Location of Hike: Cottonwood Meadows Trail
Trail Number: 705
Weather during Hike: Overcast to sunny - cool
Hiking Buddies: Thor
Start Time: 10:35 AM End Time: 3:45 PM
Hike Distance: 7 miles Elevation Gain: 1900 feet
We headed out about our normal time and got to the trailhead about 10:30. On the way in we passed a LOT of what I’m pretty sure were hunters camped along road 58. We passed a few vehicles, even up 5830. There was one car at the Shellrock lake trailhead when we passed and we even encountered one truck past that trailhead – almost to the Cottonwood meadows trailhead. It was kind of weird – I’m not used to seeing so many people up in the woods so late in the year.
We packed up and headed out. As usual, Thor was raring to go. We started down the trail and were quickly presented with lots of nice fall colors:
It wasn’t too long before we got to the first meadow, which was completely dry:
A few things that were different that I remember from my last trip (2 years ago):
- The flags marking the entry and exit to the meadow seemed gone – I really need to make sure I have flagging in my pack to help with stuff like this. I think I’ve used all my flagging up.
- The trail generally was in rougher shape than I remember – mostly due to downed trees
- I always seem to forget how much elevation you gain/lose on this trail – I think it is pretty flat due to the meadows, but you go down to each meadow and then down to the spur road on the south end.
We found our way across the first meadow, found where the trail re-enters the woods and continued down. We soon got to the second “meadow, which is more of a lake. It seems to hold water pretty much all year long. Although the map doesn’t show a name, I call it Cot Lake since this feeds Cot Creek:
We made our way around the lake and continued to the third meadow which gives you a good look back north at Mt Mitchell. I played with the zoom on my phone and I’m pretty sure this is a (blurry) shot of the overlook above off the Rimrock trail:
Thor was have a good time running around in the meadow. After a bit of looking around, we continued down and soon hit the 240 spur. From here, there is really no trail – it is in an old cut area and the trail was never maintained thru it. The good news is that for the most part it isn’t too bad to walk thru. The cut is not recovering well at all and there is a lot of open space that makes walking thru it relatively easy. We made our way thru it – I think I finally found the “wash” that Donovan refers to. It appears to be a runoff “creek” that runs down the east side of the cut along the cut line. For the most part, that is relatively easy walking but there were a few rough spots. It seems like I never take the same route twice thru there. I end in the same spots in a few places but get there differently every time. I guess that is part of the adventure.
As we headed thru the cut, we came to an old skid road. The trees in this area were getting a bit tougher to get thru, so we headed up the skid road to where it meets the 260 spur and then walked down the 260 spur. On the way down the 260 spur, I saw a lot of large hoof prints. At first I thought they were from a horse, but I think they were from a large elk – some of the prints (although they weren’t fresh, they were reasonably easy to see), had a line down the middle which would indicate deer or elk hooves, not a horse:
If that was indeed an elk print, it was a VERY large elk!
When we got to the junction with the 270 spur we stopped to have lunch. After eating, I took out my drone and got some interesting video from a higher vantage point:
After putting away the drone, we continued down the road to the end and started down the lower segment of the trail. This segment is significantly rougher than I remember. The vine maple and rhodies have REALLY grown up in some areas, obscuring the tread. I didn’t bring my loppers, but I did spend a fair amount of time cutting out a few sections – one spot had a tree right in the tread, making it almost impossible to get thru. After you get back into the real old growth again it gets better, but the transition from the cut to the old growth needs some attention for sure.
Once back into the woods the trail gets better, however there were quite a few logs down. I cut the smaller stuff out but this too could use some attention. I counted approximately 25 logs (some pretty large) in the last quarter to third mile above the 4635-120 spur.
