Pets allowed
Allowed
Elevation Gain
1,400.00 ft (426.72 m)
Trail type
There-and-back
Distance
5.60 mi (9.01 km)
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Observation Peak, located about two hours' drive from downtown Vancouver, Washington, and spanning roughly 5.5 miles in length, is at the distant edge of day hikes that are achievable from the Portland-Vancouver metro area. Still, with views that stretch to no fewer than four Cascade volcanoes from the site of a former fire lookout, it is well worth the trip.

The trail itself is mostly dirt and fallen forest foliage, and it is very easy to follow. There is little to no downfall to block the trail. Trails junction are well marked. Overall, the hike was fairly easy. The trail follows mellow, rolling ascents up 1,400 feet in elevation gain over the course of about 3 miles. You can add elevation, difficulty, and distance if you start this hike at the Trapper Creek Trail.

After 1.1 miles, you will reach the Observation-Sister Rocks Trail Junction. That trail heads off to your right and is labeled with a wooden sign. On your left you will see a path heading over to a big boulder pile. This very short side trail takes you to a viewpoint of Mount Adams and Mount Rainier.

Back on the main trail, you will now find yourself going downhill. After 0.7 mile you will reach another trail junction. The Big Hollow Trail heads downhill to your left. There is also a campsite here for backcountry camping called Berry Camp. Just a short distance later, you will pass the Observation-Trapper Creek Trail Junction. If you start the hike at Trapper Creek Trailhead, this is where the two trails meet.

After another 0.4 mile, you will see Shortcut Trail on your right (which meets up with the Trapper Creek Trail) and the Observation-Observation Peak Trail Junction only 25 yards later. Here, Trail 132 goes left, but you will go right, climbing up a final 0.6 mile to the open summit of Observation Peak, a former lookout site. This is a great place to catch your breath, eat your lunch, and soak up the views. On a clear day you can see Mount Hood to the south, and if it's really clear you can just make out the tip of Mount Jefferson in the distance. To the east and north are Mount Adams, Mount Rainier, and Mount St Helens. A fire lookout was constructed here in 1934. Abandoned in the 1960s, the structure is no longer there, and very little of the original foundations remain.

This is an out and back trail, so return the way you came. Observation Peak Trail requires a self-issued wilderness pass that is available at the trailhead. During June there is an abundance of bear grass and wildflowers throughout the trail, including a few species of lily. The adventurous might consider hiking the trail in the afternoon to catch the sunset from the summit.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Spring
Summer
Fall

Congestion

Low

Parking Pass

None

Open Year-round

No

Open from

November 30

Pros

Not crowded. Well shaded. Great view.

Cons

Might not see anyone. Seasonal hunting. No view if cloudy.

Trailhead Elevation

3,540.00 ft (1,078.99 m)

Highest point

4,207.00 ft (1,282.29 m)

Net Elevation Gain

1,400.00 ft (426.72 m)

Features

Backcountry camping
Wildlife
Family friendly
Big vistas
Wildflowers

Typically multi-day

No

Suitable for

Biking

Permit required

No

Location

Field Guide

Nearby Adventures

Washington, Southwest Washington/Mount St. Helens
Southwest Washington/Mount St. Helens, Washington
Southwest Washington/Mount St. Helens, Washington

Nearby Lodging + Camping

Southwest Washington/Mount St. Helens, Washington
Southwest Washington/Mount St. Helens, Washington
Southwest Washington/Mount St. Helens, Washington

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