Pets allowed
Allowed
Elevation Gain
?
Trail type
There-and-back
Distance
8.50 mi (13.68 km)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

The summit of Whetstone Mountain is a dramatic, fairly moderate hike offering expansive views of several peaks, from Mount Rainier all the way to the Three Sisters. The foundation for a long-gone lookout tower is visible on the rocky, wide open summit. The trail winds in and out of old-growth fir forests, passing several small streams and a small pond under a rock slide. The hike itself is pleasant and rarely steep, with several viewpoints to different peaks along the way. The trail is lined with large huckleberry plants promising plenty of trailside snacking in late summer. Spring means flowering rhododendrons, trillium, and bunchberry.  

Getting to the hike is a bit of slog, taking just over two hours from Portland, but it is mostly on paved roads with the last few miles on decent gravel roads. On the plus side, the isolation of the hike means few people. Snow is present into late June, as are mosquitoes, but not in unbearable numbers. Usually the trail is passable from mid-June to early November. 

The hike starts with a quarter-mile descent into old-growth forests. At the mile mark the trail passes a pond and ascends to a wooded ridge. Turn right near the top of the ridge onto a somewhat faint trail leading to the summit. Stay right at the next intersection as the trail climbs quickly to the top. 

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Summer
Fall

Congestion

Low

Parking Pass

NW Forest Pass

Pros

Fantastic views. Not crowded. Great hike.

Cons

Long drive.

Trailhead Elevation

3,950.00 ft (1,203.96 m)

Net Elevation Gain

1,100.00 ft (335.28 m)

Features

Backcountry camping
Big vistas
Old-growth forest

Suitable for

Horseback

Location

Field Guide + Map

Nearby Adventures

Nearby Lodging + Camping

Comments

08/11/2018
Headed to Whetstone Mountain Trail for a quiet day hike away from the crowds and fires. Despite it being a nice (60-70s) Saturday in early August, we didn’t encounter a single other person. The condition of NF-7030 and 7020 may explain that though. Plenty of potholes and loose gravel made for a bumpy ride to the trailhead. Our non-4 wheel drive SUV managed but slid on the steeper sections. Definitely recommend a high clearance vehicle for this one. The signs were worn and hard to read unless you knew what number you were looking for. Plenty of parking space for cars. The signage was torn/water damaged so we were glad we’d brought a map & hike details. Within a few minutes of hitting the trail, we were wading through waist-high rhodies and other plants, and our pants and shoes quickly got soaked by heavy dew. But to be fair, the clouds were full and low, and it was around 8:30am. A handful of short switchbacks warmed us up and pretty soon we were at the junction with Whetstone Mountain. We skipped the summit trail with the intention of hitting it on the way back. From here to the junction down to Silver King Lake, there were plenty of switchbacks and inclines to get the thighs burning and heart pumping. Fallen trees courtesy of wildfire have made this section of Bagby Springs Trail #544 tricky but not impossible to traverse. Unstable trail conditions and washouts made us turn around a bit short of Silver King Lake. We returned the way we came and were greeted with clear skies at the saddle area we passed coming in. It was a peaceful and tranquil spot to enjoy a quick lunch. We never made it up to the summit of Whetstone but will certainly return on a drier day to take in the sights.

Overall, this trail seems to see very little use which is not necessarily a bad thing but something to be aware of. In terms of wildlife, the only show came from the grouse our dog accidentally flushed from the shrubs. Otherwise, it was a peaceful walk in solitude.
08/07/2017
Caution following the drive in directions to this trail head. NF-7030 noted in the instructions is washed out and impassible, approximately 1-2 miles north of the intersection of NF-7030 and NF-7020. Better route would be to take NF-7020 directly form NF-70.
A Pleasant hike. Unfortunately, during our visit, there were little views due to the clouds. It was only when we were about half way down that the clouds burned off. We'll have to return on a clear day.
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