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Mount Adams Highline, Mount Adams South Climb, Muddy Meadows, High Camp

Sep 14, 2009

by marydave last modified Sep 18, 2009 01:17 PM
Type of Outing
Multi-night backpack
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Hike: Mount Adams Highline
Region: South Cascades -- Mount Adams
Agency: USFS Mount Adams Ranger District
Trails: Highline (#114)
Avg Rating: 3.00
Read More in our Hiking Guide
Hike: Mount Adams South Climb
Region: South Cascades
Trails: Mount Adams South Climb (#183)
Avg Rating: 4.29
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Hike: Muddy Meadows
Region: South Cascades
Trails: Muddy Meadows (#13)
Avg Rating: 1.67
Read More in our Hiking Guide
Hike: High Camp
Region: South Cascades
Trails: High Camp (#10)
Avg Rating: 2.75
Why You Should Go Now
Fall foliage
From Horseshoe Meadow to the southwest, not much snow on the this side of the mountain. Photo by author.
When the weather cooperates, it's hard to beat mid-September hiking, with fall foliage, more solitude, and NO MOSQUITOES.

We did the Mt Adams Highline clockwise from the South Climb trail to the last ford before the Yakama boundary, backtracking and hiking out the Muddy Meadow trail to the north. The one-way trip was facilitated by a third hiker who started with us at Cold Springs, then returned to her car the second day.

Thanks to mostly clear weather, we saw Mt Adams close up from its dry south side to the glaciated north, along with views out to Mt Hood, Mt St Helens, Mt Rainier and the Goat Rocks.

One of the downsides of hiking in September is that blue lines on the map don't necessarily correspond to sources of water in the early fall. Perhaps it was the 1997 debris flow on the mountain, or the effect of the October storms, or maybe it has always been this way, but after crossing several muddy torrents that required agile rock-hopping on the way there, when we reached Horseshoe Meadow we found lots of established campsites with no water within a half mile. Fortunately, we had enough water for a dry camp.

It was another 4 miles up the PCT before the next water at Sheep Lake and a very pleasant stream just beyond. The headwaters of Lewis River had good water, West Fork Adams Creek was a raging torrent requiring a freezing cold ford, then the next water was Killen Creek, just before the parting of the Pacific Crest and Highline trails. Beautiful campsites here, and this is where we spent our second night. After making camp, Dave backtracked to the Killen Creek Trail junction and chugged up to High Camp. Spectacular views, but no water in liquid form near the camps.

On day 3 we set up our tent at Foggy Flat, then continued toward Devils Garden. The creek flowing from Lava Glacier was a reasonable rock hop, but when we reached the outflow of Lyman Glacier a mile short of the Yakama Nation boundary, although it looked fordable, the water was cold and rushing, we already had wonderful views where we were and a weather front was clearly coming in, so we called it a hike. After a lunch break gaping at the north face of Adams, we retraced our steps, packed up the tent and headed to our car waiting at the Muddy Meadows trailhead.

Other than the creek crossings and the section southwest of Foggy Flat, the trail is easy walking. The unstable ground and rushing creeks preclude bridges, I think; I'm just glad the Forest Service has continued to reroute the trails where the creeks have washed them out. It's clear in particular on the Round the Mountain Trail #9 and Highline Trail #114 beyond Foggy Flat that reroutes are nearly an annual exercise.

The blueberries were past their prime all along the trail, and were completely dried up on the south side of the mountain, but the fall foliage colors are out.

There were a dozen or more cars at the South Climb trailhead; ours was the only car at the Muddy Meadows trailhead when we started. It was bow hunting season, but we saw hunters on only the final day of the trip. Both nights we camped we had the entire area to ourselves.
West Fork Adams Creek was a bracing ford. Photo by author.
Gnarled trees and Adams Glacier from High Camp. Photo by author.
The north side of Mt Adams stands in icy contrast to the south, and the fall colors on the lava moraines were a delightful surprise. Photo by author.
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