Pacific Northwest Region Viewing Area
Drifts of lupine (Lupinus latifolius) perfume the trailside below treeline in August. Photo by L. Swartz.
Adams Glacier on Mt. Adams catches the last sun, which sets it afire with alpenglow. Photo by L. Swartz.
Arnica (Arnica latifolia) blooms brightly in rock crevices during the short mountain summer. Photo by L. Swartz.
Lewis' monkey-flower (Mimulus lewisii) hugs the edges of mountain streams and seeps.. Photo by L. Swartz.
Magenta paintbrush (Castilleja parviflora) thrives with other plants on damp rocky slopes where soil is beginning to be created out of mountain rock. Photo by L. Swartz.
Mt. Adams Wilderness, Pacific Crest Trail, Adams Creek
Forest: Gifford Pinchot National Forest
District: Access: Cowlitz Valley Ranger District; Trail: Mt. Adams Ranger District
Description: Mt. Adams wilderness trails offer an opportunity to view a landscape continuously under construction, and the plants that are adapted to conditions too harsh for trees. Some lava flows on the mountain flanks are only a few thousand years old. Above treeline, sunlight is strong when the clouds roll back. Water is plentiful in snow-fed streams and seeps, but may disappear quickly on piles of rock or sediment where no fine particles have yet accumulated. Many plants must extract nutrients from the raw materials of soil, rocks and sediments ground by glaciers but lacking organic matter and the development of weathering. Frequent rock falls and the deposits and gullies of recent floods remind the hiker that wind, frost, sun, ice, and water are continuously remodeling the mountain. The opportunity for plants to bloom and set seed is concentrated in a short period after snow melts off and before severe frosts, leading to spectacular but brief displays of many kinds of flowers. This period is generally more or less from mid-July to mid-August, depending on weather.
Wildflower Viewing: On rocky slopes in the Adams Creek area above general treeline, you may find spreading phlox (Phlox diffusa) carpeting the ground in many shades of white and purple, sickletop lousewort (Pedicularis racemosa) with oddly twisted flowers, alpine pussytoes (Antennaria media), soft as a kitten, and the pristine white flowers of alpine bittercress (Cardamine bellidifolia). On sandy patches, Mt. Hood pussypaws (Cistanthe umbellata) hugs the ground with fleshy red and green leaves and white flowers with orange anthers. Clumps of whitebark pine (Pinus albicaulis) show mostly bleached white trunks now as a result of the introduced white pine blister rust. Alpine saxifrage (Saxifraga tolmiei), with fleshy bright-green leaves, specializes in the crevices in talus slopes. Subalpine daisy (Erigeron peregrinus) blooms freely where there are patches of moist soil, and you may see yellow fan-leaved cinquefoil (Potentilla flabellifolia) and low-growing blue Donner Lake lupine (Lupinus sellulus). On the way down, you will find patches of green false hellebore with striking large pleated leaves and inconspicuous flowers, on streamsides and in wet meadows.
Safety First: The lava flows and outwash boulders can be extremely rough, be prepared with good boots. Hiking poles can help with balance. A hat, sunscreen, and insect repellant are useful to prevent overexposure to the sun or bug bites. Always bring extra warm clothes for frequent changes in mountain weather.
Directions: Maps are available at the Cowlitz Valley Ranger District office in Randle. From the town of Randle on US Highway 12, take Highway 131, then Forest Road 23 south toward Takhlakh Lake (about 30 miles), and continue a short distance on Forest Road 2329 to the trailhead at Divide Camp (access to this trailhead on 23 from the south is currently blocked by a washout). Trail #112 parallels the course of Adams Creek for about 2.5 miles at a moderate gradient to join the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail (PCT) at timberline. Follow the PCT in either direction or travel cross-country to view flowers in the alpine meadows and scree. There are alternate trailheads to connect to the Mount Adams segment of the PCT at Killen Creek and Muddy Meadows.
Ownership and Management: USDA Forest Service, Gifford Pinchot National Forest, Mt. Adams Ranger District.
Closest Town: Randle, Washington.