Wild and Easy

No Stress Day Hikes Near Washington's Mount Adams
Mount Adams
The snowy shoulders of Mount Adams as seen from a wet meadow near its base (USGS/Cascades Volcano Observatory)

Known to Native Americans as Klickitat, Mount Adams tends to be Washington's"forgotten" Cascade peak. Situated south of Rainier and east of St. Helens, Adams is a massive, broad-shouldered mountain that ranks second only to Mt. Rainier in height, at 12,276 feet. Its recreation areas are less organized. than the Mount Ranier National Park and the national volcanic monument at Mount St. Helens. Since travelers from the major metropolitan areas of Portland and Seattle must pass Rainier, St. Helens, and/or Hood to reach Adams, most find themselves at one of the other three peaks. But the Trout Lake valley and the dayhikes on and near Mount Adams provide compelling reasons to make the journey.

The mountain has long held spiritual significance for Native Americans. Its ownership has been contested for over a century, beginning with a 1855 treaty between the Yakama Nation and the US Government. Subsequent surveys changed boundaries, resulting in fewer and fewer acres for the Yakama people over the years. Finally, in 1972, the US returned a 21,000-acre parcel, including much of the mountain's east face and its summit, to the Yakama Nation. Part of this parcel is accessible to the general public for hiking.

Most of the hikes featured in this article lie to the west of the mountain within the Gifford Pinchot National Forest and its Indian Heaven and Mount Adams Wilderness areas. Gifford Pinchot participates in the Trail Park Pass system; vehicles parked at trailheads must display a pass decal in the window.

Mount Adams is east of the Cascade crest, so the area is green and pretty, but not sodden like the west side. Where Mount St. Helens' view is obscured by weather some 200 days out of each year, Mount Adams' is clear more often than not.

As you drive the roads outside of Trout Lake and Glenwood, you will encounter many open range areas; cattle may be present in the roadway. Plan extra time, and take it easy, especially on gravel roads and around corners.

The Trout Lake valley is a beautiful and largely unexploited place. Much of the farming here is organic, and the water, tested on a regular basis, is drinking pure (if a local offers you a glass of tap water, don't decline). The area has a long dairy heritage, with milk, cheese, and butter production and storage facilitated by the naturally occurring lava ice caves. It is also renowned for its huckleberries. Native Americans and early settlers converged on the hillsides to lay in their winter's supply each September. If you visit the area in the fall, be sure to find a cafi that serves homemade huckleberry pie or cobbler.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 19 Sep 2011
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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