Updated: Nov 10, 2022
A "lost trail" that leads to a swampy lake in Mount Hood National Forest.
Lake Name: Huxley Lake Lake Coordinates: 45.1860, -122.0768 Lake Elevation: 2556′ Access: "Lost" Trail Distance: 6.20 miles (round trip)
Elevation Range: 2663' to 4057'
Ascent/Descent: +1625 ft / -1634 ft Trail Type: In and out Trails: Coral Springs Trail #507 & Huxley Lake Trail #521 Note: This is considered a “lost hike.” The trail is overgrown and is not maintained. There are some long, steep sections of trail. Date hike was done: 6-10-20
I’d been trying to figure out how to access this lake since the beginning of March. I attempted taking the road south of the lake to access the trailhead there the first time I went, but the road quickly became a muddy mush that was impassible. I turned around and tried going up the road to the north of the lake, but was stopped as well due to snow. So I waited until June to try the north road again in hopes that the snow had melted. This time I was able to make it to the trailhead.
On the forest service map it’s referenced as Lookout Springs, but in the parking lot there is a sign that says “Huxley Lake Trailhead.” My mom joined me for this hike. Even though I’d printed off the trail description from Oregon Hikers, we had a difficult time finding the trail at first. There isn’t any sign that clearly indicates where the trail starts. At first, we ended up going down the wrong “trail,” so we turned around and came back to the trailhead area and got it figured out.
Here’s my best description: Once you exit your vehicle and head toward the trailhead side, on the other side of the burm stay towards the left. There are three large rocks blocking a path. That’s the direction you want to go. It turns into a trail and looks less like a huge open area. I used the Gaia GPS app to track and make sure we were going in the right direction and staying on the trail. I personally wouldn’t recommend doing this hike without some form of GPS just to make sure you’re where you’re supposed to be. (Remember to always bring a compass and paper map if your GPS system fails and know how to use it.)
The trail I started out on wasn’t the Huxley Lake Trail, it was actually called Coral Springs Trail #507. After a 1/2 mile there is an intersection in the trail with the turn off for the Huxley Lake Trail #521. There isn’t a sign, it looked like there used to be one, but it’s no longer there. There is a sign on a tree parallel to the Coral Springs Trail. This would only be seen if coming from the Huxley Lake Trail to the terminus though.
We consulted the GPS and determined the turn off trail was the one we wanted to get to Huxley Lake. The trail didn’t appear to be maintained and is considered by Oregon Hikers to be a lost trail. Most of the trail was downhill and most of the downhill is rather steep. There is a 1,500′ elevation descent down to Huxley Lake from the Lookout Springs Trailhead.
The first part of the trail had a more open forest feel with green bushes scattered throughout. Then it got a bit more dense with rhodies as the trail started to descend more steeply downhill. The slope continued to get steeper and steeper. There was frequent windfall we had to climb over and the brush was overgrown a bit and would brush against us as we walked by.
After a little while the forest became more dense, but the underbrush got less so. The whole forest floor was covered in a delicate blanket of clovers. The trail got very steep in this section. A vast majority was a 45º slope. The steep descent wasn’t great, I was really dreading the thought of having to go back up it!
We heard the sound of water before we saw the stream. It was on the right side of the trail. There was one point where it came within 15 ft of the trail. We walked over to the creek and there was water coming out of logs which was really cool. The water was clear and cold. The stream is likely seasonal. After a short break, we went back and continued down the trail.
The trail sort of leveled out for a very brief distance. There was a junction in the trail and we were presented with two options, straight or to the left. The trail that went to the left was more worn and it ended up being the correct continuation of Huxley Lake Trail. But it was a little tricky to figure out. The trail went through some dead forest and then started to descend downhill again, but this time more gradually.
The trail got very narrow, less than 1 ft wide. The brush was overgrown and it felt like it was trying to swallow me along with the trail. There was one very overgrown section where water ran across the trail. Throughout this entire section one side of the trail (the left side) went straight down and the other side straight up. It wasn’t a cliff drop, but it was a steep slope that went a long ways down. Definitely wouldn’t want to fall down it.
As we got closer to the lake the trail leveled out briefly again. There was a divide in the trail that was barley noticeable. We took the path to the left which appeared to lead in the direction of the lake. It went downhill to the lake. In this section of trail we saw numerous newts. We counted 12. It was 3.1 miles to the lake one way and took us 2 hr 30 min.
The lake ended up being larger than I expected. The edges were rather swampy and dense with foliage. There was a lot of skunk cabbage, green bushes, trees, and tall plants lining the edge of the lake. We went to the right around the lower section of the lake to see if we could find a more open spot to take pictures. We ended up crossing a marshy creek on some questionable, downed trees. It was quite the experience trying to cross it. I had to full on hug a small tree in the middle of the downed log to get around it. We made it to the other side and I was able to take some pictures.
After a brief break we started the trek back. All uphill! It was very steep and pretty miserable at some points. By now I wasn’t even phased by all the plants touching me anymore. The gradual hill wasn’t fun, but we were able to keep a good pace going up. We stopped for a snack break before we started up the steepest section. One of my feet was hurting pretty bad due to some issues I’ve been having with my hiking boots (which I am working on taking care of.)
We stopped at the creek we had passed on the way down so I could fill up my water bladder. The water was so cold and delicious. There really is nothing like mountain spring water. We then continued up the steep section. It honestly was pretty painful. We’d hike a ways and then have to stop to let our legs rest for a few seconds. We did that repeatedly for that whole section. Our motto was “get ‘er done.” It made us laugh each time the other person said it.
The trail became less steep and more of just “uphill.” I was pretty excited when we got to the junction for the Coral Springs Trail. It was only a 1/2 mile back to the trailhead from there. The trail was more flat and in some parts slightly downhill. The whole trail round trip was 6.2 miles. The hike back took us 2 hr 50 min. Round-trip it totaled 6 hr 20 min.
It was a fun adventure and definitely an intense workout. It’s comparable in intensity to the Vernal Falls & Nevada Falls trail in Yosemite.
TH parking: 45.21198, -122.06552
Start of steep section: 45.20138, -122.06608 (at 3792 ft elevation)
End of steep section: 45.19470, -122.07020 (at 3079 ft elevation)
Water source: 45.19664, -122.06883
Spur trail off to lake: 45.18722, -122.07987
Photo spot for lake: 45.18527, -122.07647
How to get there (from Estacada, OR)
Take Hwy 224 out of Estacada for 8 miles. Turn left on to NF 4610 and continue on road for 13.7 miles. The trailhead parking area (labeled Lookout Springs on the Forest Service Map) is on the right side of the road.
Lake Coordinates: 45.1860, -122.0768
Clackamas River Ranger District map location: T4S R6E S33
This shows the approximate route taken. I hadn't learned how to use the track feature in GaiaGPS yet when I did this hike so this is just an approximation of the route we took. The milage on this track is off since it isn't a direct track, I recorded the mileage on my watch which is accurate at the start of this post.
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