Located in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, the Trapper Creek Wilderness protects nearly all of the Trapper Creek drainage, including one of the last low elevation old-growth forests in southern Washington.
The Trapper Creek Wilderness not only serves as an important habitat to anadromous fish in the Wind River watershed, but its old-growth Douglas-fir forests are home to a wide variety of wildlife, including spotted owls, pileated woodpeckers, goshawks, blacktail deer, Roosevelt elk, cougar, and black bear.
At just under 6,000 acres, Trapper Creek is one of the smallest federally designated areas in Washington. Established in the mid-1950’s, the Sister Rocks Research Natural Area lies along the northwest corner of the Wilderness boundary. Soda Peaks Lake, a glacial-carved cirque, lies in a valley below Soda Peaks in the southwest corner of the Wilderness.
Though Trapper Creek is one of the most accessible wilderness areas in the state of Washington, it’s not as frequently visited as the nearby cascades. Often referred to as an off-the-radar, backcountry destination, Trapper Creek offers ample solitude.
The heart of the wilderness is generally explored via a challenging 16-mile loop trail that follows Trapper Creek before climbing to the summit of Observation Peak, one of only 3 peaks in the park.
The highest point in the Wilderness is 4,436-foot Soda Peaks, a pair of forested peaks that tower of Soda Peaks Lake. Nearby, Observation Peak, another 4,000-foot summit, boasts impressive views of the Cascade crest and is the former site of a fire lookout.
Nestled in a natural bowl above Trapper Creek, Soda Peaks Lake is a beloved destination for hikers seeking solitude in the Southern Cascades. The trail begins by traveling through a flat wooded meadow, but quickly climbs 700 feet to a ridgeline that boasts incredible views of Mount Adams and Goat Rocks. The trail then descends to the lake and several backcountry campsites.
Just an hour and a half from Portland, the trek to Observation Peak is one of the most popular trails in the Trapper Creek Wilderness. On a clear day, the summit offers sweeping views of four iconic volcanoes: Mount St. Helens, Mount Rainier, Mount Adams, and Mount Hood.
There are several ways to reach the summit. The shortest is a 5-mile hike via the Observation Peak trailhead. To extend the adventure, hikers can also reach Observation Peak via a 12-mile trail that begins at the Trapper Creek Trailhead.
Oregon’s largest city, Portland, is characteristically quirky and is best-known for its offbeat culture. The city is a popular tourist destination and is the perfect basecamp for exploring the Gifford Pinchot National Forest or the Columbia River Gorge. Travelers can start their Oregon adventure by flying into Portland and driving an hour or two to their final destination. In the city, you’ll find a variety of accommodations and plenty of amazing restaurants to choose from.