We made it down to the 4635-120 spur and found it pretty rough – no traffic here for quite some time since 4635 has been closed for over a year now:
We didn’t spend too much time here – mostly just turned around and headed back uphill. As we were going up, I took a photo of probably the largest downed logs in this lower section:
I didn’t really spend any time on the way back up doing any maintenance as we needed to get back to the truck. As we headed back up the hill, the sun actually came out! The wind kind of picked up a bit too – I think the forecast rain was blowing in. We made it back up the lower segment in about 45 minutes and then did the cross country section in another half hour or so. When we got back to the 240 spur crossing, we headed across the road back on the real trail (even though it is still kind of rough). When we were getting to the north end of that south meadow, Thor took off, bouncing thru the meadow (he looked kind of like Tigger bouncing thru the meadow) – I thought he saw an animal, but as I got closer there were 3 hunters standing in the entry to the meadow. I called him and he finally came – I put his leash on and when we got to the hunters I told them I hadn’t expected to see anyone and they replied they weren’t expecting to see a dog either. They asked if they were on the Cottonwood Meadows trail and I told them they were, but it doesn’t get much traffic so it can be kind of faint. We didn’t talk long and we continued our trip north. We made good time, getting back to the truck about 2 hours from the bottom end. We packed up and headed out.
As we were driving out the 5830 road, I saw these beautiful fall colors across the canyon and had to stop to get a photo:
Shortly before 5830 meets 58, got behind two trucks who were going VERY slowly (like 15 miles an hour). The first one kind of sped up and disappeared but the one in front of me just putted along – I had to follow him for several miles until he finally turned off on a spur road. It was pretty frustrating that someone was not considerate enough to let me pass – that is just kind of common forest road courtesy.
Once past the slowpoke, it was the typical long ride back home over Mt Hood. It was a beautiful fall day with amazing hiking weather. A great day out in the woods.
I think we need to put this trail on the “todo” list to clean up some of the rougher spots…..
Location of Hike: Lower Cottonwood Meadows Trail
Trail Number: 705
Weather during Hike: Overcast to partly sunny with rain, snow and sleet
Hiking Buddies: Kirk, Zack, Ollie, Thor
Start Time: 10:15 AM End Time: 2:20 PM
Hike Distance: 5.5miles Elevation Gain: 1500 feet
Due to the warmer than normal weather we’ve been having, we were able to easily make it to the lower trailhead at almost 3000′. It wasn’t really raining when we got there, so we quickly suited up for extreme weather and headed up the trail. The trail basically follows the ridge up to an old clearcut below Cottonwood Meadows. The lower portion of this trail is in some magnificent old growth with tread in really good shape:
We did encounter quite a few downed logs and a few messes on the beginning of the trail, but we cleaned up what we could and went over/around what we couldn’t. It wasn’t too long before we popped up onto the 5830-265 road where we saw just a little bit of snow:
We walked up the road and then went cross country thru the clearcut (the trail thru the clearcut was wiped out). After a few attempts at making sure we were going the right direction, we got up tp the 240 spur crossing where there was more snow. Beyond this crossing the real trail continues north:
Right after that crossing, we got to the first, lower Meadow, which looked mostly frozen over:
And then continued north thru a couple of small little meadows towards Cottonwood Lake:
And shortly arrived at a mostly frozen Cottonwood Lake (although none of us wanted to try it out to see how frozen it really was!):
We ate lunch there and looked around a bit and then headed out. When we got to the 240 spur, we decided to walk back the road rather than going cross country, since it was rather difficult – there was a lot of melting snow water runoff which added to the difficulty of getting thru the clearcut. The plan was to head west until the road turned and then head uphill to the upper road – this would cut quite a bit of time off the trip – almost a mile of road walking it looks like.
We made it up to the road turn and then up the hill – from there we went uphill and soon found the upper road that had been bermed at an old gate location. It was in this section I took some photos of Thor having fun in the snow:
He had lots of fun with Ollie – running around and doing his beaver thing in the snow and even doing some frapping at one point.
We finally came back to the 265 spur and things had cleared up a bit from what they were in the morning – we still got gusts of wind occasionally but there was even a few small spots of blue sky at times – You can sort of see Mt Mitchell in the background (in the clouds behind the trees):
We headed down the road and onto the old trail and quickly made it back to the truck, doing a little bit of trail maintenance along the way – cutting out some smaller trees.
