Directions: Drive Highway 26 to the town of Zigzag and take a left onto Lolo Pass Road. Follow this road for about 10.5 miles, take the second right onto FS 18. Follow this road for about 10 miles, half of which is a gravel road, and take a very sharp righthand turn onto FS 16. Drive for 5.5 miles and turn right at the large intersection onto FS 1650. This road becomes gravel and ends at the Vista Ridge Trailhead.
This is a busy trailhead and it doesn’t have a huge parking area, so things may get tight. Many hikes start from the Vista Ridge Trailhead but the trail to Owl Point is not the most popular which is very nice. We only saw two other people the whole time we were here, and it was a very sunny weekend.
From the trailhead follow the rocky trail for about a third of a mile to a junction in the trail. Sign in at the wilderness registration station and then head left. The trail starts out fairly evenly graded but that quickly changes. The trail starts heading uphill and it gets pretty steep in some sections. The trail itself is nice but there are a few downed trees, they are all easy to get over. After about a mile of hiking you’ll come to two side trails off to the right. The first offers a great view of the valley below and the second gives you a really good view of Mt. Hood.
Back on the main trail it will soon level out and open up a bit. There are a lot of huckleberry bushes through here and we even ran into some snow piles (we did this hike in late July). You’ll drop down into a small meadow and start heading uphill again, it’s not quite as steep and isn’t as long. In mid to late July the Avalanche Lilies are blooming and it’s pretty amazing. They lined the trail and were all over the meadow.
When you come to a junction go left/uphill (there is a sign but it was quite faded). You will come to another junction, go right here and the trail ends at Owl Point. It offers up one of the best views of Mt. Hood. The lupine was blooming which just added to the spectacular view. Wander around a little bit and you can see Laurance Lake off to the right over the large rocks and the town of Parkdale. There’s a small Owl Point Register attached to the rocks, it has pictures of the volunteers from Portland Hikers who cleaned up this trail and a guestbook you can sign.
There are plenty of places to sit and relax, have lunch and take in the view.
When you’re done at Owl Point there are couple more places to check out before you head back to your car. At the first junction after Owl Point go right and hike for about 200 yards to Alki Point. It’s a rockslide area with views of Mt. Adams, Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Rainier.
Head back from Alki point and go through the junction that splits to Owl Point and head back down to the first junction. Go left here and towards the Rockpile. You’ll hike through a pretty meadow with blooming heather that attracts a lot of butterflies. There’s a small fork in the trail, go right and the trail ends at the Rockpile with even more views of Mt. Hood.
Head back to the main trail a follow it out the way you came in, to get back to your car.
We really loved this hike and can’t believe it’s not more popular. The views are amazing all through the hike and the wildflowers were a real treat as well.
Distance: 4.5 miles (easy)
Elevation: 650 feet (moderate)
Pet Friendly: Yes
Good For: There’s a decent amount of elevation, with some steep sections so this may not be the best for older folks and younger kids.
Parking Fee: $5 NW Forest Pass
Seasons: Summer and fall (unless we’re having unusually dry or wet weather, call before going.)
Popular: No, but the trailhead/parking area is popular.