DISTANCE
6.1 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
1873 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Loop

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hiking
8 months ago

I hiked the Cone Peak / Iron Mountain loop late in July.
As other have mentioned, and with a relatively short distance (between 6 and 7 miles w/o any detours), this hike offers a nice array of varied features and highlights; beautiful forest settings (welcome shade on a hot July day), scenic Cascade summits views (Sisters and Mt Jefferson clearly on display, Mt Washington and Hood in supporting roles, abundant wildflowers (in season), open meadows (around cone peak), craggy rock formations... and comfortable summit platform on Iron Mountain to take a break and enjoy the sweeping 360 degrees views.
There are several possible starting points for the loop. I parked at the Blue River Rd trailhead (facilities, map, picnic bench, ample parking) for a $5 fee. Other options are the parking area at Tombstone Pass (fee?) or on the shoulder of OR20. A last option appears to be a parking at the end of NFRD 035 which would bring you just about a mile under the Iron Mountain summit.
I headed first to Iron Mountain which makes for a healthy ascent of 1500 feet in just about 2 miles. Most of it is under a constant canopy, only breaking into the open at about .3 miles from the summit. There are several stone benches on the way if you need to take a quick breather. The platform at the top is quite new, with an orientation table and benches in two corners. The views are a just reward for the sustained climb.
The traverse from Iron Mountain to Cone Peak offers several level(ish) sections in the shades before it comes out of the forest about half-way to cone peak, drops into a notch via a switchback and then climbs back up to the base of Cone Peak. Several good open views of Cone Peak from that area. The trail then follows the contours of the SouthWest slope of Cone Peak and the vegetation is dense on both sides of the trail, cutting all view up to the summit of Cone Peak.
Finally, just before dropping back down to OR 20, the landscape opens up again, providing good close-up views up the South slope of Cone Peak... and places for a quick break, snack or lunch. The descent to OR 20 is via a fairly long series of switchback under the protection a high canopy.
The trail crosses OR20, drops down a little, and then follows under the road back to the Tombstone parking area. This is not the most scenic part of he walk.