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 ūüôā

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.

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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.

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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.

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*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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 ūüôā

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

Scott Lake to Benson Lake

Directions: From Sisters, Oregon get onto OR-242 W and drive for a little over 20 miles. Take a right onto NF-260 (signed for Scott Lake) and follow it for just less than a mile (you’ll pass by Scott Lake on your right). The road ends at the Benson Lake Trailhead.

From the trailhead take the trail to the left and start heading uphill on a beargrass and flower lined trail. The trail is dusty and full of the usual trees and bushes you would see on a mountain hike in central Oregon. It’s a pretty straight forward hike, just follow the trail that heads steadily uphill the whole time.

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After just less than a mile and a half you will come to a Mt. Washington Wilderness sign. It’s just a short distance from the sign that you will start seeing Benson Lake. Continue following the trail as you skirt around the lake. When you get to another sign go left on an unmarked trail that takes you down to a good viewpoint of the lake. There are multiple viewpoints along the lake, and they all offer great views of the clear and very blue water. When you are ready to head back just follow the trail out the way you came in.

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Back at the trailhead make sure you stop by Scott Lake before you head out. It’s a bit more swampy but it’s still very pretty. If you hike around the lake you will get good a view of the Three Sisters Mountains.

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We did this hike during peak mosquito season. If you kept moving constantly on the hike it wasn’t so bad, but it was pretty awful at the lake. They were out in full force and swarmed us like crazy. We were hiking with a group this day and some of them chose to only stay at the lake for a minute because of the bugs. The mosquitos were better at Scott Lake due to the massive amount of frogs! It was crazy to see hundreds of tiny frogs jumping around in the grass ūüôā

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Distance: 3 Miles

Elevation: 400 Feet

Difficulty: Easy

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: Almost all ages. It might be a bit difficult for young kids and older folks.

Bathrooms: Yes at the trailhead

Parking Fee: NW Forest Pass Required

Seasons: OR-242 closes during the winter at the snow gate. The road and trail are open from late spring to early fall. It’s best to call ahead in spring and fall to make sure the road is open.

Popular: There is a campground at Scott Lake that can become busy during the summer months. The hike to Benson Lake can be a bit busy on weekends.

Overall: Benson Lake is very pretty, just be prepared for mosquitoes in July!

 

Smith and Bybee Wetlands (Revisit)

Directions: Smith and Bybee Lakes is located at 5300 North Marine Drive. You can take I-5 to exit 307 for Marine Drive. Turn right onto Marine Drive and follow it until you see the sign for the wetlands.

To see our first post about Smith and Bybee Wetlands click here.

From the parking area head to your right on the paved path. You will pass by a small turnout that goes by a small marshy area. If you look through the cattails you can see turtles and maybe even a Great Blue Heron. Continue on until you come to the entrance of the wetland area.

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Follow the path into the heavily treed area and come to your first junction. Going right takes you to a viewpoint of a really boggy marshy area where you can see lots of birds. Next, go left at the junction and follow the trail a short distance to some boardwalk and a small sheltered area. This is another great spot for birdwatching. During the rainy months this boardwalk will have water under it from the marsh off in the distance. We heard you could see Pelicans in this area but we didn’t see them on this visit.

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Keep following the path and it will take you in a loop back onto the main paved trail. Go left and continue on for a bit before the trail opens up into a field area with tall grasses. We saw a deer out in this area eating. The trail eventually ends at another covered viewing area that is also great for watching birds and maybe even catching a glimpse of a beaver. From here you just follow the path back out the way you came in.

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Elevation: 0

Distance: 2.3 Miles

Difficulty: Easy

Pet Friendly: No. Dogs are not allowed in the wetland area.

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: Vault toilet at the parking area.

Parking Fee: None

Seasons: All

Popular: Sometimes. It can get a bit busy on the weekends.

Overall: It’s a great area for kids and bird lovers. Nice place to get a quick walk in after work as well.

Ankeny Wildlife Refuge (Rail Trail)

Directions: Drive I-5 South to exit 243. Go right onto Ankeny Hill Road and at a stop sign go left onto Wintel Road. Follow this road until you come to a road on the left marked for the Rail Trail. Follow the gravel road down to the parking area.

From the parking area get on the trail and follow it by a field and into a more heavily wooded section. You will soon come to a split in the trail, go right onto the boardwalk. Following the boardwalk you will pass a bird blind that looks out over a marshy area. The boardwalk continues on over a swampy section as you come back out to an open area. At the end of the boardwalk you can go left and take a look at the ponds before back tracking back to the boardwalk and going right.

