This off-the-radar pocket wilderness benefits from its proximity to the Cascades: The crowds go there, not here. So you can have your solitude and old-growth too on this 14.7-mile loop. And with elevations below 4,500 feet, the route often stays snow-free through October. From the Trapper Creek trailhead (1), bear left onto Trapper Creek Trail #192. Climb through temperate rainforest past waist-high ferns. Pass the Big Slide Trail (2) at mile 2.6; it’s a rough route built by the Mazamas. Stay left and descend into a gallery of towering hemlock, fir, and cedar. After a bridged crossing of Trapper Creek at mile 4.7 (3), the trail rockets upward in a series of switchbacks, climbing 900 feet in .7 mile. Gassed? An off-trail rock slab to the right near mile 4.9 (4) is a perfect rest stop, with views of a 100-foot waterfall.
The route soon flattens into a thicket of huckleberries (ripe in July and August) (5), then dips to an easy ford of Trapper Creek at mile 5.4 (6). Hang a right up the steep, deadfall-choked Shortcut Trail #132B at mile 6.3 (7) to join the Observation Peak Trail #132A in .3 mile (8). Drop packs and bear right for the half-mile climb to the 4,207-foot summit (9), where a meadow offers near 360-degree views of Mts. St. Helens, Rainier, Adams, and Hood. To end the day at Berry Camp, retrieve your gear and continue .4 mile down the Observation Peak Trail to a junction. Turn right (10) to reach the site’s bear hang, fire ring, and pipe spring in .1 mile.
The next day, follow the Big Hollow Trail #158 down through spruce and alder for 2.8 miles to join the Dry Creek Trail #194 (11). Just beyond, ford Bourbon Creek (12) (usually simple and calf-deep; use care after heavy rain). Second-growth forest lines the mellow Dry Creek Trail, and ornate moss carpets the trees. Watch your step: The remaining 3.7 miles are prime rough-skinned newt territory. Look for the tangerine-bellied amphibians marching across the trail. Head back to the parking lot after rejoining the Trapper Creek Trail (13).
Get there From Stevenson, go three miles east on WA 14, then left on Wind River Rd. In 14.4 miles, turn left on Mineral Springs Rd. Go .4 mile, then right on FR 5401.
Gear up REI; 1405 NW Johnson St., Portland, OR. (503) 221-1938; rei.com