Every wilderness area has a hidden, hard-to-reach jewel. For Indian Heaven the gem is the crater of E. Crater Mountain, an old shield volcano.
The 32 square-mile Wilderness lies between Mt. Adams and Mt. St. Helens. It contains over 150 lakes and has many open sub-alpine meadows to explore.
I began the hike at the Thomas Lake Trailhead on the west side of Indian Heaven. After hiking several miles to the east, while passing multiple lakes, I followed a faint path across the meadows to Junction Lake and the Pacific Crest Trail.
For more exploration I began bushwhacking up the steep flanks of E. Crater Mountain, fighting chest-high huckleberry bushes, blowdowns and beargrass. After one mile I reached the 5,300-foot crater rim with a magnificent view of Mt. Adams.
But the delight was the crater floor below with a seldom-visited pond (it had dried up this summer). On the descent to the crater, I crossed old elk tracks and spotted their beds on small benches on the steep hillside. The crater floor was very interesting, think of the caldera of a miniature Crater Lake without the Lake. Amazingly enough, there were no signs of other human activity.
I thought to myself, it’s special scenes like this that provide the essence of wilderness hiking.
After exploring the crater for awhile, I hiked over the crater rim, hitting the PCT eventually. From there it was a relatively easy hike southerly to Blue Lake with three more miles back to the trailhead.
Oh, did I mention that ripe huckleberries were everywhere along the trail. I ate so many that my fingers turned purple.
Indian Heaven remains one of the most enjoyable hiking areas near Portland.
This looks fabulous John! Would you ever be willing to lead a group of women (Trailmixers) on this hike? Gwen
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The Trailmixers might want to think about doing this hike in the fall. When the huckleberry bushes pick up their autumn burgundy and reddish colors the sub-alpine meadows are spectacular. And, the bull elk are bugling in the early morning hours too. On one September morning I watched a couple of bull elk for a long time, then spotted a couple of small herds of elk later on. Oh, you might see a black bear too.
Thank you John great post🌻
Thanks for the kind words Geoff. If you haven’t hiked there before, you should give Indian heaven a shot. Autumn is the best time.