Ape Caves

Directions: Take I-5 North to exit 21 (Woodland/Highway 503) and follow Highway 503 East through the town of Cougar. Highway 503 turns into FR-90, continue on FR-90 and take a left onto Road 83 (signed for Ape Caves and Lava Canyon). Follow the signs to Ape Caves.

The Ape Cave is a large lava tube that was formed about 2,000 years ago from a lava flow on Mt. St. Helens. It is the third longest in North America. The lava tube temperature is 42 degrees year round (bring those jackets, even in the summer heat). It’s recommended that each person has two light sources. You can rent lanterns for $5 at the Ape Headquarters but it is not open year round, call ahead.

DSC_0189

From the parking area follow the short trail that takes you to the opening of the tube. There are lots of interpretive signs and usually a forest service employee in this area. Head down the steps and immediately feel the temperature drop, most people stop here and layer up! Head into the tube and come to two sets of stairs, follow signs for the lower cave.

unnamed

From here you are just walking through the tube, you may get dripped on a few times as well. You will pass the “meatball” which is a blob that hardened in a narrow space. The tube is .75 miles one way and narrows the farther you go. The ground is very uneven so watch your step! The very end of the tube is only accessible if you are comfortable crawling. Once you reach where you feel like stopping turn around and head back out the way you came.

DSC_0204

Distance: 1.5 Miles

Elevation: 150 feet

Difficulty: Easy

Pet Friendly: Dogs are not allowed in the Ape Caves.

Good For: All ages- just make sure you are sure footed and ok with low light situations. We did see some young children crying, most likely because it’s so dark.

Bathrooms: Yes

Parking Fee: $5 NW Forest Pass

Seasons: Open all year but call ahead late fall through spring.

Popular: Very

Overall: Fun experience, can get extremely busy during summer weekends.

Trail Of Two Forests

Directions: Directions: Take I-5 North to exit 21 (Woodland/Highway 503) and follow Highway 503 East through the town of Cougar. Highway 503 turns into FR-90, continue on FR-90 and take a left onto Road 83 (signed for Ape Caves and Lava Canyon). Follow signs for Ape Caves, the parking area for Trail Of Two Forests is just before the caves.

This is a short interpretive trail that is a great addition to any of the hikes in the area.

From the parking area get on the boardwalk trail and follow it to a split in the trail. Go right and head past some interpretive signs about the area. You will soon come to a fun part in the trail, the tree casts. This is where lava flowed through the area and made molds of the trees. There are quite a few of the casts along the trail. You can take a ladder down into one of the horizontal casts and crawl through them.

DSC_0172      DSC_0176

DSC_0180      DSC_0177

Keep following the boardwalk around the loop and it takes you back to your car.

Distance: .3 Mile

Elevation: 30 feet

Difficulty: Easy

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: Vault toilet at the trailhead.

Parking Fee: $5 NW Forest Pass

Seasons: Late spring through fall. There are snow gates, call before hiking.

Popular: Yes

Overall: Very informative little walk, great place for kids.

June Lake

Directions: Directions: Take I-5 North to exit 21 (Woodland/Highway 503) and follow Highway 503 East through the town of Cougar. Highway 503 turns into FR-90, continue on FR-90 and take a left onto Road 83 (signed for Ape Caves and Lava Canyon). Follow Road 83 for about 7 Miles where you will reach the June Lake Trailhead.

From the trailhead follow the trail as it gradually heads uphill. The trail itself is fairly wide and well maintained. You will be following along a creek for part of the hike. There are some small side trails off to your left that offer nice views of Mt. St. Helens on a clear day. Continue to follow the trail uphill, it does get moderately steep the closer you get to the lake.

DSC_0097      DSC_0099_2

DSC_0103      DSC_0118

After crossing over a small bridge the trail soon opens up into a campsite area. Walk through this area and there is a small trail heading to your right that drops you out at June Lake. This lake is fed by June Lake Falls which you can see on the far side of the lake. Off to your left you can see a large tree that has fallen off the cliff and is upside down, roots sticking up in the air. This is an out and back hike, so head back out the way you came.

