Pacific Northwest Region Viewing Area
LOCATION and PHOTOS
Mount Hood from the west side of Lookout Mountain. Shrubs and stunted trees hang on to this ridge along with perennial wildflowers and pinemat manzanita (Arctostphylos nevadensis). Photo by Christina Wesseler.
Forest: Mt. Hood National Forest
District: Barlow Ranger District
Description: The forests east of the Cascades are dryer, but boast diversity equal to the rainforests of the west side. This summit has outstanding views of Mt. Hood and on a clear day, you can see several other Cascade peaks that create this rain shadow effect. There are two trails which wind steadily uphill, through open meadows and dense, shaded conifer forests to reach an old fire lookout site atop Lookout Mountain (6,525 ft. elevation). The longer Gumjuwac Saddle trail (10 miles roundtrip) travels through cool forests of hemlock (Tsuga spp.), Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) and fir (Abies spp.), with open, exposed meadows of wildflowers and views into the Badger Creek Wilderness. The shorter High Prairie trail (2.5 mile loop) begins on an old road, and you can follow a horse trail through meadows and shaded forests. This is a mid-summer hike.
Viewing: On the trail up through High Prairie, you pass through meadows dotted with colorful asters (Aster spp.), glaucous penstemon (Penstemon euglaucous) and Western bistort (Polygonum bistortoides). Look for the tiny flowers of pink pinwheels (Horkelia fusca), in the grasses and sedges. The showy white oxeye daisies (Leucanthemum vulgare) are not natives. They were introduced to the US and are persistent competitors with these meadow flowers. There are also large, nettleleaf horsemint plants (Agastache urticifolia) which attract hummingbirds and bees, and fragrant white sage (Artemisia ludoviciana). The shade of conifer trees shelter plumes of beargrass (Xerophyllum tenax), delicate twinflower (Linnaea borealis) and starflower (Trientalis latifolia) among others. In mid-summer the summit of Lookout Mountain is dotted with brilliant colors as Indian paintbrush (Castilleja spp.), arrowleaf balsamroot (Balsamorhiza sagittata), yarrow (Achillea millefolium), buckwheats (Eriogonum spp.), scarlet gilia (Ipomopsis aggregata), glaucous penstemon and rock penstemon (Penstemon fruticosus) bloom. It is exposed and dry, but these tough and beautiful perennials flourish.
Safety first: The trail up Gumjuwac Saddle may be strenuous, and hot. The High Prairie trail is easier, but be sure to carry sufficient water. Bring layers of clothing to prepare for the cool shade in the trees and wind which may blow at the top. There may still be patches of snow along both trails.
Directions: To High Prairie, drive Hwy 35 east around Mt. Hood and turn onto the paved Forest Road 44, with signs to Dufur. Follow this road almost 4 miles, and turn right onto High Prairie road 4410. Stay uphill for about 5 miles, turn left at a T-intersection, and park at the trailhead. For the longer Gumjuwac trail, take Hwy 35 south about 3 miles past the 44 Rd junction to a bridge crossing over the East Fork Hood River. There is a trailhead sign on the north end of the bridge.
Ownership and Management: U.S. Forest Service, Mount Hood National Forest, Barlow Ranger District, 780 Northeast Court Street, Dufur, Oregon 97021 (541) 467-2291.
Closest Town: Parkdale, Oregon.