The first time I ventured across the Columbia River with my horse it was to ride the excellent horse trails at Mt. Adams Horse Camp. And what a wonderful introduction it was to the joys of riding in Washington State!
Mt. Adams Horse Camp is located just north of the town of Trout Lake, on the south side of Mt. Adams. It provides horseback riders with splendid lower-elevation riding opportunities. With its spectacular views, pretty forest, and a nice mix of easy and moderate trails, Mt. Adams has plenty of fabulous riding to fill a long summer weekend.
The view from Mt. Adams Horse Camp is undoubtedly the best from any horse camp in the Northwest. A huge open meadow lies just north of the horse camp, affording a stunning view of Mt. Adams across it.
A delightful network of short trails is located very near the camp, and by linking the trails together you can create loop trails of whatever length you like. These trails are suitable for green horses and green riders.
The trails take you through verdant forest to interesting destinations like the White Salmon River flowing in its gorge below the trail and the Trout Lake Big Tree (202 feet tall and 84 inches in diameter at chest height), the largest ponderosa pine on record. Sadly, we understand that the Big Tree died last winter, but it’s still standing and will be for many years to come.
You can link sections of the Buck Creek, Morrison Creek, and Wicky Creek Trails to make a memorable loop that includes a densely-shaded canyon, open forest, several bubbling creeks, and of course the Wicky Creek Shelter.
The shelter was built for winter recreationists, but since it has hitching rails and a picnic table it’s also an inviting spot for equestrians to stop for lunch.
The Crofton Butte Loop takes you up into the Mt. Adams Wilderness, through stands of old-growth trees, and into the area burned by 2012’s Cascade Creek Fire.
The fire burned so hot that it killed all of the trees, but today you’ll see evidence that the forest is regenerating. The seasonal wildflowers in this area are amazing.
The Snipes Mountain/Cold Springs Loop is a higher-elevation trail that also goes into the Mt. Adams Wilderness. You can do a 24-mile ride from Mt. Adams Horse Camp, or you can trailer out to the Snipes Mountain Trailhead for a much easier 13-mile ride.
This loop takes you beside the impressive Aiken Lava Bed to the border of the Yakama Reservation, then back along the Cold Springs Trail with its pretty meadows and excellent views of Mt. Adams.
Yes, Mt. Adams Horse Camp has plenty of riding to fill a long weekend. Since some trails are easy and others are moderate, you won’t find a single steep side hill or drop-off on these trails. The views are breathtaking, and the riding is fun. Don’t miss it!
Note to Oregon Riders: When you look at a map you may be tempted to take I-84 east to Hood River and then drive over the Hood River Bridge into Washington. After all, this maximizes your freeway driving, and from Hood River it’s a straight shot north on Hwy. 141 to reach Mt. Adams Horse Camp. But don’t do it! The lanes on the Hood River Bridge are 112.75 inches wide, and the wheel base of your trailer is 102 inches wide. That leaves just 5 inches between you and the guard rail on one side and oncoming traffic on the other. It’s scary – so scary that as soon as I got across the bridge I had to pull over and walk around awhile until I could stop shaking. Never again! It’s far safer to take the Bridge of the Gods at Cascade Locks and drive 22 miles east along Hwy. 14 to reach Hwy. 141, which will take you to Trout Lake.
Getting to Mt. Adams Horse Camp: From the town of Trout Lake, take the Mt. Adams Recreation Highway north. In 1.3 miles, stay to the right when Buck Creek Road/Randle Road goes off to the left. Continue 0.6 mile and turn left on Road 80, a paved one-lane road. In 2.3 miles, turn left on gravel Road 031. The horse camp is on your right in 0.3 mile.
Fees: Camping fee; no fee for day-use parking
Season: Early summer through fall.
Trailhead Facilities: Twelve campsites with fire rings, picnic tables, and permanent highlines with cables. The camp has a vault toilet, manure bin, stock water from a trough, and an accessible mounting ramp.
More Information: Mt. Adams Horse Camp is covered more detail in Riding Southwest Washington Horse Trails, by Kim McCarrel, (Ponderosa Press, 2016).
Reprinted with permission from Northwest Rider Magazine, August 2016.