From Trout Lake Washington, drive west on Highway 141 (which turns into Forest Service Road 24) to Peterson Prairie. Turn north (still FS 24) and travel this road to the Cultus Creek Campground, a total distance of about 16 miles from Trout Lake. The trailhead begins at the southern edge of the campground, and this hike exits at the trailhead along the road near the entrance to the campground.
The Indian Heaven Wilderness in the southern Washington Cascades doesn’t offer spectacular mountain vistas, glacier-fed lakes, or thundering waterfalls, but the area does offer plenty of solitude, beautiful meadows, and plenty of quiet lakes. This loop hike samples a small piece of this wilderness, which will make you want to see more.
From the trailhead, the trail rises moderately quickly through open forest beneath impressive rock outcrops and in a few places, very good views of Mt. Adams and the eastern plains of Washington and Oregon. The hiking is pretty easy, passing by numerous meadows and glades before reaching Cultus Lake at the 1.5 mile mark. Several good campsites can be found at the southern edge of the lake. Continue past Cultus Lake as well as the cutoff trail for Lake Wapati, and continue a short distance (roughly a half mile) to yet another nice and slightly larger Clear Lake. Spend some time exploring this area, as there are many other small lakes to discover.
Continue past Clear Lake, to where the trail meets up with the Pacific Crest Trail. A short side trip along the PCT to the south will provide access to the shores of Deer Lake. To continue the loop trip, follow the PCT north as it climbs moderately through beautiful open woods, below the summit of Bird Mountain. Continue past a side trail that leads down to Placid Lake and around a small pond to the intersection with the return trail to Cultus Creek Campground. This trail leads over the ridge to more wonderful views of Mt. Adams and the Goat Rocks. If you feel like admiring the view, there are several places along the ridge just north of the trail that offer good places to relax. The trail drops for another 1.5 miles back to the campground.
*The Cultus Creek Campground, at least at the time of this writing is free, which makes it perfect for pre-hike camping. Also notice that I found inconsistencies between the actual trail system of the Indian Heaven Wilderness, and the published USGS quad maps for this region, so the maps of this area will not match perfectly the description given here.
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