DSC_0148      DSC_0168

Distance: 2.8 Miles

Elevation: 500 feet

Difficulty: Moderate

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: All Ages

Bathrooms: None

Parking Fee: $5 NW Forest Pass

Seasons: Late spring through fall. There are snow gates, call ahead before hiking.

Popular: Yes during summer weekends.

Overall: This was a fun little hike, we’ve never seen a lake that was fed by a waterfall.

Lava Canyon Loop

Directions: Take I-5 North to exit 21 (Woodland/Highway 503) and follow Highway 503 East through the town of Cougar. Highway 503 turns into FR-90, continue on FR-90 and take a left onto Road 83 (signed for Ape Caves and Lava Canyon). Follow Road 83 for about 12 miles where you will reach the Lava Canyon Trailhead.

From the trailhead follow the paved path down a few switchbacks and to a viewing platform. There isn’t much of a view here but keep going on the trail to a junction. Go left here and the trail soon turns to dirt. A small part of the trail here can be dangerous so watch children and pets. Continue on the trail until you come to the large suspension bridge.

DSC_0007      DSC_0011 copy

DSC_0017 copy      DSC_0020_2

The bridge is quite narrow and has a good bounce to it. If you are not comfortable with heights it may not be a good idea for you to cross. You will be crossing over Lava Canyon and the Muddy River, you get great views the whole way! After crossing the bridge go right and follow  the trail uphill, sometimes steeply. There are a couple areas with good views of the river and canyon. You will soon come to a set of stairs/metal ladder which heads up steeply.

DSC_0032      DSC_0037_2

DSC_0075      DSC_0055

From here it’s a short walk to the second bridge. It’s much lower and wider, with no bounce. You will be crossing over a very pretty part of the Muddy River and will also have great views from all directions. Head down the steps after crossing the bridge and back up to the junction. Go left here to hike back up the switchbacks to your car.

DSC_0083      DSC_0096_2

There are MANY warning signs along this trail, and for good reason. There have been many injuries and even a few deaths along this trail. We strongly encourage everyone to stay on the designated trails at all times!

Distance: 1.3 Miles

Elevation: 500 feet

Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

Pet Friendly: Yes but there are many dangerous spots on this trail for dogs.

Good For: May not be a good idea for young kids and older folks. Also people with height issues will have a struggle with the suspension bridge.

Bathrooms: There is a vault toilet at the trailhead. It was very dirty while we were here.

Parking Fee: $5 NW Forest Pass

Seasons: Late spring through fall. Call ahead, there are snow gates.

Popular: Yes

Overall: This is a great scenic hike. The suspension bridge is fun as well!

The Thumb

Directions: Depending on where you’re coming from head to Lincoln City. Once in Lincoln City go to the very North end of town and turn onto Logan Road. Pass the Safeway and follow the road to the very end. The road ends at two gates, turn around and park in the small gravel turnout.

From the gravel turnout head up the road until you come to the two gates. Head towards the left gate, you can get past the gate on its right side. Follow the trail uphill and you will soon come to a split in the trail. There is a small hiking sign pointing you to the right. From here the trail heads uphill pretty steeply.

DSC_0053      DSC_0049

DSC_0004      DSC_0011

Once at the top of this first steep section the trail splits again. To your left is a washed out trail so stay right and keep heading uphill. Stay on the main trail as you keep going uphill, there will be a couple side trails but don’t take them. Eventually the trail starts to level out as you head into an area that’s thick with salal. It’s pretty overgrown in places and the trail gets really narrow because of it. You will pass a good viewpoint of the ocean as you continue on.

DSC_0014      DSC_0023

The trail then starts heading downhill as you come out to the grassy field and get your first good look at The Thumb! Follow the trail through the grass as you reach the base of The Thumb. From here it gets a little hard, the trail heads up very steeply. It’s a short distance but it’s so steep it’s hard to stand up straight. Once at the top you have amazing views of the ocean and Lincoln City below. There isn’t much room at the top so if there are people up there you may want to wait until they come down before you start up. This is an out and back trail so when you are done head back out the way you came in.

