Explore the most popular nature trips trails in Gifford Pinchot National Forest with hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers and nature lovers like you.

Purcell Mountain Trail #284
5-19-18

There are two trails to Purcell Mountain Lookout. Trail #285 (via FR63) and Trail #284 with access from Hwy 12. An access trail from Hwy 12 to trail #284 made it much easier to get to. This access trail was made within the last month or so. Yesterday I was finally able to hike it. Trail #284 is the longer of the two trails at 7.7 miles one-way. The shorter trail is 4.2 one-way and as TR’s indicate, the one accessed more, overgrown and hard to get to.

There is parking in a pullout across Hwy 12 or on the same side next to the access trail. The access trail is sandy and inconspicuously meets trail #284, so much so that I missed it on the way back. It is steep right from the get go. Trail #284 is just as steep and overgrown in the first miles. Actually the whole trail is overgrown but lower parts are worse.

There has been some recent maintenance as blowdowns are cut and one blowdown was routed around. This trail is all elevation gain, right from the start. Only one flat-ish spot around the 3100ft level makes a good resting point. From here it continues elevation gain but not as steep and starts resembling a regular trail. Pleasant actually.

First signs of snow were at 3700ft but only one spot. It was clear for the next .7 miles til after a trail junction marked by an old non-used barbed-wire gate. Right is the Purcell Mountain Trail, left goes toward a location unknown to me. After I got back, I found out it goes toward Grassy Mountain and not marked on any maps I could find. This is also the first signs of water on the trail.

Take the left junction a hundred feet for a nicely flowing stream, 4.3 miles in at 4011ft. Go right to stay on the Purcell Mountain trail. I got blocked by snow 200-300 feet after the junction. It was constant and I lost sight of the trail. I took the left junction to see where it went and turned around after it appeared to be going more down than up and away from where I wanted to go, Elevation, 4100ft. Elevation gain to this point, 3228ft in 4.9mi.

Going down was a much needed reward and fast! 1.75hrs total going down. 5hrs going up. It seemed there were more tripping…. hazards going down than up. From rocks to round twigs to small branches crossing the trail and rain and wet. It rained going down which made an overgrown trail soaking.

All and All this is an exciting and strenuous trail. It’s easy to get to. Leave early and plan on 15 miles RT. There are no views however… they come later (I hope). Only 1 flowing water source on the trail 4.3 miles in and this could be seasonal, but I suspect one of the many that feeds Hopkins Creek. Plan accordingly. I will certainly be doing this later I the year.

Holy cow that was amazing!! Definitely worth makeing it to the upper falls

This is a good short hike just over 2 miles and small side trail to cool rock formation with forest and river view. this trail is a little steep!

Absolutely incredible views! Steeper than I expected in the beginning and tons of rocks to overcome but worth every single bit of the views. Phenomenal!

Beautiful hike, pretty easy. I would suggest the completing the loop. You will not be right on the river for half of it if you do but the forest is beautiful!

Such a beautiful hike!!!

A splendid day hike or overnighter with hammocks. Beautifully graded trail.

Take the trail across the parking lot from the toilet, not the Tarbell trail next to the toilet. The Tarbell bridge is pretty much in the river and you can’t cross it so the trail is useless.
Hurray for poles!!! If you’ve got them, it’s definitely worth bringing them.
Take a right at the big rock pile when you get closer to the top.
Views of Mt. St. Helens, Rainier, Adams and Hood!
Also, if you’re coming from Portland and don’t have AWD and decent clearance you should opt for the route via Washougal.

Hiked 05/13/18, went up to see the sunset.

A beautiful hike! Easy trail to follow and not hard at all. Beautiful views of Lower, Middle, & Upper Falls. Be careful by the overhanging rock face part of the trail as it seems rocks fall often in this area. Other than that the trail is very safe.

Awesome trail with wonderful panoramic views. Climbed it for the first time yesterday (May 12th 2018).

backpacking
8 days ago

Hiked Packwood Lake yesterday for an overnighter. The parking lot was full. I had to park on the access road to the trailhead. At least 40 cars, maybe more. Most of the campsites were taken upto the Goat Rocks Wilderness Area. That's where I found my site. I did see quite a few people hiking beyond that. There was NO SNOW ON THE TRAIL. Smooth sailing. Everyone should experience an overnight at Packwood Lake. Beautiful!

Fun hike. Super steep. The distance can fool you.

About 10 miles round-trip. With only a light backpack, and stops for photos on the way, the hike was 2-2.5 hours up, and 1-1.5 down. Except for one or two steep parts that aren't exceedingly long, the hike is a gradual uphill that most won't struggle with. If you're thinking of turning back early, don't. The views get better and better until you're actually at the Observatory. Highly recommend.

The Good: The trail was a decent first hike of the season. Great weather provided for a great 360 degree view of tge countryside. Would do it again with a friend.

The Bad: Snow and some exposure

The Ugly: I tried a variant where I attempted to loop in Sturgeon Rock and come back via the Tarbell Trail. At this time, DO NOT do this as the lower Tarbell trail is closed to logging.

Hard as hell for a beginner but worth it

When is it open??? I tried many times to come here but its always closed

Wonderfully beautiful hike! The waterfall is incredibly majestic and powerful. Follows a creek and there are a few bridges.

Beware of numerous potholes on FSR88. Trailhead marked well.
It’s a brisk climb right away on this trail, and it doesn’t let up until you near the top. The upper portion of the trail leading to the summit is snowed over but still passable until the last 1/4 mile. We scrambled over some precarious rocks to reach the peak. Snow free up top but lots of loose rocks so watch your step! Killer views of Adams, Rainier, St Helen’s, and Hood.

2018 - May 7

Great hike and pretty physical.

2nd half of trail was still compact snow. Should be melted in 3 weeks give or take. Bring hiking poles.

View was 5/5 - equidistant to St.H/hoot/Adams with great views

Trail was pretty rocky at times, heading back down wasn’t a fun hike for me so 4/5 rating seems schwifty

Great uphill hike with an awesome view of the falls at the top! Lots of dogs and happy people on the trail. Highly recommended!

Beautiful hike and pretty easy

hiking
17 days ago

Lot tougher then expected, the grades toward the top were rough. Crampons at 1 mile, snowshoes at about 2.5. Sunscreen is a must. Also make sure you wear easy to remove layers. left the lot at 0530 it was in the 20's, in a mile was down to a tee shirt. Was sunny and in the 70's really wished the snow pants I had on had shorts under them for the climb up. Loved them glissading on the way down though.

What a great hike! The falls were beautiful and I was the only person on the trail.

Wow! Was not expecting this waterfall as I made the final turn before it appeared through the trees. The photos don't even do it justice. Definitely worth the hike.

hiking
22 days ago

This hike is a good workout. It’s relatively short, but steep at times. View at the top is nice (overlooking the river and Dog Mountain) and the summit is a great place to relax.

hiking
22 days ago

First time here, very cool experience. Went on the last day of an April heat wave, snow was very soft. Can’t wait to go back again sometime. Make sure you bring snow shoes, crampons, and an ice axe. 98% of everyone out that day had snow shoes and trekking poles. I got away with crampons till I switched to snow shoes the last couple hundred yards, though I’m not sure that was any easier.

hiking
23 days ago

Our 2nd hike of the year. It was a beautiful hike that is well worth walk. There is high traffic, but friendly people all the up the trail.

snowshoeing
23 days ago

A fantastic climb, make sure you bring snowshoes, crampons (or at least micro spikes) and an ice axe. Be careful at the top, there is a cornice at the edge of the summit that is difficult to see at first. Incredible views, next time I’ll brings skis.

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