I went on a pretty tough hike this weekend in the Trapper Creek Wilderness, which is up in Washington. The Dog Mountain hike has always been where I set the bar at TOUGH and this meet and possibly exceeds it. We didn’t even do the route we were expecting to do, and all of us, especially the dog, were pretty beat at the end.
The main loop to the top of Observation Peak is about 14 miles. We didn’t have time for that long of a trip, so we took a shorter loop option. After leaving the parking lot, it’s 0.8 miles in to the loop junction. We took the left fork and headed for the Soda Peaks Trail-head. We just walked in a little ways to have lunch beside the brand new bridge. Then we headed back to the main loop.
This is the point it really started to get tough with a pretty steady uphill climb through the woods. But the great thing about this trail is it stays in the woods, so you’re never exposed to the sun. It smelled fantastic. I love the way woods smell in the summer, it’s a fresh, sweet smell of the flowers and plants warming up.
After a mile of climbing up hill, we arrived at our cut-off. Trail #195 AKA Big Slide Trail. I’m not sure exactly how it got that name, but I’ll assume it’s because if you hike DOWN it, you’ll slide all the way. “Lucky” for us, we were going up. It was so hard I had to employ my Mt. St. Helen’s technique of counting steps: 50 steps. Break. 50 Steps. Break. Not the entire way, but through a large chunk of it. And the trail is probably only 2/3 mile long.
Eventually we made it back to the main trail and headed back down the 3 miles to the car. Along the way we passed a waterfall along the way and a couple small creek crossings. All together we did about 6 miles.
Even though it was still a nice and enjoyable hike, we missed a lot of stuff by cutting it short, like numerous waterfalls and views of Mt. St. Helen’s, Adams, Jefferson and Hood. Plus, in another month the entire forest will be FULL of huckleberries. So, yes, there’s a good reason to do the entire loop. But you don’t have to do it all in one day there are a bunch of tent sites along the trail. We even passed a backpacking group with 3 kids under the age of 10. If they can do it, so can you.
Overall this is a great place to hike. You can make it as long or as short as you want and the forest is beautiful. To get there, just take the Bridge of the Gods into Washington, then head east to the signs for Carson. Turn left, heading up Wind River Road for 14.5 miles. Stay straight when the road turns into Government Mineral Springs. There will be signs for the trail head 0.5 miles ahead.