I love discovering new hikes… new to me, that is. A friend and I hiked Boulder Ridge today, accessed via the Wildwood Recreation Area near Mount Hood. I can’t believe I didn’t know about this one before… it’s a great conditioning hike.
Boulder Ridge hike
6.6 miles with 2,000 ft. gain
This hike starts at the Wildwood Recreation Site, a large park operated by BLM. With a focus on the Wild and Scenic Salmon River, the park has paved trails with interpretive signage for visitors to learn about the habitat of salmon. There’s even an under-river viewing station so you can see the fish swimming in the river. I’ve only been here one time with friends visiting from out of town. I didn’t know there were additional hiking options available here until I started seeing posts on Facebook about the hike up Boulder Ridge. It still wasn’t really on my radar until a friend suggested we hike there instead of the snowshoeing trip we had planned. There had been a lot of rain at Mount Hood over the week, and conditions weren’t great for snowshoeing.
The trail leads to the summit of Huckleberry Mountain, but with a total of over 10 miles with 3,000 ft gain and the potential for snow at higher elevation, we decided to go as far as we felt like then turn around. I read about a viewpoint about halfway up, so I knew there were options for shorter hikes.
The fee to enter the Wildwood Recreation Site is $5, but I have an America the Beautiful pass that covers entry to BLM locations like this one. We drove to the trailhead parking lot, which has a nice restrooms and an information kiosk. The map at the kiosk shows where to access the trailhead for Boulder Ridge, just to the west of the restrooms. A paved trail leads to an arched pedestrian bridge over the Salmon River. Stay to the right, ignoring the side trails for the wetland area. In about half a mile from the parking lot, reach a trail marker for Boulder Ridge.
Cross a small bridge over Sixes Creek and continue to the Wilderness sign-in. Instead of a form that you fill out and attach a copy to your pack, there’s a small booklet attached for signing in.
Just after this, the trail is rocky, with a seasonal waterfall spilling right onto the trail. There’s no way to go around it, so just hike right through it and plan to get wet. I assume that this waterfall is not an issue in drier seasons.
The trail is steep, with a lot of switchbacks and several small stream crossings. There’s been a lot of rain lately, so there was a lot of water in tributary streams, and on the trail at times too. The lower forest has a thick understory of ferns, with Oregon grape, salal, and rhododendrons mixed in higher up. Some of the steep slopes on the side of the ridge have a barren understory, and with the fog, gives this area a mysterious feel. The forecast had called for a slight chance of rain, with mostly cloudy conditions, but the sun came out a few times and sent strong rays of light into the forest.
The trail switchbacks about 13 times in total (if you count both sides of every switch). At about 2.6 miles, there’s a fantastic viewpoint that we decided to come back to for lunch on the hike out. With views of Mount Hood, Zigzag Mountain, Hunchback Mountain, and the communities of Welches and Wemme, the viewpoint is large enough for several people to sit and soak up the views, well worth the short hike to reach it.
We hadn’t seen anyone else on the trail all day until we were about three miles in and a woman came down the trail ahead of us. We asked how far she had gotten, and she said there was a lot of snow ahead on the ridge. She turned around when she started post holing. We went ahead another 3/10 of a mile until we reached patches of snow. I was hungry and ready to go back to the viewpoint and make lunch, so we turned around. I’m testing out new backpacking recipes that I’m creating, and brought mushroom stroganoff pasta to try out. This meant bringing my backpacking stove, and it also meant that we could have hot coffee on the trail, a nice treat on a winter day.
I hope to do this hike again in the spring and go all the way to the summit of Huckleberry Mountain.