backpack: Mount Adams – Killen Creek

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

Day 1

hike in: 4.4 miles with 1,470 ft. gain

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 backpacking trip

beginning the hike in on the Killen Creek Trail

Mount Adams - Killen Creek backpacking trip

our first view of Mount Rainier

Mount Adams - Killen Creek backpacking trip

big view of Mount Adams as we hike past wildflower meadows

Mount Adams - Killen Creek backpacking trip

junction with the Pacific Crest Trail

Mount Adams - Killen Creek backpacking trip

camp area near Killen Creek

Mount Adams - Killen Creek backpacking trip

waterfall on Killen Creek

Mount Adams - Killen Creek backpacking trip

waterfall near our camp

Mount Adams - Killen Creek backpacking trip

our campsite

Mount Adams - Killen Creek backpacking trip

view from our campsite – 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 backpacking trip

High Camp Trail junction

Mount Adams - Killen Creek backpacking trip

on the High Camp Trail

Mount Adams - Killen Creek backpacking trip

as we hiked higher, we passed several small snowfields

 

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 backpacking trip

Mount Rainier and Goat Rocks on the horizon

Mount Adams - Killen Creek backpacking trip

Goat Rocks

 

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 backpacking trip

hiking south on the PCT

Mount Adams - Killen Creek backpacking trip

bear grass and Mount St. Helens

Mount Adams - Killen Creek backpacking trip

Mount Adams - Killen Creek backpacking trip

 

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 backpacking trip

Adams Creek – our turnaround point

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 backpacking trip

sunset at a small lake near our camp with Mount Rainier on the horizon

 

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 backpacking trip Mount Adams - Killen Creek backpacking trip

 

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

Mount Adams - Killen Creek backpacking trip Mount Adams - Killen Creek backpacking trip

 

At this creek crossing, most of our group continued hiking for about another mile, but a friend and I headed back. It would turn out to be a good thing… we ended up making new friends.

Mount Adams - Killen Creek backpacking trip

 

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. (after we returned to Portland, my friend hosted this group for a couple of days and took them shopping to replace gear that had been damaged by lightening)

Mount Adams - Killen Creek backpacking trip

 

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 backpacking trip

 

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

Mount Adams - Killen Creek backpacking trip

Mount Adams - Killen Creek backpacking trip

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