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Observation Peak

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Wild is the keyword here. Wildflowers, wild berries, and wildlife thrive throughout this area. The trail climbs past Sister Rocks, through a natural resources research area, and onto the summit of Observation Peak.

From the trailhead, head south into the Sister Rocks Research Natural Area. For more than 1 mile, you'll wander through this wild research area where foresters focus on studying our native Northwestern woodlands.

At 1.5 miles, the trail skirts under the Sister Rocks, pretty geologic knobs on the ridge above Siouxon Creek. From the rocks, the trail continues south another mile to the summit of Observation Peak. Enjoy the outstanding views here before heading back down the trail you just came up.
Driving Directions:

From Carson, drive 8.4 miles north on Wind River Road (County Road 30) to the town of Stabler and the junction with Hemlock Road. Turn left (west) onto Hemlock Road, cross the river, and bear right (north) onto Forest Road 54. Continue 12 miles and then turn right onto FR 58. Drive about 7 miles north to the Sister Rocks Research Natural Area trailhead on the right.

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Note: the description and driving directions for this Mountaineers Books entry are copyrighted and can't be changed.

Recent Trip Reports

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There are 17 trip reports for this hike. See all trip reports for this hike.
Trapper Creek, Observation Peak — Aug 17, 2013 — luterra
Overnight
Features: Wildflowers blooming | Ripe berries
Issues: Overgrown | Mud/Rockslide
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Hiked up Observation trail, camped at Berry Camp, then hiked up Observation Peak the next morning an...
Hiked up Observation trail, camped at Berry Camp, then hiked up Observation Peak the next morning and hiked out Trapper Creek Trail #192.

We hit the peak of berry season, with three species of huckleberry, thimbleberries, salmonberries, and salal all ripe for the picking. By far the best huckleberry area was the upper Trapper Creek basin above the steep switchbacks. The high elevations near Observation Peak had sparser berries but a bit sweeter from the sunshine. We picked all we could eat and left plenty for future hikers.

The Observation Trail is in great shape with smooth tread and steady grades making 2600 vertical feet seem not that bad. Not many berries this way though. The spring at Berry Camp (a few hundred feet down trail #158) is still running nicely. Great views from the top, with some late-season wildflowers (including some beautiful blue gentians) still in bloom.

The upper reaches of #192 are overgrown in spots (though mostly by huckleberries - easy picking!) but we never lost our way. We took the shortcut trail from Observation Peak to #192 which had a few down trees but nothing difficult.

The one-mile section descending from 3200 to 2400 ft switchbacks down a ~50 degree slope on a very narrow tread with loose footing. Not quite dangerous, though the slope is steep enough in a few spots that a slide could be difficult to arrest. I wouldn't recommend it for small children.

There is a slide/washout just below the lower Trapper Creek bridge (at about 2400 ft) that is safely passable by climbing down and up and no more difficult than portions of the steep trail above.

The portion along the creek has a lot of down-and-up making for slow going. From 1600 ft along the creek the trail climbs back up to 2000 ft at the #195 junction - an unexpected gain of 400 ft or so. It looks like some of this could be avoided by taking the parallel Deer Cutoff (#209), which I will try if I do this hike again.

It is nine miles (GPS measured) from the top of Observation Peak to the trailhead on trail #132A/#192. That is about two miles longer than it appears on the map, thanks to switchbacks and hairpins around creek valleys.

No bugs to speak of, great weather, lots of berries, more 6+ foot diameter old growth trees than we could count, 360-degree views, and interesting/challenging terrain. All in all a great hike.
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Trapper Creek, Observation Peak — Jul 29, 2013 — letsgobobby
Day hike
Issues: Washouts
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From Vancouver it's about 1:20 to the trailhead on good road. The trail is in good shape. We went...
From Vancouver it's about 1:20 to the trailhead on good road.

The trail is in good shape. We went up Trapper Creek and down Howe Ridge, about 14 miles RT. This is a good way to do the loop, because Trapper Creek is steeper and more rugged and is better for going up; the portion coming down Howe Ridge is really well-graded and good for coming down.

There are a few washouts but the trail is easy to find. There is adequate water on the trail, but if you want to camp on the top of Observation Peak you need to hoof water up about 2 miles from the last crossing of Trapper Creek.

There are lots of beargrass stalks but the blooms are past their primes. Good news is we had hardly any bugs today, and none at all on the peak.

Some really nice old growth forest and not another soul on the trail all day. Good find!
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Observation Peak, Trapper Creek — Jul 20, 2013 — Blisters
Day hike
Features: Wildflowers blooming | Ripe berries
Issues: Blowdowns | Mudholes | Bugs
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Due to injuries, work, and family commitments this was our first hike in 2 months. We wanted a good...
Due to injuries, work, and family commitments this was our first hike in 2 months. We wanted a good long hike to whip us back in shape!