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Follow the grassy trail along the marsh area for a while as you start to round around and follow near the road. You will come to a side trail on the left that ends at a green gate. Go around the gate and cross the road where you will find another side trail that takes you to a boardwalk trail. Follow the boardwalk a short distance to another bird blind that looks out over another marsh area. Backtrack to the road and cross it back to the gate and get back on the grass trail. Keep going on this trail where there are lots of blackberry bushes that are full of berries in July.

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This trail takes you back to the gravel road you drove in on. Go right on the road and follow it back to your car.

While at the refuge we were able to see Great Blue Heron’s, Robins, American Goldfinch, Northern Flickers, Song Sparrows, Yellow Warblers, Cedar Waxwings, and more!

Elevation Gain: 0

Distance 2- 3.5 Miles (depends on if you look at all the ponds)

Difficulty: Easy

Pet Friendly: No. Dogs are not allowed in the wildlife refuge.

Good For: All ages.

Bathrooms: None

Parking Fee: None

Seasons: All. Parts of the trail are closed from Oct-Apr

Popular: No

Overall: Nice quiet area that’s great for bird lovers, may be a little boring for others.

McDowell Creek Falls County Park

Directions: Take I-5 South to exit 233. Go left at the light for Highway 20 and drive for a little over 18 miles. Take a left onto Fairview Road, there is a small sign that’s easy to miss marked for McDowell Park. In about a mile go left onto McDowell Creek Drive, follow this road for a little over 7.5 miles to the first parking area on the right.

From the parking area take the trail over a footbridge and continue on the trail until you come to a junction. Go right up the stone steps as you follow next to Royal Terrace falls (you will see this waterfall towards the end of the hike), the steps end at a small viewing platform at the top of the waterfall. Cross the creek over a bridge and head uphill, sometimes steeply, you will soon come to another split in the trail (it’s unsigned) go right and follow the trail where you will cross a road.

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After crossing the road the trail heads downhill as you come to a large wooden viewing platform at the top of Majestic Falls. After the viewing platform head down the wooden steps to another smaller viewing area at the base of the falls. Continue on even more wooden steps and boardwalk as you get back on the trail. Keep going on the trail, you’ll switchback once and come to Crystal Falls. It’s a small waterfall in the creek.

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Continuing on the trail you will cross back over the road and continue downhill. You’ll cross over another bridge and continue on for a short distance before you come to the last waterfall, Royal Terrace Falls. From here after you cross the bridge go right and head back to your car.

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Back at the parking lot you can take a side trail down to the creek to see Lower McDowell Creek Falls. It has three small drops, it’s not tall but still pretty.

 

Elevation Gain: 220 Feet

Distance: 2 Miles

Difficulty: Easy

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: Yes at the parking area (when we were here they were very dirty)

Parking Fee: None

Seasons: Year round

Popular: Yes during the summer, it’s a popular swimming area. Not as crowded during colder months

Overall: Great easy hike to see a couple pretty waterfalls.

Steigerwald National Wildlife Refuge

Directions: Take I-205 North to exit 27. Merge onto Highway 14 East and follow it for about 12 miles. Take a right at the sign for Steigerwald National Wildlife Refuge.

From the parking area get on the trail near the bathrooms. The first part of the trail follows along a grassy/marshy area with Steigerwald Lake off to your left. The lake isn’t very big and almost looks like a very slow moving creek. The grassy area is pretty and you can see Crown Point and Larch Mountain off in the distance. Next, you will come to an area with Cotton Wood trees that offers some much needed shade if you’re visiting in the warmer months. At the junction go left through the metal art doorway.

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After passing through the door follow the trail with the marsh to your left and the trees to your right. Here is where you will really get to see a lot of wildlife. We saw numerous different types of birds (Osprey, Bald Eagles, Great Blue Heron, Hairy Woodpecker, Pileated Woodpecker, Bollocks Oriole, Common Yellowthroats, Northern Harrier, and much more!). We also saw a coyote pup and deer. The trail continues as you leave the refuge briefly and get onto the Columbia River Dike Trail. Go right here and follow this trail a short distance, you will pass by white birdhouses that have Purple Martins in them! Soon you will come to a split in the trail, go right and enter back into the Wildlife Refuge.

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As you continue on the trail you will pass a tall wildlife sign and come to a bridge that takes you over Redtail Lake. After the bridge, continue on the trail as you round right and come to a second bridge (take a moment to look up here, there is a large Osprey nest high up in the trees). After this bridge you are back at your first junction. Go left here and follow the trail you came in on back to your car.

Elevation Gain: 0

Distance: 3 Miles

Difficulty: Easy- good for all ages.

Pet Friendly: No- dogs are not allowed in the wildlife refuge.

Bathrooms: Vault toilet at trailhead

Parking Fee: None

Seasons: Year round (some parts are closed Oct-Apr)

Popular: Yes

Overall: Very easy hike (more of a walk) that is great for wildlife viewing, or a quick place to get outside and get moving.