Hiked this trail a few years ago. For pictures and my full review, please visit The Washington Trails Association website (WTA.org). All I can say is make your way to the top for an absolutely stunning view of 5 mountain peaks of the Cascade Range.... You will not be disappointed.
This hike may be a long and winding loop but it is capped off with an excellent view of Saint Helens, Adams, and Hood, on the clear day I hiked both Rainier and Jefferson were visible. By my GPS the total loop was 13.6 miles with elevation gain of 3,050 feet to a height of 4,210 feet. Starting at Trapper Creek trailhead of Mineral Springs Road my route was anti-clockwise up trail 132 via Howe ridge where after approx. five miles you approach the final accent of just under mile (trail 132A). On descending back down 132A I continued on 132 to the junction of 158 and Trapper Creek trail 192 close to Sisters Rocks. From there it was back down the approx. eight miles to the trailhead. One thing I would do the next time is to take a cutoff approx. four miles down the trail and about a mile from the junction with trail 198. It will shave about a mile of the loop, either way you approach this apart of the trail you will be faced with an elevation gain of approx. 400 feet before heading down to the trail head. The hike gave this seventy one year young a great work out and provided the solitude to reflect on the wonderful nature of this area apart from the rewarding view.
The Trapper Creek Wilderness is a special place and I have a goal to hike all of the trails in it. This one has been on the list for a long time, mostly because I didn't know if I could make it. It is a difficult climb but I gave myself plenty of time to do it. The cooler temperatures helped but it rained for the first 7 miles of the hike so I had to make multiple stops to wring out my socks and boot inserts so I could avoid blisters. That worked well but was also time-consuming. Not many flowers in the TCW overall and I only really saw two or three varieties today. But it is very lush and verdant greenery, especially so when walking through head-high thickets of sopping wet. There are no views to speak of but along the ridgeline, the clouds made for some interesting photo opportunities as they settled in the valley.
The last push to the lake was quite difficult. There were quite a few people camping at the lake but all of them came in from the Soda Peaks Lake West trail, as it is much shorter with a lot less elevation gain. The campsites are pretty much right on the trail so it can be a bit awkward walking through people's campsites to stay on the trail around the lake. I fought my way through lots of ankle-grabbing undergrowth to do the lake circuit and heard a pika calling on the big talus slope on Soda Peaks. On my way back down, I passed quite a few backpackers on their way to the lake and a few day hikers. The descent almost took me as long, as it was super steep and a little tricky once it was wet, what with the rocks, roots and such that I had to step over. I was very glad to have my poles to help with balance.
Overall, a long and tiring hike but a rewarding one.
Did an overnight trip. From Trapper Creek Trailhead, took trail #192 about a mile to Observation Trail #132. Uphill the whole way, so be prepared! Beautiful clear day with views of Helens, Adams, and Hood. Camped at the area at the intersection of #132 and #158 - if you are looking for water, there's some a few hundred feet down #158. Don't be like me and detour an extra 2 mile round trip down #192 to get water! Went back to the trailhead via #158 to #194 - downhill a few miles on #158, and mostly flat on #194 with plenty of water access.
This is an amazing trail with great scenery and solitude. We did the shorter version to the top of Observation Peak, via the entrance off FR 58. It encompassed Sister Rocks as well and was about 7 miles in length. When you park at the trailhrad, it is 1.1 miles to the wilderness boundary and another .1 of a mile brings you to Sister Rocks. Turn right onto the trail for about .6 of a mile. After visiting the rocks, retrace your steps and continue down the Observation Peak trail. Climb up and enjoy the views. When you retrace your steps, look for an unmarked trail to the right about .3 of a mile from the summit of Observation Peak. This trail heads out on a ridgeline and offers some incredible views of the Trapper Creek Valley. All total, this trail gains about 1,500 feet of elevation and loses a few hundred feet. If you have a hike to choose from in Trapper Creek, do this one. It's worth the extra driving to this trailhead.
We came down this trail from the intersection of Trapper Creek Trail 192 after camping on the Trapper Creek Trail in the rain the night before. I was a pleasant meandering decent (not too steep). There is not much in the way of views, however, there are some enormous old growth trees to be seen. Overall, it was an ok hike.