Start from the Cultus Lake Campground with a 1.4 mile climb through Douglas-fir forest to the base of Bird Mountain. Follow the trail south through pocket meadows and stands of forest brimming with summer wildflowers and berries, to shallow Cultus Lake.
Here, a 0.3- mile side trail heads east to vibrant Blue Lake, an ideal camping location if you're getting a late start, or a nice side trip if you want to add miles. Continue south on a gentle descent for 0.4 mile to a fork in the trail.
The right fork cuts across the southern extension of Bird Mountain, past Clear Lake, to connect to the PCT for a shorter loop option.
You'll bear left, heading eastward a short distance before returning to a southerly heading. The trail opens up and traverses several wide meadows, many chock-full of tasty huckleberries at peak season. Pass Lemei Lake in a wide, grassy basin, then make a short, switchbacking climb over a low, forested ridge before descending to glittering Junction Lake, aptly named for its location at the trail junction with the PCT.
A couple of nice campsites can be found in the trees here, just off the trail. To continue the loop, hop on the PCT and head north, climbing ever so gradually through shady forest. At 1.6 miles from Junction Lake, come to another junction at Bear Lake. Here, a side trail breaks off west 0.5 mile to Elk Lake. For a fantastic campsite, proceed about a hundred yards past the junction and find a bootpath descending to the peninsula jutting out into the lake, where you’ll find two campsites in the trees, and a small rocky beach just beyond.
The loop continues north on the PCT as the trail passes high above Deer Lake and arrives at yet another junction. This is the other side of the cutoff that passes Clear Lake. Continue another 2 miles north on the PCT. Pass the junction for Placid Lake and traverse a wide rockfall slope where pikas are frequently seen and heard, to the final junction on the loop: the Cultus Creek Cutoff.
Veer right off the PCT for a short, steep climb over the pass, now on the north side of Bird Mountain. At the top, look for a bootpath that branches off left to a viewpoint atop a rocky outcrop and take in all of the South Cascades’ glory. The final 1.5 miles is a steep descent to the Cultus Lake Campground and your car.
WTA Pro Tip: Knock off a few miles of the famed Pacific Crest Trail along the west side of this idyllic loop in one of Washington’s least-visited wildernesses.
Bird Mountain Loop
- 10.25 miles, roundtrip
- Elevation Gain
- 1,875 feet
- Highest Point
- 5,230 feet
Hiking Bird Mountain Loop
Bird Mountain Loop
Map & Directions
Co-ordinates: 46.0471, -121.7562 Open in Google Maps