backpack: Mount Adams – Killen Creek + High Camp
On this four day trip at Mount Adams, we camped at Killen Creek and hiked to High Camp and Foggy Flat.
- distance & elevation gain to campsite: 4.5 miles, 1,460 ft. gain
- day hike options: High Camp, Foggy Flat, Muddy Meadows
- best months: mid-July to September
- location: Mount Adams Wilderness; nearest town: Trout Lake
- land management: Gifford Pinchot National Forest: Mount Adams Ranger Station
- trail conditions: Killen Creek Trail #113
- hike description: Washington Trails Association
- permits: self-issued at the trailhead
- trailhead pass: none required
Day 1: hike in to Killen Creek camp
4.5 miles, 1,460 ft. gain
Passes and permits: NW Forest Pass is required for parking; and self-issued wilderness permits for hiking and backpacking can be filled out at the trailhead. Note that if you plan to hike above 7,000 ft. on Mount Adams, a climbing permit is required.
Getting to the trailhead: The road to the Killen Creek trailhead was in much worse shape than when I was here two years ago. When I called the ranger station, they mentioned that it had not been graded this year due to the pandemic. Regardless, I made it okay driving a Honda CRV. The parking lot was full when we arrived so we took the last couple of spots next to the road.
The hike in
The Killen Creek Trail is 3.1 miles in length and gains about 1,400 before ending when it reaches the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). The trail is fairly dusty and ascends gradually through the forest for the first couple of miles, then through open terrain with meadows and views of Mount Adams.
When we reached the PCT, we turned left for another mile to campsites near Killen Creek. On this section of trail, views to the north include Mount Rainier and Goat Rocks.
Just after crossing a small footbridge over Killen Creek above a waterfall, we headed down to the camp area I stayed at two years ago. The same large campsite in the trees was available so we setup camp and then explored the area at sunset.
Day 2: day hike to High Camp
4 miles with 1,075 ft. gain
From camp, we hiked back one mile to the Killen Creek trail junction and took the High Camp trail up, up and up. The first mile is gradual as it winds through the trees, then it gets much rockier and steeper in the second mile.
I wasn’t sure that I would make it all the way to High Camp due to a section of steep scree that a friend had warned me about the last time I backpacked in this area. It was definitely a challenging hike up, but not too bad.
After going up the shale section, the trail levels out when it enters the meadows at High Camp.
There were a lot of campsites in the area, including a few in exposed areas with small rock walls to block wind.
We stopped here for a long lunch and I heard a glacier cracking sound, then saw a small avalanche near the base of the Adams Glacier. After lunch, we explored the High Camp area before heading back down the trail.
Taking a break on the way down.
I took it slow going down my least favorite part of the hike…
(Thanks to Robyn and Jenny for the use of their four photos above!)
When we reached the PCT, we headed back to camp.
At sunset, I walked around and took a few photos of the waterfall near our camp.
Day 3: day hike to Foggy Flat
5.5 miles, 640 ft. gain
From camp, we headed north on the PCT for about half a mile to a viewpoint above a lake, then we turned back and took the Highline Trail to Foggy Flat. This hike goes mostly through the forest and passes through several open meadows.
At Foggy Flat, there are a couple of campsites with views of the north side of Mount Adams.
We turned around at this creek and headed back to our camp at Killen Creek.
For our last night, we cooked dinner in the meadow and watched the color change on Mount Adams at sunset, then explored around camp one last time.
Day 4: hike out to the trailhead
The hike out to the trailhead was fairly easy, though it was hard to say goodbye to Mount Adams. I’m sure I’ll be back again sometime.