Under the Stars near Portland

Southern Washington Cascades: Goose Lake
  |  Gorp.com
Directions : From I-84 east of Portland, cross the Bridge of the Gods to Washington, drive east to Carson, and head north on Wash. 30. Follow the signs toward Panther Creek Campground, which will put you on paved FS 65 heading north. Drive 11 miles north on this road, turn right onto gravel FS 60, and continue roughly six miles to the campground. Alternatively, drive to Hood River, go north to Trout Lake on Wash. 141, and continue 12 miles west of Trout Lake on Wash. 141, which becomes FS 60.
Travel time : Approximately 2 hours.
Reservations : Yes; (877) 444-6777; www.reserveusa.com.
Fee : $11 to $13.
Open : Late May until closed by snow.

If you just can't wait until July to get out in the woods but you want a reasonable facsimile of a mountain hiking weekend, then head for the Indian Heaven Wilderness east of Trout Lake, Washington. This lake-dotted plateau has impressive plugs of rock rising above the forest and plenty of meadows filled with wildflowers.

There are lots of trailheads into the wilderness and day hikes of varying lengths are possible. The closest trail, the East Crater Trail, has its trailhead a few miles north on FS 6035, but one of the best hikes into the wilderness starts from the Cultus Creek Campground. Over on the west side of the wilderness, another good trail, the Thomas Lake Trail, leads in from FS 65 to Thomas Lake and onward to Blue Lake (which more than lives up to its name).

Goose Lake Campground, which lies just south of Indian Heaven, makes one of the best base camps for exploring the wilderness. Goose Lake was formed when lava dammed the stream that once flowed through this little valley. If you're lucky, you can catch a few trout here, and the lake is also a good place for a swim later in the summer. Bring a canoe and kayak and you can explore among the ghostly snags of trees that were drowned when the lake formed. In late summer and early fall, this campground is popular with huckleberry gatherers.


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