DSC_0017      DSC_0025_2

DSC_0029      DSC_0031

During the wet months this whole trail is very muddy and slick. We have had a stretch of really hot weather and there was still muddy parts in the wooded areas. There are a lot of runoff and washed out areas in the trail as well. So the weather may be something to consider before hiking this trail.

DSC_0057

View of The Thumb from down on Roads End beach.

Distance: 2.5 Miles

Elevation: Not 100% sure on the elevation but it’s pretty steep in multiple places.

Difficulty: Moderate to The Thumb, hard going up The Thumb.

Pet Friendly: Yes but there are drop offs that could be dangerous for dogs.

Good For: Sure footed hikers. May not be best for younger kids and older folks.

Bathrooms: No

Parking Fee: None

Seasons: All but best in summer.

Popular: No

Overall: This was a great hike, definitely something different which was nice!

Wind Lake

Directions: Take Highway 26 East to Skibowl.

We decided to do this hike with the Sky Chair. If you don’t want to ride the lift you can definitely hike up to the lake. It would be an out and back hike, just follow what we did in reverse 🙂

If you decide to take the lift head into the guest services/ticket sales store and get your tickets for the UPPER bowl. You will be going to the very top of Skibowl. Tickets are $18 per person. Make sure to also get a free trail map while you are there, it’s helpful.

After you get your tickets and get on the lift you will first be heading over the Alpine Slide. Stay on the lift and pass the slide, as you continue up you will be going over some of the trails that  you will be using to hike out. When you get to the top of the lower bowl get off and follow the trail to your right, there is a sign marked for Upper Bowl. This trail is short and heads downhill crossing a bike trail and ends at the upper bowl lift.

DSC_0021      DSC_0024

Get on the second lift and take it to the very top of Ski Bowl. Once you get off first head to your right and up a short hill to take in the awesome view of Mt. Hood, Ski Bowl, and Government Camp. It was a clear day so we could also see Mt. Adams, Mt. Rainier, and Mt. St. Helens! It got even better when we looked South and saw Mt. Jefferson! Head back down the hill and take Skyline Road downhill a short distance where you will see a small sign on your right marking the Wind Lake Trail. Follow this trail somewhat steeply downhill for one mile where it ends right at the lake. We did this hike on a nice summer weekend and we didn’t see a single person at the lake. The lake is pretty small but still very pretty. There are plenty of places to hangout and have lunch or just relax for a bit.

DSC_0034      DSC_0043

DSC_0063      DSC_0068

Head back out the Wind Lake trail and back onto Skyline Road. Go right and continue following Skyline Road for about a mile, you will pass tons of views of Mt. Hood along the way. Skyline Road turns into High Road (it’s signed) which you will follow for about a quarter mile. This takes you under the lower bowl lift and to the historic warming hut. After you pass the warming hut follow the trail downhill and around a corner where you will get onto the Gnar Gnar trail. It’s a switchback heavy trail but hikers can go straight through the switchbacks. It’s steep and has a lot of loose rocks but isn’t too bad. You will be hiking right next to the Alpine Slide and there are lots of wildflowers in the grass around here. The trail ends at the base of Skibowl.

DSC_0011      DSC_0072

*Warning* Almost all of the trails you will be hiking on are shared trails so you will see lots of mountain bikers and maybe a few horses. The mountain bikers are riding very fast so please keep your eyes and ears open. They come up behind you quickly and the trail intersections can be a bit sketchy.

Distance: 4.8 miles if you are taking the Sky Chair, 9.8 miles if you are hiking out and back.

Elevation: With the lift: You will lose 1,400 feet of elevation hiking from Skyline Road back to your car, but you will also have to hike out from the lake which is 507 feet. If you are hiking out and back: 1,400 feet plus the lake loss and gain.

Difficulty: Moderate

Pet Friendly: We saw dogs down at the base but none on the trail. Call before taking them.

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: Yes by the ticket store.

Parking Fee: None

Seasons: Varies. It depends when Skibowl opens for summer attractions.

Popular: Very busy down by the Alpine Slide. Lots of Mountain bikers but not many hikers.

Overall: This was a fun hike. The Sky Chair added something new and gave us great views. The lake was nice and quiet and the hike was fun.