We started from the Trapper Creek trail head because there is only a short section of gravel road to get there. We headed up Observation trail #132. It is a steady climb on a very well-maintained trail through the woods. We only encountered bugs (and one snake) when we stopped for a lunch break.

The views from the top of the peak were amazing. We saw 5 volcanoes from Rainier to Jefferson. There are still a fair number of wildflowers blooming and fewer flying insects on top. We also saw a bald eagle circling below us.

To keep our hike interesting we decided to head back to the car via the Trapper Creek Trail #192. On the map it looks like a nice curving trail taking you back to the trail head in a relatively straight forward fashion. It is not! From Observation Trail the Trapper Creek Trail heads down a wide path through the forest, past several blowdowns, to a creek that was easily crossed on a log a few meters upstream. Then the fun began. The trail heads steeply down several switchbacks after a sign warning that horses are not allowed due the trail being too narrow. It is. This trail is very steep, very narrow, and slippery (due to dry pebbles). It would have been much easier on the knees to go up this way and down the other trail.

Once at the bottom of the switchbacks the trail winds through the forest up and down and around. There are several designated campsites - only one of which was occupied. We were getting tired so it seemed this trail would never end but it finally did. It looks like the total distance we hiked is somewhere around 15-16 miles but it felt more like 20 when we got to the car.

This hike took us all day - we started at 10 am and made it back to the car at 7 pm. Even though it was a tough hike down the Trapper Creek trail it is a beautiful one and worth doing again (maybe in about 3-4 weeks when there are more ripe huckleberries).
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Trapper Creek, Observation Peak — Jul 05, 2013 — Luce Scrues
Multi-night backpack
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Just a belated and brief trip report to say that I really enjoyed my two nights over the long weeken...
Just a belated and brief trip report to say that I really enjoyed my two nights over the long weekend in this area. No cars, no loud music, no obnoxious people, just a few other folks enjoying the wilderness and so much peace and quiet. I can't wait to get back and explore more.
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Observation Peak — Jun 22, 2013 — Sunrise Creek
Day hike
Features: Wildflowers blooming
Issues: Snow on trail
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This is one of my annual hikes. I like the diversity of oldgrowth forests, rocky outcrops and big vi...
This is one of my annual hikes. I like the diversity of oldgrowth forests, rocky outcrops and big views.

We started from the north trailhead of Observation Trail #132 on Road 58. The trail immediately begins to climb the slope through the Sister Rocks Research Natural Area, which was designated to protect a nearly pure stand of oldgrowth Pacific silver fir and western hemlock.

Avalanche lilies were blooming along the trail, along with a number of other species of wildflowers and indications of more blooms to come. As we climbed higher up the ridge, we saw evidence that the snow had only recently melted.

At the ridge top, we took the side spur to a rocky outcrop at the top of a talus slope with views of Mount Adams, the Goat Rocks and Mount Rainier. Trees obscure Mount St. Helens although its snowclad slope is visible through the forest.

As we descended down to the saddle and Berry Camp at the junction with the Big Hollow Trail, we encountered quite a few snowbanks still covering the trail. The stream beside the trail was running and marsh-marigolds were blooming on its banks.

At the junction, we took a side trip a few hundred yards down the Big Hollow Trail to check out what might be blooming by the spring.

Then we continued on the Observation Trail to the junction with Observation Peak Trail #132A and on to the summit for our lunch break. Despite a lot of clouds in the sky, we had big views.

We could see south to Mount Hood and Mount Jefferson. The Trapper Creek Wilderness was draped at our feet, while directly down slope to the east was the Bourbon Roadless Area. We could see the high country of Indian Heaven Wilderness on the skyline, and the Dark Divide Roadless Area to the north between us and Mount Rainier.

On our return hike, we took the side trail to Sister Rocks, another former fire lookout site. Davidson's penstemom and rock penstemon were among the flowers blooming on the rocks.

Our hike was 7 miles and 1,600 feet elevation gain.



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observation peak justpeachy.jpg
View from Observation Peak. Photo by Justpeachy.
WTA worked here!
2009, 2010, 2011
Location
Observation Peak (#132)
South Cascades -- Indian Heaven / Trapper Creek
Gifford Pinchot National Forest - Mount Adams Ranger District
Statistics
Roundtrip 5.0 miles
Elevation Gain 500 ft
Highest Point 4207 ft
Features
Wildflowers/Meadows
Mountain views
Summits
User info
Northwest Forest Pass required
Guidebooks & Maps
South Cascades
Green Trails No. 396 Lookout Mountain

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Note: the description and driving directions for this Mountaineers Books entry are copyrighted and can't be changed.

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Red MarkerObservation Peak
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  • BCRT 2011
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