Since it was still somewhat early, we decided to drive down to the end of the road and check out the collapsed bridge over Cot Creek:
It is really growing in – it was interesting to see how much work went into building that bridge too – there was a LOT of cribbing on each approach.
After checking out the bridge we headed back to town – we wanted to stop at Fearless but they were closed for New Years Day. We headed over to the Wagon Wheel Saloon (I had been there once with Don) for a beer and some appetizers.
It was a very interesting day on a beautiful old trail in a very interesting area. The winter weather warning didn’t really seem to come to pass – other than a few gusts of wind and a little bit of rain, sleet and snow at times, it really wasn’t that bad up there. I was expecting to get a LOT wetter than we did. I wasn’t even sure we would be able to make it up all the way due to the wind. It turned out to be a pretty good middle of winter day in the woods. A good start to the new year.
Location of Hike: Rimrock and Cottonwood Meadows Trails
Trail Number: 704 and 705
Weather during Hike: Sunny, cold and windy
Hiking Buddies: Kirk, Ollie and Thor
Start Time: 11:30 AM End Time: 3:45 PM
Hike Distance: 6.5 miles
We got a bit of a late start due to my sleeping in a bit. We got to the east end of the Rimrock trail about 11:30 and headed up. The dogs were ready to go (as usual). While we were getting ready, they were running back and forth down the 5830 road like maniacs. They probably hiked 2 or 3 times as far as we did….
Anyway, we headed up the east side – the hill is pretty steep in places, so we quickly got our hearts racing. The trail was relatively clear (this side doesn’t get a lot of traffic). Part way up the hill, we encountered a little bit of snow:
When we got to the top, at the rockslide, we got a pretty good view of the Shellrock creek drainage:
From there, we continued up the hill to the overlook trail junction, and then headed up to the overlook. I think the last time I was here was in the middle of winter when you could barely see the trail junction sign! This was almost 7 months prior:
We headed up the overlook trail and shortly got to the overlook where it was very windy. We headed out to the point, where we got some good views. This is looking south towards Mt. Jefferson and Olallie:
This is looking north towards Mt Hood:
This is looking southwest to Oak Grove Work center:
Here is a short video – It was really windy on the North/East side of the overlook – make sure to turn the volume down:
We kind of sheltered on the west side of the overlook where the wind wasn’t too bad – we ate lunch there and then headed back down. Just to make things interesting, we decided to head back along the bluff. It was quite a bit shorter and it looked pretty open and was a straight shot back to the trail (instead of going down and then back up). It turned out to be relatively easy walking, other than going over a bunch of downed logs. We soon made it back to the trail near the rocklide and then continued down. On the way back down, we saw several of these blazes – two on bottom and one on top – but weren’t sure what they meant:
We quickly got back to the truck (around 2:00) and then headed across the road to the Cottonwood Meadows trail. This is what greeted us near the beginning of the trail:
We went around the frozen spot (it wasn’t thick enough to walk on I don’t think). We continued down the trail and then explored a short alternate for the trail that ended up pretty much heading back up to the road. Not sure if it was an old alignment or what. As we continued down the trail, we soon got to the first meadow – we obviously had to go around – even the dogs didn’t want to go thru it – not sure how deep it was, but it was more than ankle deep for sure:
We continued around that meadow/swamp and soon came to the big swamp/lake – Cottonwood Meadow Lake? (not sure what it is called). We took the route on the west side of the lake, continued south and had to route around another wet area, finally coming to the large meadow north of the 5830-240 spur road. This is essentially the end of the trail until you get down to the 265 spur, where the beautiful south end of the trail exists. We didn’t go that far since we didn’t have enough time. We headed cross country a bit to explore the area – we went down the road a bit and then headed south where it seemed more open. It was for the most part, but was still rough going. We were running out of daylight, so we headed back up the hill – we didn’t really want to hike in the dark – we knew it would get cold really quickly once the sun went down.
