This is a hike that taught me not to go in too cocky. Eight miles, 3200 feet elevation gain… meh, that’s not so bad. Lesson learned!
This weekend we took on Devil’s Peak (via Cook Creek Trailhead) for the first time with Don, one of Paul’s coworkers. Devil’s Peak is tucked away in the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness of the Mt. Hood National Forest, a little southwest of Hood.
Mt. Hood National Forest, Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness
Summit at 5,045 feet
Total hike distance: 8 miles
Total elevation gain: 3,200 feet
(Our GPS data is slightly off near the trailhead, but mostly accurate)
Click map for full GPS data
The trailhead is right off the side of the road, it will sneak up on you!
Two words: butt-kicker. The hike report I had read on this hike was terribly dramatic, with tales of endless climbing, gasping for air and sweating uncontrollably; at first I figured someone was exaggerating the details in order to tell a good story, but quickly realized that that is exactly how it is. It became painfully clear that I have been slacking this year (I can’t speak for the guys though, who bounded up the trail with no trouble… almost like they were part machine… hmm…).The trail is steep right out of the gate, with absolutely no warmup time. The first mile or so is pretty brutal, climbing up and up through dense forest. After that mile, the trail is slightly tamer, and starts to open up to gorgeous viewpoints. The trail is also lined with tons of wildflowers the entire way, including several I haven’t seen in person before, which was a nice distraction from my racing heart and profuse sweating.
Tons of Salal everywhere
The trail is over so slightly more forgiving after that first mile, but is always climbing at a pretty steady grade. There are a few spots with well-worn side trails to viewpoints and campsites along the way, perfect opportunities to catch your breath and take in views of Mt. Hood, Mt. Adams, Mt. St. Helens, and even Mt. Rainier on a clear day (which we had, woot!). It took most of my energy to even stay within sight of the guys ahead of me, so I really didn’t take too many photos on the way up. My mission was just to get there without keeling over. All physical over-exertion aside, this is a really enjoyable hike. Great scenery, and you really feel like you’re working hard toward something. It makes the summit feel that much more awesome.
You know you are close when you come to the junction with the Hunchback Mountain Trail; you make a right here, and very shortly thereafter is the glorious “<— Devil’s Peak Lookout” sign pointing you to the left toward the summit. It felt great to get to the summit on this one and breathe a collective sigh of relief. There are little wildflowers everywhere carpeting the ground; Phlox, Paintbrush, Larkspur, and I’m kicking myself for not taking a picture of the Subalpine Mariposa Lily, which is apparently somewhat uncommon. The views are fantastic and the weather was perfect – I could have stayed up there for hours. Actually, we did spend quite a bit of time hanging out up there, drinking beers and just relaxing. Super fun.
There is a very cool fire lookout situated at the summit here, which you can actually overnight in if it’s not already claimed. I’m not sure if I could sleep there though; it’s pretty dirty and there are reports of mice scurrying about at night. I think I’d prefer a tent.
The lookout was surprisingly stocked with wood, supplies, snacks, fresh water and toilet paper… if you did decide to make a night of it, you’d be all set (and I can easily see how one might get to Devil’s Peak and not want to leave). There is supposed to be a log book somewhere, but all I saw were some nonetheless entertaining notes on a single piece of paper from visitors over last year.
If you take the narrow trail past the summit, down and to the left a little ways, you come to another amazing viewpoint (on a small and steep rocky slope though, use extreme caution!) with views of Hood, Mt. Jefferson and even Three-Fingered Jack on this perfectly clear day. It was nice to do a hike with such a view of Jefferson, we don’t usually get that.
After taking in Mt. Jefferson, you turn around and are face-to-face with Mt. Hood.
After lounging around in the sun a little longer, we threw the packs back on to head back the way we came. Needless to say, the descent is almost as hard on the knees and toes as the climb is on the thighs and calves! At least I was able to stop and take a few more wildflower photos, now that I was actually able to keep up with the gang.
There were also Vanilla Leaf and Queen’s Cup all over the place that I didn’t get photos of. I was loving the flower variety!
We got back to the trailhead in no time, and proceeded to nom out on BBQ, mac n’ cheese and deep fried pickles at Skyway in Zigzag (our first time there – it was totes awesome). This hike was quite the workout, and completely worth it, even despite the grueling ascent. As Don put it: Some trails are happy and nice and give you a good feeling, but not this one. This is a mean one. This one is like… “#&@% you.”