Bald Butte Hike
From Portland Hikers Field Guide
- Start point: Oak Ridge Trailhead
- End point: Bald Butte
- Trail Log: Trail Log
- Hike Type: Out and Back
- Distance: 8 miles round trip
- Elevation gain: 2100 feet
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Seasons: All, but will require snowshoes in the winter
- Family Friendly: Yes
- Backpackable: Yes
- Crowded: No
This is a quiet all-season trail that offers a variety of terrain. Large open meadows, heavily wooded forest, and a ridgetop ramble to a former lookout site with spectacular views of the Hood River Valley. This hike uses two trails; it's a 2.3 mile climb up the Oak Ridge Trail, then 1.8 miles on the Surveyor's Ridge Trail to Bald Butte.
The hike begins on Hood River County property and travels through a former clearcut now planted with young trees. It can be shrubby in this area early in the season. After 1/3 of a mile, you will cross the power line access road and head into a patch of woods that are filled with fawn lilies and oaks toothwort in the spring. Here the climbing begins, but the trail has plenty of switchbacks to make the altitude gain reasonable. You will shortly emerge from the forest to the first of the many huge steep meadows of Oak Ridge.
As you climb, be sure to look behind you as the valley views open up to the west, and Mount Hood rises on the southern horizon. On the middle stretch of the Oak Ridge trail the conifers disappear, and small patches of oak woodland dot the meadows.
After 1.7 miles on the Oak Ridge Trail, you will pass through an old cattle gate into a dense Douglas-fir forest. Look up at some of the big trees here, and you will see the gray-green clumps of mistletoe on some of the branches. This invasive parasite will eventually strangle the trees. In one half mile you will cross an old access road near the top, then meet the Surveyor's Ridge Trail at the summit of the ridge.
Turn left on the Surveyor's Ridge Trail. Follow it north along the ridgetop, go under the powerlines, climbing up to a lesser summit before hitting the final climb up to Bald Butte. In season (usually June), summit meadows are full with balsamroot and lupine flowers.
It is possible to turn this hike into a loop by returning via the powerline road, which will take you back to the Oak Ridge Trail near the parking area.
- Maps: Hike Finder
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