Rip & Go: Rock and Serene Lakes Loop – Mt. Hood National Forest, OR

Discover real wilderness just two hours from Portland.

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Do it

While Mt. Hood is still encased in ice, wildflowers replace the snow surrounding the lower-elevation, forest-rimmed lakes on this 12-miler in the Clackamas Wilderness. Start at the Shellrock Lake trailhead (1) and hike .5 mile north amid flowering rhododendron and beargrass (May to June for both) to the outlet of Shellrock Lake (2). Cross on small logs and curve around the lake’s southeastern shore to the junction with the Frazier Spur Trail (3). Head north for 1.1 miles to a T-junction and head right (north) to the Serene Lake trailhead at the Frazier Turnaround (4). Turn left (west), descending through old-growth hemlock forest for .8 mile to the Rock Lakes junction (5). Fork left (southwest) here for a .7-mile out-and-back to Middle Rock Lake (6), sparkling in a forested basin below 5,397-foot Frazier Mountain. Return to the junction. After .1 mile, a side trail drops northeast to Lower Rock Lake (7) with a single campsite if you’re ready to stop.

Back on the Serene Lake Trail, continue two miles. As you approach Serene Lake’s overgrown outlet, follow the spur (8) to the lake’s north shore and an isolated campsite with front-porch views. Next day, find the Cache Meadow Trail (9) beside a rotting, moss-covered picnic table on the western shore. Climb 700 feet in a mile before leveling out at a T-junction (10). Stay on the Cache Meadow Trail and climb a ridge to 4,983 feet and a northward view of four Cascade giants: Hood, Adams, Rainier, and St. Helens. Descend to Cache Meadow (11) (“See This,” next page). Just before the trail enters another meadow that edges Cripple Creek, turn left at an unsigned trail junction (12) (look for a “517” plaque 20 yards up trail). Pass through another meadow and begin a climb to the junction with Indian Ridge Road (13). Go right (northeast) on this old logging road to the Frazier Spur Trail; Mt. Hood looms straight ahead and Mt. Jefferson rises to the southeast. Backtrack to Shellrock Lake (14), then back to your starting point.

Trip Planner

Get there

From Estacada, take OR 224 E for 25 miles and turn left on FR 57. After 7.5 miles, go left on FR 58 for another three miles. Next, veer left on FR 5830. Drive four miles and fork right onto FR 130. Park in one mile.


Gear up
REI, Clackamas Town Center; (503) 659-1156;

Mt. Hood ($12,

USFS Zigzag Ranger District; (503) 668-1700;

Key Skill: Photograph Lakes

Capturing lake surfaces requires the right combination of light, skill, and luck. But a few simple techniques and some beginner gear can help turn ho-hum photos into head-turners.

Equipment Pack a polarizer and a tripod. Polarizers remove the glare from liquid surfaces. They can also reduce the brilliance of reflections, but they more than compensate by adding rich color, and making water look crystal clear and skies deep blue. A tripod (like the Gorillapod, helps reduce blurriness from long exposures on low-light shots.

Timing Find the best conditions within two hours of sunrise or sunset. You’ll avoid harsh midday sunlight, and have the best chance for calm, windless weather.

Composition Follow the rule of thirds. Shoot low and put your horizon in the lower third of the frame to capture a particularly pretty sky; if the water is more compelling, put the reflection horizon in the upper third of the frame to emphasize a big, wide view of the reflection itself.

See This: Jeffrey’s Shootingstar

Summertime brings an abundance of wildflowers to Cache Meadow, particularly clusters of shootingstars. Usually white or various shades of pink and reaching their peak showiness in June and July, shootingstars are recognizable by their unique appearance—a tapered, downward-pointing yellow and brown cone, with five petals facing upward, resembling the trailing flames of a falling star. The flowers are about an inch long and flutter in the slightest breeze. Ethnobotanists report that the Cascade-dwelling Nlaka’pamux people used them as love charms, and “to obtain wealth and to make people give presents.”

On The Menu

Breakfast 1

On the road

Lunch 1

PB & Apple Burgers, Knott’s Boysenberry Shortbread

Dinner 1

Rock Lakes Noodle Stew, Whoopie pies

Breakfast 2


Lunch 2

Tillamook Pepper Sticks, Kraft Singles, Wheat Thins Snacks Frank’s RedHot Beef Jerky, trail mix, Snickers

Rock Lakes Noodle Stew

Comfort food made easy

2 carrots

1 zucchini

1 small yellow onion

8-10 button mushrooms

1 package Jack Links’ Steak Nuggets

2 packets beef-flavored ramen

Chop the veggies and bring two cups water to a boil. Add the ramen seasoning, veggies, and jerky. Simmer for 10 minutes. Add the ramen noodles and simmer for three more minutes. Serves 2.

PB & Apple Burgers

Hearty and crisp

2 Granny Smith apples

4 tablespoons peanut butter

2 teaspoons honey

2 hamburger buns

Core the apple and slice it into thin chips. Smear peanut butter on both sides of bun and drizzle with honey. Serves 2.

The Grocery List (Aisle # in Nearest Store Below)

[ ] Tillamook Pepper Sticks (front)

[ ] Whoopie pies (front)

[ ] apples (produce)

[ ] carrots (produce)

[ ] mushrooms (produce)

[ ] zucchini (produce)

[ ] honey (produce)

[ ] Kraft Singles (dairy)

[ ] trail mix (back)

[ ] Snickers (1)

[ ] hamburger buns (2)

[ ] granola (2)

[ ] Frank’s RedHot Beef Jerky (3)

[ ] Jack Links’ Steak Nuggets (3)

[ ] beef ramen (3)

[ ] peanut butter (3)

[ ] Knott’s Boysenberry Shortbread (3)

[ ] Wheat Thins (3)

Choose from pies like The Double Barrel, Cowboy Combo, and El Bandito at Hitchin’ Post Pizza. Our fave: Six Shooter with Italian sausage, beef, salami, mushrooms, olives, and green peppers. 458 SW 2nd St., Estacada, OR; (503) 630-6885;


Nature’s Country Store

15252 SE OR 224, Damascus, OR

(503) 558-0456

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