Section of Snipes Mountain Trail #11
Updated: Nov 28, 2022
Trail Name: Snipes Mountain Trail #11 Trail Type: In and out Access: Trail Distance: 3.75 miles (round trip) Elevation Range: 3470′ to 4607′ Ascent/Descent: +894 ft / -877 ft Note: If we had been able to follow the trail the whole time without losing it, it would have been 2.2 miles one way to the point we went to. Permits: If entering Mt Adams Wilderness boundary, you need to fill out a free, self-issue wilderness permit at the trailhead. If you aren’t going to pass the wilderness boundary on your hike, you don’t need to fill out a permit (to my understanding at least). Date hike was done: 4-29-21
Whole Trail Distance (one-way): 5.5 miles Elevation Range: 3758′ to 6280′ Ascent/Descent: +2558 ft / -37 ft
I didn’t plan on hiking this trail before we got to it. My mom and I were exploring forest service roads in Gifford Pinchot National Forest checking out snow levels. We’d driven through a snow drift and saw burnt forest on one side of the road. There was a trailhead. It appeared that if we went down the trail we might have a good view of Mt Adams. So we decided to go for what I planned on being a “short” hike. It was around 4pm.
I ended up just wearing my “car clothes” which consisted of a tank top and sweatpants. I did put my hiking boots on and take my backpack. It was surprisingly comfortable hiking in just the tank top. We went to the trailhead and I filled out a wilderness permit (I was unaware that I didn’t have to unless we were actually passing the wilderness boundary. We would have to go 5 miles one way to reach it so it was completely unnecessary).
We started down the trail and immediately started climbing over downed trees across the trail. There was quite a bit. The trail was sort of difficult to spot. There was just barely an indent that we could see. As we kept going it became increasingly more difficult to follow and easy to lose. Walking through a burnt forest there are different hazards we had to look out for compared to my usual hiking areas. I really kept my eyes on the trees and had to watch out for loose ground where roots had been burnt out.
The trail follows A.G. Aiken Lava Bed which is 4,000 years old. It’s a large, long pile of dark rock. It was kind of eerie with all the burnt trees, pretty much no green undergrowth, and piles of black rock. If we looked hard we were able to find some life. There were a few trilliums and some small sprouts of green. There was brown grass that was stuck to the ground. I assume during the summer after it has recovered from the snow it comes to life and probably helps one to better see where the trail goes.
A ways down the trail we started to hear water. We were following along a stream, but it had been dry at the trailhead. The further we went the closer the sound was and we discovered that further up stream it wasn’t dry and actually had a decent amount of water. There was a stream crossing as the trail crossed to the other side. It was an easy crossing. We saw animal tracks along the trail and some dried scat. We saw glimpses of Mt Adams, but we both kept saying if we just got to that next hill maybe we would have a better view.
We ended up climbing up a larger hill with actual switchbacks. The trail was near impossible to follow and there were occasional small snow patches. We made it to the top of the “hill” and discovered there were just more hills behind it. We went as far as we could before snow made it impossible to continue further. I was shocked we made it to 4,600 feet elevation. I hadn’t expected that. We looked back across the valley and discovered we had a really amazing view of Mt Hood. We found a log to sit on and I ate something while just took in the view.
We started on our way back down the hill. As we neared the last peak before we descended down to the “flatter” area that lead back to the creek, I stopped to look out across the area below us. I saw some movement and pointed it out telling my mom it looked like a coyote. We held still and watched. My mom said it actually looked like a fox with its tail and ears. It was really exciting. I’ve seen a small fox in the high desert in Eastern Oregon, but I’ve never seen a larger fox. It was a light orangey, tan color. We were downwind so it spotted us pretty quickly and took off. I got video of it on my GoPro, but it was too far away to really see anything except movement through the camera.
As we made our way down the trail we came across fresh tracks in the snow. The fox was ahead of us, but we didn’t spot it again. We climbed across deadfall and I got a few scrapes. We made it back to the trailhead well before sunset. I was pleasantly surprised with this trail. I hadn’t gotten my good view of Mt Adams, but did get a pretty spectacular view of Mt Hood. It ended up being a fun adventure, and quite a big longer than I had originally anticipated. We went almost 4 miles with good portions of that not following the trail since we couldn’t.
Once I got home I looked up information about the trail and discovered the large rock piles were actually an old lava bed (well relatively young compared to others, but still 4,000 years seems old) and I looked up when the fire burned through the area. Turns out it actually burnt twice which explains why it’s so barren. The 2008 Cold Springs Fire and the 2015 Cougar Creek Fire both burnt this area.
Parking: 46.09311, -121.47888
Trailhead: 46.09303, -121.47996
Stream crossing: 46.09987, -121.47927
Turned around on trail due to snow: 46.11170, -121.48046
How to get there (from Trout Lake, WA)
Take Mt Adams Recreation Hwy/Mt Adams Rd out of Trout Lake for 1.3 miles. Keep right on Hwy (turns into FS 82) and continue for 3.2 miles. Proceed straight on FS 8225 for 3.1 miles. Continue straight on FS 150 for 0.7 miles. Trailhead is on left side of the road. Parking is further down road on right side.
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