Divide Trail

Hood from Gunsight Butte, Badger Creek Wilderness
gnarled beauty on Gunsight Butte

Continuing the theme of new-to-me trails…

East of Hood (my favorite backyard Portland stomping ground) lies the Badger Creek Wilderness. It’s a medium sized wilderness that packs a lot of punch into its 29,000-ish acres. Badger Creek is situated on that ecosystem dividing line between the wetter, western and drier, eastern Cascades….it’s generally steep, less maintained and somewhat less crowded than Mount Hood.

I’ve done very little exploring in this area. This is probably due to the fact that really scary forest service roads (I don’t mean the ones that are rocky and washboarded and filled with potholes, I mean the ones that feel like they will drop you off a cliff at a moment’s notice), don’t agree with my acrophobia…I have a distinctly less-than-fond memory of trying to reach Badger Lake many years ago with Andy on a road that had me close to hyperventilating. Our second experience in Badger Creek was beautiful but also spent trying to outrun a thunderstorm near Ball Point. Third time’s the charm. 

outrunning thunderstorms near Ball Point, May 2010

Last year, on a larch stalking hike with Allison, my interest in Badger Creek grew more pronounced as she pointed out the area from our high point on Lambertson Spur. A year later, headed up Highway 35, I am on my own larch & color hunting expedition, and the drive alone did not disappoint- a world of color was on full display as I headed toward the High Prairie trailhead, the air and light picture perfect reminiscent of fall. 

deep forest/fall color along the Divide Trail, nearing the Palisades

From the High Prairie trailhead, it is only 1.2 miles and just under 600 feet of elevation gain to the summit of Lookout Mountain. At 6,525 feet, it is the highest point in the Badger Creek Wilderness and offers sweeping views of the central Oregon desert, the Cascade Crest, and multiple peaks: on this day I had Hood, Helens, Adams, Rainier, Jefferson and the Sisters. Score. 

Hood & Lookout Mountain
From Lookout Mountain, the Divide trail loses some 700+ feet in elevation (steeply, at times) to arrive at Palisade Point, a lovely series of rocky outcroppings with expansive views of its own (alas, my vertigo won out so no scampering on the rocks for me…I’m sure views from on top of the Palisades are amazeballs). 

Palisade Point
My original plan for the day had been to head out towards Flag Point, another two miles down the trail. According to Allison, Flag Point is “Larch Ground Zero”, and from my vista on Lookout Mountain and Palisade Point, I could see golden trees shining likes torches in the sun. I wasn’t feeling my wheaties this day though, and reluctantly decided that a ten plus mile day was beyond me. Ultimately it was a good call as the weather began moving in by afternoon- a hike I began in shorts and a short sleeved shirt ended in a puffy and wool hat. 

golden, western larch

weather moving in over Hood, from Lookout Mountain

Ah, fall. My favorite season. 

Badger Creek Wilderness, Oregon
~6 miles, ~ 1200 feet elevation gain

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