We headed back up to the road, then back up thru the meadow. Just before the big lake, we saw some branches piled in the trail with a flag – it kind of looked like a trail, so we followed it around to a campsite on the south end of the lake. There was a boat there (I had seen it a few years ago on the west side of the lake). There was about an inch thick of ice on the south end of the lake (the dogs were walking all over the ice – we didn’t go too far out):
And here is Cottonwood Meadows Lake from this south end campsite – you can see the ice part way out – I don’t think this end of the lake gets any sun this time of year:
After exploring this campsite for a few minutes, we continued back up the hill. We made good time and got back to the truck just before 4:00. We loaded up and headed out. As we drove out, we decided to explore the 210 spur – I took this photo part way down the spur road. This was where we were earlier in the day – the overlook is to the left, Mount Mitchell proper is to the right:
We went down the spur pretty much to the end. We were hoping there might be some sort of view, but things have grown up too much. It was interesting – part way down, the road went thru some uncut area that was really pretty. It had a campsite next to the road. We turned around and headed back. As we were driving, the sun went down – by the time we got back to Estacada, it was pretty much dark. We stopped at Fearless for a burger and a beer. The perfect way to end a good day of exploration!
Location of Hike: Cottonwood Meadows Trail
Trail Number: 705
Weather during Hike: Sunny
Hiking Buddies: Bodie (my dog)
Start Time: 10:00 AM End Time: 2:15 PM
Hike Distance: 6 miles
I decided on Cottonwood Meadows since it seemed like a relatively flat and easy trail to do, and it wasn’t too long. The cross country part was a little tough on him, but he did really good all the way. In addition, this is the perfect time to visit this trail, since the meadows are all dried up and the bugs are all gone. I had not been here in several years (looks like it has been 7 years!!!!), and wanted to go back.
The hike was pretty low key – nothing terribly exiting happened. Shortly after we started down the trail, we arrived at the first meadow:
We looked around a bit, headed across the meadow and soon came to the second, largest meadow that has a “lake”:
And then we found something completely unexpected – A boat!!!:
I can’t believe that someone drug a boat all the way into this lake. I can’t imagine there are any fish in this lake – it is very shallow.
We wandered down the trail to the end of the official trail at the 5830-240 spur road. From here, you must go cross country through an old clearcut (that isn’t recovering well) to get to the lower section of trail. Basically, you need to go from the 5830-240 spur to the 5830-260 spur road thru the old clearcut. About in the middle of the clearcut, right at the edge, we found this tree that had something painted/written on it, but we couldn’t make it out. What does this tree say?
We then made it down to the 5830-260 spur and took it to the end where the lower trail starts again. The very beginning is a little rough, but once you get into the uncut area, it is a beautiful trail:
Had to get a shot of Bodie next to a big old tree with a blaze:
We continued down to the 6345-120 spur where the trail ends. We thought about heading down to the Cot Creek bridge that is washed out, but Bodie seemed to be getting tired, so we turned around and headed back up. On the way back up, I took a picture of this rough spot:
There were only about 10-12 trees down on the lower section – less than the upper section. The tread down there is REALLY good!
We continued back up the trail – I’m sure I took a different route thru the clearcut on the way back, but ended up close to where we were started. Got back up to the truck pretty quickly and then headed home.
A very nice, peaceful, pleasant day in the woods.
Location of Hike: Cottonwood Meadows Trail, Rimrock Trail, Buck Lake Trail
Trail Number: 705, 704, 728
Weather during Hike: Sunny
Hiking Buddies: Just me, Bodie had a hurt foot
Start Time: 10:15 AM End Time: 4:30 PM
Hike Distance: 11 miles or so
Once through the clearcut, picking up the trail on the other end wasn’t too difficult. I had to venture down the hill a bit before I saw the flagging, but once I saw it, it was easy to get the trail. I have to say, the southern part of that trail is an EXCELLENT trail. It has a fair amount of elevation change on it, but except for the very end, it is VERY well graded.
The trip through that part of the forest is absolutely beautiful! No really big trees, but some beautiful forest.
