Six beautiful lakes, pretty forest, open huckleberry meadows, and no crowds. That's what you get when you ride the Junction Lake Loop. This fun lollipop look explores the north end of the Indian Heaven Wilderness – a spectacular place that doesn’t attract the hordes of hikers you can expect to find on the south end of the Wilderness.
Distance: 13 miles round trip
Elevation: 4,100 to 5,000 feet
You’ll start the ride at Placid Lake Trailhead and pick up the Placid Lake Trail, which takes you to the Pacific Crest Trail. Not too surprisingly, you’ll pass Placid Lake on the way.
Turn south on the PCT, and soon you’ll pass Deer Lake and Bear Lake (shown in the photo below).
Then you’ll reach Junction Lake, a good place for you and your horse to enjoy a lunch break in the huckleberry meadows.
From Junction Lake, you’ll make a loop on the Lemei Lake Trail, passing Lemei Lake
and Clear Lake. Then you’ll rejoin the PCT and retrace your steps to return to the trailhead.
You can camp at Placid Lake Trailhead, but it has no corrals (though it has trees for highlining), no toilet, no picnic tables or fire rings, and no water, so come prepared for a primitive camping experience.
From Woodland, take Exit 21 from I-5 and go east on Hwy. 503/Lewis River Road toward Cougar. In 23 miles, Hwy. 503 goes to the right. Go straight on Hwy. 503-Spur, which becomes Road 90. In 23.7 miles, at the junction with Road 25, veer right on Road 90 toward Carson. Continue 4 miles and turn right on Road 51 (Curly Creek Rd.) In 5.1 miles, turn left on Road 30 (Wind River Road). In 1 mile, you’ll see Lone Butte Sno-Park on the left.
From Stevenson, take Hwy. 14 east for 3.2 miles. Between mileposts 47 and 48, turn left on Wind River Road toward Carson. Drive 14.3 miles and veer right to stay on Wind River Road, which becomes Road 30. In 13.2 miles, Road 51 (Curly Creek Road) comes in on the left. After another mile (between mileposts 30 and 31) you’ll see Lone Butte Sno-Park on the left.
All: At Lone Butte Sno-Park, veer right to stay on Road 30 (which turns to gravel) for 2.3 miles, then turn right again on Road 420. The Placid Lake Trailhead is on the right in 1.3 mile.
You’ll find more information about the Junction Lake Loop in the Placid Lake chapter of Riding Southwest Washington Horse Trails, by Kim McCarrel, (Ponderosa Press, 2018), available at www.nwhorsetrails.com.