Alsea Falls

Directions: Take I-5 to exit 228. Go right and follow Highway 34 for a little over 9.5 miles where you will go left for Philomath and the Oregon Coast. In just less than a mile go right for Highway 99W South. Follow 99W South for a little over 15.5 miles and make a right onto Alpine Road. Follow this road for a little over 4 miles and go left at a junction (signed for Alsea Falls). From the junction it’s about 9 miles to Alsea Falls, make sure you go past the campground to the day use area.

Alsea Falls is right at the parking area. Take a small trail marked for Alsea Falls and pass the bridge where you will come to a staircase. Head down the stairs and you will be at the base of Alsea Falls. This waterfall is really full from late fall to spring. During the summer months it runs pretty low but allows you to see all the rocks it flows over.

DSC_0012      DSC_0032

Head back up the stairs and follow the trail over the bridge, this is actually the top of Alsea Falls. After crossing the bridge you will come to a signed junction. We went left towards Green Peak Falls. The trail is fairly well maintained, some areas are a bit overgrown and there are a few spots in the trail that are eroding. You will go down some steps and the trail switches back a few times.

DSC_0045      DSC_0057DSC_0057

There are many side trails that take you down to the river. The river is pretty and has lots of rocks so you can walk around in it. Back on the main trail you will pretty much roller coaster for a while with not too much elevation gain or loss. Soon the trail dumps you out at a campsite where you can follow a small road that takes you into the main McBee Campground. We were planning on seeing Green Peak Falls but our trail directions weren’t very good and we were meeting some people at the Scandinavian Festival nearby. So, we decided to turn around at the campground and find it next time!

 

Distance: 2.5 Miles

Elevation: 230 Feet

Difficulty: Easy

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: Most ages. May be harder for older folks and young kids.

Bathrooms: Yes at the parking area.

Parking Fee: $3 day-use fee.

Seasons: All but gate is closed during winter months.

Popular: Very popular swimming place during the summer months.

Overall: The waterfall was pretty but nothing spectacular. We’ll be back to visit Greek Peak Falls.

Disappearing Lake *Update*

Directions: Take I-84 East to Cascade Locks and cross Bridge Of The Gods ($2 toll). Go right onto Highway 14 and after a little over 14.5 miles take a left onto Cook Underwood Rd. Follow this road for about 5 miles and take a left onto Willard Road. Willard Road turns into Oklahoma Road, follow it a short distance until you see a sign for Forest Road 66. Take a left onto FR 66 and follow it for over 12.5 miles (the last couple miles of this road is gravel) until you come to two lakes. Disappearing Lake is on the left, South Prairie Lake is on the right.

Disappearing Lake is a seasonal lake in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, it’s a VERY short lived seasonal lake, lasting for only about 4 weeks. Our first visit was at the end of this last May while the lake was still about 8 feet deep. To see our first post and to compare the difference click here.

DSC_0021      DSC_0004

Obviously the most dramatic difference was the lack of water. We went from seeing this fairly good size lake with tall trees in the middle of it, to this huge meadow with bright green grass! It’s very pretty no matter if there is water or not. We were wondering if it would be wet and boggy but to our surprise it was very dry. We were able to walk all over the meadow and explore.

DSC_0042      DSC_0013

We didn’t see the rare Iris, I think we were a little too late for that. We’ll just have to come back a little earlier next year 🙂

DSC_0038      DSC_0022

It was great seeing all the huge trees, we could still see some faint water lines too! It was just really interesting seeing this place without water. There were dragonflies everywhere and lots of flowers throughout the meadow! We also saw lots of signs of elk that must hangout in the meadow in the morning and evenings.

This is definitely a place we will be coming back to every year. At least twice a year so we can kayak and hike!

 

Distance: Depends. You could walk around for a few minutes or get a couple miles in walking around the lake.

Elevation: 50 feet

Difficulty: Easy

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: None

Parking Fee: None

Seasons: Very short kayaking season (4 weeks, mid to late spring) and summer to fall for hiking

Popular: No

Overall: Love this place. So interesting and very quiet and peaceful!

