Weekend Backpacker: Portland
Indian Heaven is probably best known for its history. Long before the arrival of the Europeans, the Yakima and Klickitat peoples converged on the area, spending weeks in late summer gathering food, racing horses, and preparing for winter. They left behind plentiful artifacts, as well, some of which archaeologists are still uncovering today. (Note: It's against the law to remove artifacts from federal lands. If you find something, leave it where you found it and tell a ranger.) Indian Heaven Wilderness covers 20,400 acres of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. Stands of lodgepole pine, fir, and hemlock are interspersed with broad meadows of seasonal huckleberry and wildflowers. Over 170 lakes and ponds speckle its surface.
With an average elevation of close to 5,000 feet, the area thaws out around mid-July. But mosquitoes follow the snow, so aim for early September, after the bloodthirsty darlings have settled down.
Cultis Creek to Blue Lake, Return via Bird Mountain
Day 1: From the Cultis Creek trailhead take Indian Heaven Trail (#33) south. The trail slowly climbs, more or less paralleling Cultis Creek. To the west rises Bird Mountain, a craggy remnant of a long-dead volcano. At 2.4 miles you'll pass a spur trail to Deep Lake. A tenth of a mile later you'll pass Trail #34 (heading east toward Lemei Rock), staying on #33 for less than a mile until turning off on Lemei Trail (#179). Round Lemei Lake and drop down to aptly named Junction Lake, where you'll pick up the Pacific Crest Trail (#2000). Take the PCT south to Blue Lake and some great camping. If all sites are taken, push the extra half mile southeast (on trail #55) to Tombstone Lake.
Day 2: Double back on the PCT to Junction Lake. From here continue on the PCT up into the high country, passing Bear, Clear, and Deer Lake. We then climb up over the shoulders of Bird Mountain and around its back side. At 2.5 miles from junction lake turn right on Trail #108, climbing over Bird Mountain's saddle, then dropping a steep 1.5 miles down to the Cultis Creek trailhead.
Wilderness permit required. Contact Mount Adams ranger district in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest for details.
Indian Heaven Wilderness Map, distributed by the US Forest Service. Great, simple map that covers the entire area in detail. Contact the Mount Adams ranger district in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.
100 Hikes in Washington's South Cascades and Olympics by Ira Springs and Harvey Manning (Mountaineers). Covers much of this trip in Hike #56.
Take I-84 east to Hood River. Cross the bridge and head east on Washington 14. In White Salmon turn north on WA 141. In Trout Lake, pass the wilderness headquarters. Follow 141 on to national forest land, where it becomes Forest Road 24. Follow this past Little Goose to Cultis Creek Camp.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication