Looking for some hikes to spectacular vistas, through old-growth forests, and without the need for a trail permit? Check out these five day-trip hikes near Santiam Pass in the Old Cascades in the Willamette National Forest.
Named after the reddish, metallic appearance of the basaltic rock exposed on the mountain's flank. Formerly known as Pleasanton Butte, this peak has several trail options and a wooden viewing platform at the summit. Hikers often start at the Tombstone Pass trailhead to do a loop hike. The trail passes through forests, open meadows and rocky outcrops which provide habitat for over 300 species of plants.
Views from the summit include nearby Cone and Echo peaks, Browder Ridge and the Three Sisters.
Length: 7.1 mile loop or 2.4 mile round trip from upper trailhead on the Iron Mountain Civil Road
Elevation gain: 1,740 feet
On the north side of Tombstone Pass sits the massive hulk of Browder Ridge. To reach the summit, there are two trailheads, one from the east and one from the west. Both pass through coniferous forests dominated by Douglas fir and pass through some open meadows that provide great views of the surrounding peaks, as well as Diamond Peak to the south.
The area abounds in wildflowers and is a good place to look for butterflies flitting about the meadows. A side trail leads to Heart Lake.
Trail length: 8.4 miles RT, or more
Elevation gain: 2,100 feet
Difficulty: Moderate or strenuous
Named after the crescent-shaped outline of the mountain, this hike offers some excellent views of the Three Sisters, Mount Jefferson, Mount Hood and many of the surrounding Old Cascades. The trail passes through old-growth coniferous forests, avalanche paths with vine maple, mountain meadows bursting with wildflowers, and depending upon the season, ripe with huckleberries.
The summit, which once housed a Forest Service fire lookout, is a great lunch spot and has views that extend from Mount Hood to the Three Sisters.
Trail: 9.3 miles round trip
Elevation gain: 2,200 feet
Coffin Mountain Hike
Short but steep, the climb up to Coffin Mountain gets rewarded with excellent views and has an active fire lookout, one of the few remaining in the Willamette National Forest. The trail skirts through some forest, then arcs across an open slope blanketed with blooming beargrass earlier in the season. This meadow is the result of an old forest fire. The summit views are enticing of the surrounding peaks, especially nearby Bachelor Mountain which offers a post-Coffin Mountain hike option (3.8 miles roundtrip and 1,100 feet of elevation gain).
Trail length: 2.8 miles round trip
Elevation gain: 1,040 feet
Santiam Wagon Road
If peak-bagging is not your thing, the historic Santiam Wagon Road Trail offers alternative hikes in the South Santiam River valley. Carved out of the dense coniferous forest, this route provided access to eastern Oregon and Idaho for ranchers located in the Willamette Valley and as a livestock, freight and stage coach route.
One stretch of trail is from the Fish Lake Interpretive Site and Remount Depot, located near the intersection of Highway 128 and Highway 20, toward Tombstone Pass. You can almost hear the bellow of cattle or the creak of wagons. Find a turnaround point for the out-and-back hike, as it's 8.7 miles one way. There are multiple sections and entry points along the entire road.
Trail length: 2.2 miles one-way to FR2672
Elevation gain: 100 feet
Difficulty: Easy to moderate
Many of the trailheads require a Northwest Forest Pass or America the Beautiful Pass for parking. Dogs must be leashed during summer. Pack for the conditions and remember to be aware of summer thunderstorms.