oregon, and it would be difficult to argue with them. The trail stays high for most of its length here, providing memorable vistas at nearly every turn. Continuing the trip north through the Olallie Scenic Area adds even more lovely meadows and lakes. Hiking this additional section also eliminates the need to drive the very poor road to the Breitenbush Lake trailhead.
Detroit, OR - Backpacking,Hiking - Trail Length: 44
This wonderful hike has a split personality. The first part travels through the wild canyon of the North Umpqua River, where the highlights are old-growth forests, towering waterfalls, columnar basalt formations, and a lovely stream. The second half of the hike climbs to the Cascade crest and explores the scenic meadows, crags, and views around Howlock Mountain and Mount Thielsen. Few people hike these two trails in one outing because they are separated by a less attractive area around busy Lemolo Lake. Done in combination, however, they are a great experience. This is one of the few places in Oregon where it is still possible to take the long, respectful, trail approach to the high country that was formerly the only way to visit it. By starting from low-elevation riverside forests and gradually working up to the high volcanic peaks, the hiker gets a complete sampling of the Cascade Mountains’ many environments and charms. It is, of course, possible to do this trip from high to low (which would mean less elevation gain), but going from low to high saves the climax scenery for the end.
Diamond Lake, OR - Backpacking,Hiking - Trail Length: 46
For the most part, Highway 101 closely hugs the Oregon shoreline, rarely out of sight of the ocean. Between Bandon and Port Orford, however, the highway takes an inland course miles away from the beach. The result of this fortuitous decision by the road planners is Oregon’s quietest stretch of beaches and scenic headlands. This hike follows the state’s only true wilderness beach, and deserves the attention of backpackers who love coastal scenery, wildlife, and wild surf. Warning: Unless you are a strong hiker with experience in stream crossings, this trip is best done in late summer or fall. Crossing the Sixes and Elk rivers may be impossible early in the year. Since either direction is equally nice, the author’s recommendation is to check the forecast and hike the direction with the wind at your back (usually north to south in summer and the reverse in winter—fall and spring are variable). Bring binoculars to observe the abundant wildlife, particularly birds.
Bandon, OR - Backpacking,Hiking - Trail Length: 29
This popular stretch of the Oregon Coast Trail packs a lot of scenic variety in a small area. From beaches and tidepools to dense forests and high viewpoints this trip has it all. Add a dose of history and you have a great early- or late-season hike. May is best for flowers, but fall is also pleasant and has fewer people. The entire stretch can be done as a series of fairly easy day-hikes, but a backpacking trip is more satisfying for the connoisseur. The hike is equally attractive in either direction. You begin with a long climb through the second-growth forests of Ecola State Park. After 1.7 miles you reach the top of hulking Tillamook Head. A short side trail reaches the summit, which has rather disappointing views. The scenery soon improves considerably as the trail closely follows the edge of Tillamook Head’s dramatic cliffs. Several places provide breaks in the trees with sweeping views of cliffs and ocean. Not necessarily the best but certainly the most interesting of these viewpoints is signed CLARK’S POINT OF VIEW.
Seaside, OR - Backpacking,Hiking - Trail Length: 31
Southern Oregon’s Rogue River has earned a special place in the hearts of whitewater rafters. The 40-mile float trip from Grave Creek to Illahe is one of the most popular in the country, and it’s easy to understand why. This wild canyon provides continuously spectacular scenery, waterfalls, unusually abundant wildlife, and plenty of thrilling rapids. The Bureau of Land Management has a lottery system in place to regulate the number of people on the river. For backpackers there is an equally scenic way to see this roadless canyon. The Rogue River Trail has no crowds and requires no permits. The route parallels the north bank of the river for the entire distance. It is unquestionably one of Oregon’s most exciting long backpacking trips.
Wolf Creek, OR - Backpacking,Hiking - Trail Length: 40
The Three Sisters Wilderness is the most visited wilderness area in Oregon, so it’s not surprising that hikers sometimes have a hard time finding uncrowded trails. But solitude-loving pedestrians need not fear because such trails do exist. The key to finding them is to realize that the vast majority of the visitors to this huge wilderness concentrate around a handful of very popular destinations. If you avoid these areas, there is a good chance you will have the trail all to yourself. This loop takes you through some of the quietest parts of the preserve as it makes a long, woodsy approach to the more crowded high country. In addition to solitude, this warm-up period helps build anticipation for the great scenery to come and, if you start your trip on a Saturday, as most people do, it won’t be until the quieter days of midweek that you reach the popular meadows and lakes around timberline.
Elk Lake, OR - Backpacking,Hiking - Trail Length: 42
The Siskiyou Mountains are unique. Nowhere else in the world is there a similar combination of converging climatic zones, merging geographic regions, and rare soils. The unusual east-west orientation of the range also helps to create a peculiar pattern of rainfall and ecological zones. The result is one of the most diverse plant communities on the continent. There are both dry-zone plants and rainforest ferns; odd-looking endemic species live beside familiar favorites; alpine wildflowers grow next to sagebrush; and more different species of conifers live here than almost anywhere else on the planet (exceeded only by a few mountain ranges south of here.) But this area has more to offer than just unique flora. There is also a fascinating and highly scenic mix of rocks. Shining white marble intrusions mix with gray granite and green-black serpentinite, while in other places red-dish-orange peridotite turns whole mountains its own special color. There are also small lakes and frequent views to enchant the visitor.
Medford, OR - Backpacking,Hiking - Trail Length: 37