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Indian Heaven Bird Mountain Loop

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Indian Heaven Wilderness is a wonderland of sparkling lakes, jagged peaks, open forests, and, most notably, expansive meadows filled with flowers and an array of wildlife. A pair of loops around Bird Mountain-the highest peak in the wilderness-allow hikers to experience the best of each of those offerings. The short loop stays close to the flank of Bird Mountain, while the longer loop wanders farther south into bigger meadowlands before turning back to skirt around the mountain.

This loop is best done clockwise, so begin on the Indian Heaven Trail (No. 33) and start a long, steep climb to the east flank of Bird Mountain. The first 1.5 miles gain nearly 1200 feet in elevation as the trail ruthlessly ascends the Cultus Creek valley. About a mile into the hike, the trail breaks out onto a small ridge. Look east from this rocky point, and Mount Adams dominates the horizon. Below the viewpoint, the slope drops steeply away and rolls into a long blanket of green between the base of Bird Mountain and the flank of Adams. Face north on clear days, and Mount Rainier can be seen.

From here the trail turns sharply south as it draws near the cliff faces of Bird Mountain. Pine forests enclose the trail, with occasional meadow breaks and views of the towering cliffs, until the trail passes the crystal clear waters of Cultus Lake at 2.5 miles.

A side trail leaves to the left just a few hundred feet beyond the lake. This path leads to Lemei Rock and beyond. Stay right on the main trail, and in another 0.25 mile you'll reach a second trail junction. Go right again, and you'll pass pretty Clear Lake before reaching the Pacific Crest Trail in just over 0.5 mile from that last trail fork.

Turn north onto the PCT and follow it as it angles east toward the rocky upper slopes of Bird Mountain. Just beyond Wood Lake Trail junction, leave the PCT by bearing right onto Trail No. 108, which leads back to Cultus Creek Campground in another 1.5 miles.

Before heading for the trailhead, though, stop at the ridge crest just after leaving the PCT and enjoy the views. Or, for markedly better views, climb south on a boot track along the ridge until you see the whole of the South Cascades spread out in all their splendor. Mount St. Helens, Mount Rainier, the Goat Rocks peaks, and Mount Adams can be seen on clear days from this vantage point, less than a quarter mile off the trail. Don't bother risking the scramble to the summit of Bird, as the views are no better from that higher, more dangerous perch.

From the ridge, the final stretch on Cultus Creek Trail No. 108 is a steep descent through trees, ending at the Cultus Creek Campground entrance.
Driving Directions:

From Trout Lake, head west on State Route 141 for about 8 miles to Peterson Prairie Campground and a junction with Forest Road 24. Turn right onto FR 24 and drive 8 miles to the Cultus Creek Campground on the left. The starting trailhead is found near the back of the campground loop.

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Recent Trip Reports

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There are 16 trip reports for this hike. See all trip reports for this hike.
Indian Heaven Bird Mountain Loop — Sep 03, 2013 — Mr. Pays-Bas
Day hike
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I was really looking forward to cover the northern trails in Indian Heaven. The day after Labor Day,...
I was really looking forward to cover the northern trails in Indian Heaven. The day after Labor Day, I started at Cultus Creek Campground, where no camping took place.
From the trailhead the trail is going up, up, up. Ruthlessly, as it says in the hiking guide. While going at a steady pace I asked myself whether this steep trail was a Stairway to Indian Heaven...
The first viewpoint showed Mt. Adams with some clouds, also Sleeping Beauty and some smaller old volcanoes could be seen.
The trail continued along Cultus Lake towards Clear Lake and the PCT.
Going north there is an occasional view of some smaller lakes, ponds. Bird Mt was to my right, but the high trees blocked the view of the rock itself.
I hiked down to Wood Lake for lunch, enjoying the views.
Back to the PCT I continued north towards Sawtooth Mt. Just over a mile further, trail#107 branches off to the east and up. It brought me first to the eastern flank of Sawtooth through a reddish cinder slope, and then to the western slope some 20 m below the summit. To the west Lone Butte stood out, with its meadows to its north.
Continuing along #107 I came to the PCT again and turned south to get back to Cultus Creek Campground via #108.
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Indian Heaven Bird Mountain Loop — Sep 02, 2013 — sunrunner
Day hike
Features: Ripe berries
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For many years we have wanted to see this area but with mosquito warnings, FS road closures & the 5 ...
For many years we have wanted to see this area but with mosquito warnings, FS road closures & the 5 hour drive time from Seattle the right circumstances had not come together.

But on our way back from the Tetons spontneously we decided not to return to the city on Labor Day in traffic & instead to divert our path to Trout Lake & finally do this. The results were magnificent.

If you want a great place to stay the night before/after do not fail to stay at the Trout Lake Valley Inn-it was epic-beautiful place, super-friendly gal running it & the breakfast that comes with it was beyond outstanding. The sunset at Trout Lake the night before we hiked was superb. The trailhead is 16 miles from here.

On FS road 24 you park at Cultus Creek campground-notice there are two trailheads there, one is the Cultus Creek trail (as you enter the parking lot, the other the Indian Heaven trail further back & well marked). Looks like this would also be a nice campground to stay before/after the sites were private-there is also tons of dispersal camping off the FS road here and there.

