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  • Writer's pictureTina McLain

Lookout Mountain

A peak with multiple mountain views in Badger Creek Wilderness in Mt Hood National Forest.


View of Mt Hood from Lookout Mountain

Peak Name: Lookout Mountain

Peak Coordinate: 45.342463, -121.524174

Peak Elevation: 6525'

Access: Trail

Distance: 7.05 miles (round trip) *longer mileage due to snow — trail would be 2,7 mile loop from TH

Elevation Range: 5343' to 6525'

Ascent/Descent: +1161 ft / -1156 ft

Route Type: Lollipop (due to snow conditions; during summer could be done as a loop or in & out)

Route/Trails: Road walk FS 4410 & 4420, High Prairie Trail #493, Divide Trail #458

Outing Type: Day Hike

Permit/Fees: If parking at High Prairie Trailhead a Northwest Forest Pass is required

Notes: I did this hike before the snow had melted off. Had to start 2 miles before trailhead due to snow which added 4 miles to this hike. The majority of the trail was in snow and required navigating most of the way.

Location: On the northern edge of Badger Creek Wilderness in Mt Hood National Forest, Oregon, U.S.A.

Administration: Mount Hood National Forest

Ranger District: Barlow Ranger District

Date Accessed: May 30, 2024


I’d seen a trip report on AllTrails from two days before that mentioned conditions briefly. I decided to try doing the hike as a day hike fully prepared for having to start my hike well before the trailhead. I ended up starting two miles before the trailhead. I parked along side the road right before the first snow drift. I got my gear together and got Jac all ready. Then we started out.


Snow of FS 4410

The first half mile had sections of clear road and then occasional drifts of snow until I got to the point it was all snow across the road ranging from 2-4ft. I gained about 500ft in elevation just from hiking up the road. We came across some elk tracks and some coyote scat.


Snow on FS 4420

Once I reached the turn off from 4410 to 4420 there were a few patches of road visible from where it was exposed to the sun. I made it the short way down to the trailhead. The high prairie trail was entirely covered in snow ranging from 2-5ft. Jac was doing really good with the snow.


I had to navigate the majority of the trail due to the depth of snow and lack of an obvious trail/tracks. I could occasionally make out what appeared to maybe be boot prints, but nothing obvious. The first part of the trail wandered through forest and a few open areas that I’m guessing are meadows during the summer months. There were only two downed trees I had to climb over. 


High Prairie Trailhead

When the trail intersected at 45.34367, -121.53055, I decided to continue on the High Prairie Trail #493 and follow the loop clockwise to the Divide Trail #458. This section I put my micro spikes on for. It climbed up the side of a steep snow covered hillside. I had to kick step a majority of it with the steepness of the slope. It definitely felt like a lot to juggle. I was having to navigate, kick step while making sure I was being safe ascending the slopes, watching out for my dog and making sure he was being safe, all while having to plot my route through the snowy terrain.


As I neared the top of the trail there was a bit of a cornice I avoided crossing under by climbing straight up and passed above it. This was where the High Prairie Trail intersected with the Divide Trail.


Wilderness Boundary along "trail"

I took my microspikes off here since the last 200ft to the top of Lookout Mountain was snow free since the trail was along a south facing, exposed slope. So the snow had already melted off. It took me a moment to find the trail, accidentally went a little too far downhill, but was easily able to get back on course.


Open area of trail

Jac and I climbed to the top of Lookout Mountain and we were met by great views in all directions. The top of the mountain was rocky with the remnants of the the base of the old lookout tower that isn’t there anymore. According to OregonHikers, the lookout was built in 1914 and was closed and removed soon after in 1966.



On the north side of the peak were views of Mt Adams, Mt Rainier (partially obscured by cloud cover), and Mt St Helens. To the west was Mt Hood. And to the south was Mt Jefferson, Three Fingered Jack, Three Sisters, and Mt Bachelor. I sat at the top for a while to eat and have a break. It was really beautiful. I loved the views down and across the Badger Creek Wilderness as well as to east across the desert. 



There were bugs out but no bugs biting so I didn’t have to use any bug spray which was nice. I put my micro-spikes back on once I reached the snow. Where the trails intersected I decided to take the Divide Trail along the ridge to the west instead of going back down the snow covered slopes the way I came.


There were some cool views along the ridge which had cliffs dropping down the south slope. There were really great views of Badger Creek Wilderness. The snow was a bit of a slog to try and navigate through in this section. I just stayed close the south side of the ridge without being too close to the cliffs and was able to make my way between trees.


View from Lookout Mountain - (right) Three Sisters, Three Finger Jack, Mt Jefferson

On the south end of the ridge there was a great view of Mt Hood at 45.34177, -121.53027, I think it was even better than the view from Lookout Mountain. The Divide Trail #458 then intersected with the other side of the High Prairie Trail #493. I took the turn off to the High Prairie trail and proceeded to regret all my life choices that led me to that moment.


