Bird Creek Meadows is a short crowd pleaser. Known for its abundant wildflower meadows, views of Mount Adams and the Hellroaring Canyon, and little creeks, lakes and waterfalls, this trail provides a nice 3-mile loop for hikers.
The loop begins at Bird Lake, where the forest was severely burned. Park at the south end of the lake and enjoy the view of Mount Adams looming over the lake. Walk on the short spur road to the left and look for the start of the Bird Lake Trail, which may not have a sign.
The trail gradually ascends with Mount Adams looming ahead and wildflowers and birdsong all around. You'll cross Crooked Creek three times. Watch for trail turns: the trail makes a 90-degree left turn to cross the second bridge. Hikers have gotten lost here by not seeing the bridge and going straight ahead instead. At just over one mile, scenic Crooked Creek Falls will appear. Peel yourself away, and continue hiking upwards to the junction with the Round-the-Mountain trail at 1.5 miles.
Turn right and hike 0.7 mile. Turn left on the Trail of Flowers. You know what you'll find here: flowers! Lots and lots of them. The diversity is remarkable, and this is one hike where you'll want to have a field guide with you. Climb up through meadows. If you can lift your eyes from your feet, as you gain elevation you will see Mount Hood to the east.
Shortly past a clifftop viewpoint, come to a trail junction in about 0.5 mile. Turn left for a side-trip to the show-stopper at Hellroaring Overlook. Follow the trail for 0.6 mile upward to its end at a clifftop view overlooking Hellroaring Valley and up at the southeast face of Mount Adams. Bring binoculars so you can scan the slopes for mountain goats and the Hellroaring Meadows in the valley for black bears.
When you have seen enough, return the way you came to the trail junction. You can turn left to continue on around the Trail of Flowers. Beyond this point, the trail enters burned forest so the flora changes dramatically. At the Bird Creek Meadows Picnic Area, turn right onto the Round the Mountain Trail and walk about 0.2 mile to a junction with a trail on the left.
Turn left here onto the Bluff Lake Trail, which will take you back to Bird Lake in 1.3 miles. Pass waterfalls, meadows and Bluff Lake along the way. The trail will bring you to the north shore of Bird Lake and you can walk around the lake on the campground road back to your vehicle.
WTA Pro Tip: Before you go, however, make sure the Yakama Nation has the area open. The Bird Creek Meadows trails are on Yakama Nation lands and in recent years, the Yakama Nation Mount Adams Recreation Area has only been open for one month in late summer. Contact email@example.com or call (509) 865-5121 ext. 4613 for current information on open dates and day use fees.
Note: This is one of guidebook author Joan Burton's favorite family hikes, and she provides a great write-up in her Best Hikes with Kids: Western Washington & Cascades book (Mountaineers Books). The 2015 Cougar Creek Fire burned across Bird Creek Meadows and since then trail conditions have deteriorated due to lack of use and maintenance, so the hike is no longer so family-friendly as when Joan wrote her book.