We hiked up the Indian Heaven trail-it is all business for the first mile climbing 1100 feet lickety-split. Then it evens out & there probably is not a better word for what is up top than Indian Heaven. The huckleberries were absurd we have never seen anything like it & lake after lake after lake amid scenic country & if you like meadows this trail is essentially about 6 uninterrupted miles of them each more inviting than the last.

We had perfect weather & zero bugs & did not see a single person on the entire loop the day after Labor Day-wow.

Once you go up the Indian Heaven trail there is a confusing junction at the Lemei Lake trail interchange. The first post you see signed Lemei Lake trail actually is not going toward Lemei Lake-it is going toward Wapiki Lake (although it is the Lemei Lake trail it is the lower segment). With that stated this is an outstanding side hike we took for 1.25 miles climbing another 800 feet through another meadow under a stunning rock cliff to a glorious viewpoint of Pah-toe (Mt. Adams), the best one we saw all day. This trail then descends rapidly to the Wapiki Lake and back to FS road 24 but that's not really what you want to do (thanks GPS for getting us back on track).

We retraced our steps back to the junction then found the actual upper segment of the Lemei Lake trail a bit further up the Indian Heaven trail from where we had branched off. Then took Lemei Lake trail to Lemei Lake and beyond to Junction Lake and met up with the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). Turned right on PCT for the return and it goes by one splendid lake after the next. The best looked to be Elk Lake with sandy beaches & clear water.

We passed the Indian Heaven junction with the PCT and continued on the PCT to the Cultus Creek trail for the return back steeply down to the campground/trailhead. There were some staggering views of Adams down side trails to the left of the higher part of this stretch.

The trail was clear & well maintained throughout & now we know what the fuss is about if you like hiking and get the right conditions this trail has everything you could ever want! With our side trip to the viewpoint we clocked 12.5 miles.
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Indian Heaven Bird Mountain Loop, Blue Lake — Jul 19, 2013 — scarbonetti
Multi-night backpack
Features: Wildflowers blooming
Issues: Snow on trail | Bugs
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We started at the Cultus Creek trailhead and hiked south on Indian Heaven Trail #33, continuing on t...
We started at the Cultus Creek trailhead and hiked south on Indian Heaven Trail #33, continuing on to Lemei Lake Trail #179 and meeting up with the PCT at Junction Lake. We stayed the night at Blue Lake, hiked north on the PCT until heading west on Elk Lake Trail #176. Stayed the night at Elk Lake, then headed north on the PCT to Trail #108, which took us back to the trailhead.

All the trails we traveled on were in good condition and easy to navigate. There were a few patches of snow on the trail, but they were very manageable. Mosquitoes are out in full force (bug spray didn't seem to slow them down). Blue Lake, Elk Lake, and Bear Lake are all gorgeous. Lemei and Junction are fairly shallow, and not worth staying long at. Few people on the trail Friday, more on Saturday, but we didn't have trouble finding a good spot to camp. All in all a great trip!
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Indian Heaven Bird Mountain Loop — Oct 06, 2012 — Rob
Day hike
Features: Fall foliage
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Four of us enjoyed a nice day hike around Bird Mtn. Fall is definitely here-the weather was consider...
Four of us enjoyed a nice day hike around Bird Mtn. Fall is definitely here-the weather was considerably cooler than it was one week ago. The trail is dusty and some rain/snow will be nice to help put out the fires. After the hike we rewarded ourselves with a nice dinner at the 6th St Bistro in Hood River.
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Indian heaven - Junction Lake, Indian Heaven #33 — Aug 24, 2009 — Lunapeople
Overnight
Features: Ripe berries
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We hiked in to Junction Lake, on the east side of the Indian Heaven Wilderness near Mt. Adams, with ...
We hiked in to Junction Lake, on the east side of the Indian Heaven Wilderness near Mt. Adams, with our two boys -ages 2.5 and 6.5. The younger one is carried part of the way so that made for some big packs. It's 700 feet up and 2.5 easy miles to the lake.

we set up at camp at Junction Lake - meadowy and sunny, the lake has muddy shorelines but the camp was very nice. The next day we day hiked the 4.2 mile loop past Lemei Lake (partly marshy, partly rocky shoreline with a nice looking camp up on a wooded shelf), then to Indian Heaven #33 and past Clear Lake (clear, wooded, with some decent looking camps), then to the PCT and past Deer (nice beach, wooded, a few ok camps), and Bear (GREAT beach, nice camps) and back to Junction. Then out the next day.

lotsof berries, no bugs (we heard that they were terrible just two weeks ago), easy hiking.

We added a few days in the region to pick huckleberries, car camp, and visit Mt. St. helens - our "Gifford Pinchot smapler"

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mushrooms on bird mountain loop.jpg
Look but don't touch! Toxic mushrooms on the Bird Mountain trail. Photo: JG
WTA worked here!
2012
Location
Indian Heaven (#33), PCT (#2000), Cultus Creek (#108)
South Cascades -- Indian Heaven / Trapper Creek
Mt. Adams Ranger District
Statistics
Roundtrip 7.0 miles
Elevation Gain 1200 ft
Highest Point 5200 ft
Features
Lakes
Mountain views
Established campsites
User info
Northwest Forest Pass required
Guidebooks & Maps
South Cascades
Green Trails No. 365 Mount Lone Butte

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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 MarkerIndian Heaven Bird Mountain Loop
46.0471 -121.75615
  • Volunteer Vacations 2012
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