This trail leads eight miles one way from Owyhigh Lakes Trailhead on White River Road to Deer Creek Trailhead on State Road 123. It can be hiked as an out and back day hike from either trailhead, a shuttle hike or an overnight backpack. The route leads through the Shaw Creek Valley, between Cowlitz Chimneys and Governors Ridge, over an unnamed pass and into the Kotsuck drainage to Chinook Creek. The total elevation gain for this one way route is approximately 2,000 feet.
This description of Owyhigh Lake Trail begins on the White River Road at Owyhigh Lake Trailhead, elevation 3,750 feet. The trail climbs steadily from the trailhead on long switchbacks for three miles. This steep stretch leads through dense forest along Shaw Creek.
At the top of the switchbacks the trail begins to contour the eastern flanks of Tamanos Mountain and reaches Tamanos Creek, which may be dry by late summer. A log crosses the creek as a bridge, with a fork in the tread immediately beyond the stream crossing. The left side of the fork leads to Tamanos Creek Camp, which lies between Tamanos Creek and Shaw Creek near the confluence of the two streams.
Owyhigh Lake lies one half mile beyond the camping area. There is no access trail to the lake, so hikers should remain on the main trail so as not to trample the fragile vegetation around the lake. The view eastward over the lakes includes rugged Governors Ridge in the background. Looking westward you'll see Tamanos Mountain and further south the Cowlitz Chimneys.
From the lake the trail leads southward climbing slightly to an unnamed pass at 5,390 feet. On the southern side of the pass the Owyhigh Lake Trail enters the Kotsuck drainage and begins a four mile descent to Chinook Creek. During the first mile the trail descends slowly using only one switchback to reach the creek side. In the second mile from the pass the trail steepens and follows a series of short switchbacks. Below these the trail gradient lessens and the path reaches the creek side at an unnamed waterfall.
Continuing eastward from the waterfall the trail continues to descend steadily. The path crosses Boundary Creek three miles from the pass. Leading eastward the track stay close to the creeks northern bank. It comes to a confluence of Kotsuck, Chinook and Deer Creeks approximately one half mile from the Boundary Creek crossing. To reach State Road 123 from this confluence walk eastward crossing Chinook Creek and Deer Creek to a trail ascending the eastern valley wall of Chinook Creek. The last quarter mile to the highway is a 350-foot ascent.
Directions: From White River Entrance, Drive two miles west to a parking area on the right. The trailhead is located across the road.
Elevation: 3,750 feet
Ending Elevation: 3,232 feet
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