There were a couple of spots that had vine maple up and down the hill all blazed out in yellow with the sun shining through the trees. Other spots had moss covering the trail, and yet others had oregon grape growing about.
Once down at the southern end of the trail, I decided to hike down the 4635-120 spur to the “Collapsed bridge over Cot Creek” just to see what it looked like. Based on the construction of the bridge, it looks like that is a pretty old road. The bridge looks to have been collapsed for quite a few years, too. I had lunch there since it was a little after noon and it was a nice spot.
On the way home, I decided to check out the short Buck Lake trail. It is about a half mile into the lake, up a hill, but it was a rather interesting place.
There were a couple of cars at the trailhead, but I didn’t see the people when I was up at the lake, just their stuff. I was running late, so I didn’t hike around the lake, I just snapped some pictures. I may have to go back there any explore sometime.
All in all, a GREAT day. My only disappointment was when I hiked up the east end of the Rimrock trail, hoping to go up the viewpoint trail on Mt Mitchell. I had forgotten where the viewpoint trail junction was, and didn’t have time to go all the way up the trail, so I had to turn around and go back. That viewpoint would have been awesome on Saturday. The weather was pretty clear.
I can highly recommend the Cottowood Meadows trail. I’d love to get in there early in the season before the bugs. I would think that once the huckleberries and other ground cover start leafing up, and the meadows being very wet, it would be a little tougher to navigate the meadows, but I’m sure the diversity and color would be absolutely amazing.|}
Location of Hike: Pyramid Lake, Cottonwood Meadows and Hideaway Lake Falls
Trail Number: 727,
Hiking Buddies: Bodie (my dog)
Start Time: 11:00 AM End Time: 2:30 PM
Hike Distance: 6
First, I have to say that the work done on roads 58 and part of 5830 (I wish they had gone further than Hideaway Lake) makes those roads MUCH better to drive on. Both roads have been brush trimmed on both sides. It makes the roads seem much wider, and they are much safer, since you can see down the road a lot further. It is too bad that they didn’t continue on 5830 past Hideaway Lake. It REALLY needs it. If they would brush these roads, and grade them (to get rid of the washboards), I wouldn’t care if they converted all of them to gravel!
I was surprised to see a 2-4 inches of snow, both on the trails and also on the roads, starting at about 3800′. It won’t be too long before these trails will be gone for the winter.
Anyway, I went up to Pyramid Lake. I mistakenly trudged up the “trail” at the first yellow sign I saw. When I was doing it, there was really no trail evident, and I didn’t go far before I realized I wasn’t in the right place. The yellow sign was a replacement for an old brown sign that just had an arrow on it (which was in the ditch) pointing further up the road. The real trailhead was about another half mile up the road. That road does get rather narrow and rough, but it wasn’t too bad in my truck.
The trail up to the lake is actually quite pleasant and in good condition, and it has a couple of very nice campsites, and even an outhouse!. A very short trail (.2 miles), with a little elevation gain. The trail was in great shape. Interesting little place….
Next was the trip to Cottonwood Meadows.
I found the trailhead with little difficulty and proceeded through the meadows. Between the flagging and the description here, it was easy to follow the trail through all the meadows. Although it wasn’t much to look at, mostly because all of the plants were buried under snow, I can see how that place would explode with color in the spring.
I’d love to get in there early, after the snow but before the bugs come out. I’m sure there would be TONS of bugs with all the wet areas. I got to the first road where the clearcut begins and attempted to follow the directions. I thought I was going in the right direction, but I started to get a little worried, and ended up backtracking.
When I got home and examined my GPS track, it appears as though I was just about exactly on track, so if I had kept going, I should have made it to the lower trail section. Oh well, that can wait until another day, maybe when there isn’t snow on the ground! I guess I just need to trust my gut a little more, but better safe than sorry. I’d hate to spend an un-scheduled night on the trail.
Lastly, I took a very short side trip down to the Hideaway Lake Falls. It is tough to get down to a spot where you can actually see the falls, but it is very pretty.
All in all, a beautiful late fall day in the woods with lots of fall colors….