trip reports

July 22, 2018

Mount Adams / Killen Creek backpack

Three night backpacking trip at Killen Creek on Mount Adams

This was my first trip to Mount Adams. I’m really surprised that it took me so long to visit this amazing place. There were meadows full of wildflowers, views of Mount Rainier, Mount St. Helens and Goat Rocks, plenty of swarming mosquitoes, a waterfall at our campsite, and several small lakes nearby. We spent three nights and explored the area via short day hikes to High Camp, Foggy Flat and along the PCT.

Since we would be hiking on the PCT and camping right next to it, I was hoping to see a few thru-hikers on this trip. We ended up meeting five. The first night, a thru-hiker going SOBO came in late and set up camp next to us. He was gone waaayy before we got up the next morning.

The third day of our trip, we met an awesome group of four thru-hikers going southbound on the PCT. We shared some trail magic with them and heard about when they were hit by lightning on the trail a few weeks before. Back in Portland, a friend of mine hosted them overnight and took them shopping for supplies. We got to hang out and have a BBQ before they got back on the trail. They were so much fun!

We also met a young woman solo hiking the Washington PCT. She said that she hadn’t seen many women on the trail so she was happy to join our group on our last night. We showed her the best spot to view the sunset – a short side trail from our camp led to a high point above a lake with a view of Mount Rainier on the horizon. The alpenglow on Mount Adams competed for the best sunset views, so we ended up walking back and forth a lot.

I really enjoyed spending a few days on the PCT and meeting so many cool people thru-hiking it!

Day 1

We started  at the Killen Creek trailhead on the northeast side of Mount Adams and hiked in for three miles to the junction with the PCT, then we turned left and headed north for another mile to campsites near Killen Creek. The hike in was not hard, but it was hot and dusty, with a few swarming mosquitoes.

Mount Adams - Killen Creek backpack

Mount Adams comes into view as we hike past wildflower meadows

Mount Adams - Killen Creek backpack

first view of Mount Rainier

Mount Adams - Killen Creek backpack

Ahh! Mount Adams!

Mount Adams - Killen Creek backpack

the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT)

Mount Adams - Killen Creek backpack

view of Mount Rainier and Goat Rocks from the PCT

Mount Adams - Killen Creek backpack

our camp near Killen Creek

Mount Adams - Killen Creek backpack

view of Mount Adams from our campsite

 

After setting up camp, we explored the area around us. Continuing north on the PCT, we passed two small lakes that looked like they would be good for swimming.

Mount Adams - Killen Creek backpack

small lake behind our camp area

Mount Adams - Killen Creek backpack

PCT post

Mount Adams - Killen Creek backpack

small lake off the PCT

Mount Adams - Killen Creek backpack

wildflowers in the sun

 

Back at camp, we had dinner and rested, then explored a bit more as the sun was setting.

Mount Adams - Killen Creek backpack

waterfall on Killen Creek next to our campsite

Mount Adams - Killen Creek backpack

evening alpenglow on Mount Adams

 

Day 2

We had two full days to explore the area on day hikes, so we took our time in the morning before heading out. We planned to hike to High Camp, which meant going back south on the PCT about a mile to the High Camp trail junction. The trail winds through rocky areas, with occasional snowfields that are still melting out. After about half a mile, the trail is much steeper, switchbacking up towards High Camp. We had a large group, so we hiked in three separate groups and we all ended up doing different versions of the hike.

Mount Adams - Killen Creek backpack

our camp area

Mount Adams - Killen Creek backpack

Killen Creek waterfall

Mount Adams - Killen Creek backpack

view of Goat Rocks

Mount Adams - Killen Creek backpack

High Camp Trail

Mount Adams - Killen Creek backpack

heading up the High Camp trail

Mount Adams - Killen Creek backpack

small snowfield

Mount Adams - Killen Creek backpack

as you continue on the High Camp trail, more distant ridges come into view

 

I didn’t go all the way to High Camp, stopping about halfway to have lunch and enjoy the views of Mount Rainier and Goat Rocks. The trail up to High Camp includes an exposed section on a shale slope that sounded sketchy for those with a fear of heights. I don’t know if it’s the height that bothers me, or the fear of falling, but I decided to not push it and instead, enjoy the views on a slow and leisurely approach to the day.

Mount Adams - Killen Creek backpack

 

We went back to the junction with the PCT and turned left to go south after one of our groups had been that way and recommended that we do the same before going back to camp. The trail goes through meadow after meadow, and the views of Mount Adams show more of its bulky mass. We rounded a small rocky ridge with bear grass lining the sides of the trail. At this point was our first view of Mount St. Helens.

Mount Adams - Killen Creek backpack

view of Mount St. Helens

Mount Adams - Killen Creek backpack

hiking south on the PCT

Mount Adams - Killen Creek backpack

rocky landscape

Mount Adams - Killen Creek backpack

we could see more of Mount Adams from this location

Mount Adams - Killen Creek backpack

bear grass on the PCT

When turned around when we reached Adams Creek – a fast moving glacier-fed creek that can be difficult to cross. We had no need to cross it, and getting back to camp early would mean more time for exploration later in the evening.

Mount Adams - Killen Creek backpack

Adams Creek

Mount Adams - Killen Creek backpack

bear grass and Mount St. Helens

Mount Adams - Killen Creek backpack

heading back to camp

 

At dusk, we went back to the small lake behind our camp to watch the sky turn light shades of yellow and orange. That’s Mount Rainier in the distance.

Mount Adams - Killen Creek backpack

this is probably the best sunset shot I’ve ever taken!

 

Day 3

Day hike to Foggy Flat: from our campsite, we headed north on the PCT for about a quarter of a mile to the junction with the Highline Trail. We were headed to Foggy Flat on the north side of Mount Adams, so we took the Highline Trail for about a mile to a creek crossing.

Mount Adams - Killen Creek backpack Mount Adams - Killen Creek backpack Mount Adams - Killen Creek backpack

 

At this creek crossing, most of our group continued hiking for about another mile, but a friend and I headed back.

Mount Adams - Killen Creek backpack

 

Compared to the meadows at our camp, the wildflowers in this part of the mountain were at their peak.

Mount Adams - Killen Creek backpack Mount Adams - Killen Creek backpack Mount Adams - Killen Creek backpack Mount Adams - Killen Creek backpack Mount Adams - Killen Creek backpack

 

As we approached the PCT, we ran into a thru-hiker heading south so we stopped to talk to him for a bit. He was hiking with his two brothers and a French thru-hiker from Montreal. As we sat and talked, the others showed up one by one. The group of four had been in a thunderstorm near the North Cascades when they were hit by lightning… and survived. It’s an amazing story. They are very lucky! We gave them some of our food, and after about an hour, they continued on and we headed back to camp.

Mount Adams - Killen Creek backpack

 

Back at our camp, we had dinner and then a young woman who was section hiking through Washington joined us in our camp. She’s hiking by herself and I think she enjoyed finding a large group of women to spend the evening with. (We wish you the best of luck on your trip, Gaby! It was so nice to meet you!)

Mount Adams - Killen Creek backpack

At dusk, we set out to explore the area around our camp one last time.

Mount Adams - Killen Creek backpack

The waterfall next to our campsite

Mount Adams - Killen Creek backpack

Mount Adams reflected in a small tarn

Mount Adams - Killen Creek backpack

alpenglow on Mount Adams

Mount Adams - Killen Creek backpack

Good night, Mount Rainier!

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