October 2, 2010

Indian Heaven Wilderness

Cultus Lake, Lemei Rock and Lake Wapiki overlook

Trials hiked: Indian Heaven trailhead at Cultus Creek campground to Lemei trail
Distance: 6.8 miles
Elevation gain: 1,500 feet
Difficulty rating: moderate
Drive time from Portland: about 2-1/2 hours each way

Indian Heaven Wilderness is famous for its 150 + lakes and huckleberry-filled alpine meadows. The Native Americans used to gather each year to hunt, fish, collect berries and race their horses until the 1920s. On the northern and western side of the wilderness, huckleberry picking is still reserved for tribal members only. On clear days, there are great views of Mount Adams, Mount Rainier, Goat Rocks and Mount St. Helens.

Starting at the Cultus Creek campground, the hike begins a steep ascent through a Douglas Fir forest and skirts along the side of Bird Mountain. The first viewpoint has a very big payoff: unobstructed views of nearby Mount Adams, with Goat Rocks and Mount Rainier in the not so far distance. Our destinations for this hike were Cultus Lake, Lemei (pronounced lem-ee-eye) Rock and a view of Lake Wapiki. Cultus Lake is about 2 miles in. A side trail leads 3/10 miles to Deep Lake. From Cultus Lake to Lemei Rock, the trail passes through meadow after meadow of huckleberries and heather, which at this time of year are full of bright yellow and red colors, and plenty of berries for sampling. Lemei Rock is an ancient volcano crag and Lake Wapiki is held in its old red cinder crater. The lake looked incredibly blue and inviting for an early fall swim, but we turned around to head back out before it turned dark. There are many trails in this area, including the Pacific Crest Trail, and plenty of campgrounds, so I know I’ll be back to explore again.

Indian Heaven trailhead at Cultus Creek campground

wilderness sign

Mount Adams

Sawtooth Mountain and Mount Rainier

alpine meadow

Mount Adams through the trees

Cultus Lake

Lemei Rock

Lemei Rock and alpine meadows

Mount St. Helens

Lake Wapiki

red cinder ridge and Mount Adams

Lemei Rock

Mount Rainier

alpine meadow of huckleberries with fall color

trailside color

Cultus Lake

Bird Mountain

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  • Jim, aka ‘Crusak’

    Nice pictures! Indian Heaven is one of my favorite places in the Northwest simply because of its beauty, and the easy hiking it takes to get there.

    • Thanks Jim. This was my first time hiking in Indian Heaven… it is so different from other areas. I particularly loved the fall color that was everywhere, and the craggy rock formations. I’ll be back next year, same time.

  • Lindsey

    Great Pictures… especially the couple ones of Mount Adams.