View to north on Lookout Mountain - (right) Mt St Helens, Mt Rainier, Mt Adams

The trail descended a bit and followed along the steep hillside. There were snow drifts across the trail that were steep, tall, and icy. They were a real bitch to try and navigate over or around. It appeared it would be easier since it wasn't all snow but that was deceiving. The dog and I definitely slid a few times.


I was having to be really careful with how I crossed these to keep both me and my dog safe. I slid down a few on my butt and scuffed up my knuckles doing so. I was not in a good mood and feeling rather overwhelmed. This section would have been a lot easier to do without a dog.


Headed down Lookout Mountain trail to Divide Trail

I reached a point where the “trail” in a snowy section suddenly dropped a good 10-15ft straight down. Basically the snow drift was tall and steeply dropped to where the trail was below. I was trying to figure out how the hell I was supposed to try and get down it or if I’d need to turn around and go back the other way.


It took me a few minutes to figure out a path and determine the snow conditions I would be working with. I was able to kick step into the side of the steep face close to the upper part of the slope where there were a few smaller trees I was able to use for support. Jac did pretty good listening to me in this section but I could tell he wasn’t a fan of it either.



We thankfully made our way down the snow slope to the loose scree below safely and back to the trail. I didn’t take any pictures of this section because in that moment the last thing I wanted to do was have to look at it again. In hindsight I kind of wish I’d taken a picture. I realized post-hike I didn't take pictures of any of the more difficult sections because I was just so focused on getting through them.


We continued down the trail which was still losing some elevation and ran into some of the same issues again. Steep drifts across the trail and I reached another point with a steep multi-foot drop but thankfully the small connector trail over to the “inland" part (east side) of the High Prairie loop was nearby so I just cut away from the trail and ascended the slope above me to the area the connector trail was in and bypassed another snow "cliff" descent.


Cool views along south side of ridge

Once I reached the trail intersection and I was back to a familiar area, I was ready to cry with relief. The rest of the way back was on a portion of trail I'd covered before and significantly less steep than the area’s I’d been navigating. It felt like a lot better option then trying to follow the west side trail back to the trailhead.



It was around this point that my phone showed I only had 20% left. I’d forgotten to put it in airplane mode and low battery mode so I quickly did that. I had to occasionally use it to navigate back to the trailhead which I hiked rather quickly to make sure I made it to an area I felt comfortable without navigation if my phone went out. The snow was definitely softer since it was mid-afternoon, but I didn’t have too much issue with post-holing. I only had one instance where one leg really sunk down, and Jac had it happen once. Overall not bad conditions for mid-afternoon.



We made it back to the trailhead and there was a picnic table I was able to take my micro-spikes off which felt wonderful. There was still about 1.5 miles left of hiking in the snow (then 0.5 miles in intermittent snow) but I felt okay doing it without them since it wasn’t steep.


Jac and I made our way back down the road and we were both done. I was in a good amount of pain and ready to lay down. Once we reached the car I cleaned Jac up, got him water, and he promptly laid down and started snoozing. I drove us down to one of my favorite dispersed camping sites in the area and finally got to eat and lay down which felt wonderful.



This hike ended up being a bit more challenging than I expected, but I enjoyed the journey. It would be significantly easier to do when there’s no snow. A walk in the park comparatively. This trail did have some slopes where being avalanche aware would be advised due to slope angle.


It was good conditions when I went out but is always something to be aware of when recreating in the snow. I did fine with microspikes and a trekking pole. I’d recommend waterproof boots too, since I wasn’t sinking in the snow I did fine with my normal hiking pants and dirty girl gaiters.


The one advantage to going this early in the season and with there still being snow was I didn’t see a single person out on the trail or on the road walking portion. Jac and I had it all to ourselves which was pretty cool.


Coordinates

  • Where I parked along FS 4410 (at 5372 ft elevation): 45.37115, -121.53522

  • FS 4410 and FS 4420 intersection: 45.35183, -121.53396

  • High Prairie Trailhead parking area: 45.35236, -121.53130

  • High Prairie Trailhead: 45.35202, -121.53113

  • Short intersection trail between two sides of High Prairie trail (east side): 45.34368, -121.53054

  • High Prairie trail intersection with Divide Trail: 45.34247, -121.52578

  • Divide Trail intersection with trail to Lookout Mountain: 45.34227, -121.52415

  • Lookout Mountain: 45.342463, -121.524174

  • View of Mt Hood from Divide Trail: 45.34177, -121.53025

  • Divide Trail and west side High Prairie Trail intersection (Divide trail continues down into badger creek wilderness): 45.34164, -121.52990

  • Short intersection trail between two sides of High Prairie trail (west side): 45.34345, -121.53081

  • Two routes of High Prairie trail intersect near trailhead: 45.35191, -121.53113

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My Wild Adventure is not responsible for your safety, any possible injury, or anything that happens if you choose to follow anything on this website. Maps are not intended to be used for navigational purposes, but to give an overview of the route taken. By going outdoors you are solely responsible to know your strengths and limitations, be aware of current conditions and proceed with the appropriate caution. My Wild Adventure is not responsible for your choices and the outcome. Reference my disclaimer for more information on being responsible outdoors.

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