Bald Mountain

Directions: Take Highway 26 to the town of Zigzag. Go left onto Lolo Pass Road and follow it for about 4 miles where you will fork right onto road 1825. In a little less than 1 mile go straight onto road 1828 (it’s unsigned but it’s right before a bridge), this road is paved but has some pretty big potholes you’ll need to watch out for. Drive another 5.5 miles and go to the right onto road 118 (it’s gravel and quite narrow). Follow the road for about 1.5 miles until you reach the Top Spur Trailhead. This is a busy trailhead so parking can get interesting.

From the trailhead you’ll be going uphill on a trail thats covered in tree roots and rocks. In most places it’s almost like steps with all the roots. It’s moderately steep but nothing too terrible. After a half mile go right on the Pacific Crest Trail and just a short distance later come to a big trail intersection with a wilderness registration box. After filling out the paper head to your right and uphill slightly, make sure you see the sign on a tree that says Timberline Trail no. 600 Muddy Fork. Follow the trail through woods of skinny trees for about a third of a mile.

DSC_0046 copy      DSC_0053

You will leave the woods and come out to a clearing. This trail has one of the best reveals we’ve seen. Round the first corner of the clearing and come to absolutely spectacular views of Mt. Hood. You’re head on with Hood and to your left are wildflowers growing on the side of Bald Mountain, to your right is a valley of trees. It’s hands down one of our favorite views of Mt. Hood. Continue on the trail as you skirt along the edge and pass quite a few awesome viewpoints. You’ll briefly reenter a wooded area and then pop back out to a second clearing with more views of the mountain.

DSC_0056      DSC_0085

When you finally reenter the forest follow the trail to a signed junction. Go left as the trail heads uphill for a bit before leveling out and coming to another junction. Go left again towards signed Top Spur Trailhead. This trail takes you back to the big intersection with the wilderness booth, go right and head back down the way you came in.

DSC_0099      DSC_0112

Distance: 2.3 Miles

Elevation: 400 Feet

Difficulty: Moderate. You gain all the elevation quickly in the beginning so it’s only steep for a little bit.

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: Almost everyone. May not be the best for young kids, the area with the views has steep drop offs.

Bathrooms: Portable toilet at the trailhead.

Parking Fee: NW Forest Pass required

Seasons: Spring through Fall.

Popular: Very popular trailhead and most of the trail is busy as well.

Overall: Great hike. We’ll be coming back to do other hikes in the area.

 

 

Dee Wright Observatory

Directions: From Sisters, Oregon get onto Highway 242 and follow it for approximately 15 miles to the McKenzie Pass summit.

From the parking area get on the paved trail that’s near the bathroom. The short trail twists it’s way uphill  through lava rock where it ends at the observatory that is also made of lava rock. Take the steps up to the roof of the observatory where you get great views of the surrounding area. It also has a peak finder that tells you the names off all the mountains you are seeing. The main mountains you will see are the Three Sisters, Mt. Washington, Mt. Jefferson, and Black Butte. There are plenty of others to see but these are the big ones.

DSC_0145      DSC_0103

When you’re done on the roof head back down the stairs and go into the observatory. There are small square openings along the walls that you can look through and see each mountain. It’s kind of dark inside but it feels good on a hot day.

DSC_0124      DSC_0115

Heading back down take the back paved path that ends at the other side of the observatory. You should be dropped off right at the big wooden Dee Wright Observatory sign. Next, get on the Lava River National Recreation Trail. It’s a short interpretive trail that takes you out into the lava bed and gives you more views of the surrounding area. Head back out the way you came in on this trail.

DSC_0136      DSC_0148DSC_0124

This place is a great stop to take in all the mountains and get a good look at all the lava rock. We stop here whenever we’re doing a hike in the area, it’s always worth it!

Distance: 1 Mile

Elevation: 115 Feet

Difficulty: Easy

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: All Ages

Bathrooms: Yes

Parking Fee: None

Seasons: Open early summer through early fall. Call before heading out to make sure the road is open.

Popular: Yes. This place can get very busy.

Overall: Great place. Looks like the moon!