Itinerary: High Lakes Loop
Length: 79 miles
Time to Allow: 4 hours
Open Season: The route is usually snow-free by the end of May and remains open through October. The road closes each year due to winter snowfall from November to May.
Driving Directions: From Randle, travel south on State Route (SR) 131 for 1 mile to FR23. Stay left on FR23. Follow FR23 31.2 miles to FR2329 and turn left on FR2329. Follow FR2329 9.8 miles to FR5603 and turn left on FR5603. Follow FR5603 5.2 miles to FR56 and turn right on FR56. Follow FR56 7 miles to FR2160. From here turn right for a 7 mile round trip drive to Walupt Lake and back. Turn left on FR2160 and follow FR2160 1.8 miles to FR21 and turn right. Follow FR21 15.9 miles north to US 12, about 3 miles west of Packwood and 13.6 miles east of the beginning of the route in Randle.
Discover the numerous majestic alpine lakes that create this unique and beautiful landscape. Towering Mt. Adams and the Gifford Pinchot National Forest provide the backdrop for this scenic drive offering opportunities for fabulous hiking and great fishing along the way.
Start: This journey begins in the small mountain community of Randle located on Highway 12. Restaurants, vehicle and RV services, and campgrounds are available.
Stop 1: Cispus River Valley - Meandering along FR23, stop in at the densely forested North Fork Campground Day Use Area situated on the North Cispus River. Providing access to the Cispus River Valley, this is a popular area for hiking, biking, and fishing. Look up at the magnificent stands of hemlock, Douglas fir, and maple trees. From here take a short 1.6 mile hike on the North Fork Trail through several forests with outstanding views of the Cispus Valley below. Or take the Valley Trail open to hikers, horses, mountain bikes and motorcycles. The trail is a gentle grade, with scenic views of the Cispus River Valley and Tongue Mountain.
Stop 2: Olallie Lake - Take in the majestic view of Mt. Adams across crystal clear Olallie Lake on FR 5601. This small alpine lake is one of several in the area fed by streams coming off the glaciers from nearby Mount Adams. Located at 4,200 feet elevation, enjoy quiet boating and good fishing early in the season. A wonderful place to enjoy the quiet beauty of the wilderness.
Stop 3: Chain-of-Lakes - Here’s something different - ten small, picturesque lakes called the Chain-of-Lakes, a beautiful area offering relaxation and rejuvenation. Fishermen enjoy trolling its many waters. Electric motors are allowed. The popular Chain-of-Lakes Figure Eight biking trail departs from Chain of Lakes Campground. A scenic and thrilling ride, bikers will enjoy a forest road decent while weaving around the chain of lakes. Only moderately difficult, it’s a great single-track. The road to Chain-of-Lakes is rough and suitable for high clearance vehicles only.
Stop 4: Takhlakh Lake - Stopping along FR2329, set your eyes on the awe-inspiring view from Takhlakh Lake. You may never want to leave. Perhaps the best view along the route, Mt. Adams stands ever so stately, towering over this beautiful alpine lake, just five miles from its shores. This picture-postcard vista alone will make the whole trip worthwhile. A popular and peaceful day-use area is located inside the campground flanking the water’s edge. Those who fish are in for an outstanding day of peaceful fishing. Others find its still waters perfect for paddling around in a canoe or kayak. Hike the trail around the lake, or from the campground, walk the short easy trail leading up and over a lava flow. The beauty here is unforgettable – come see for yourself!
Stop 5: Killen Creek - Killen Creek Campground provides access to nearby hiking, biking, horseback riding and berry picking. For thousands of years, American Indians spent summer and fall high in these mountains hunting, fishing, picking berries, and celebrating the plentiful gifts of the land. Once every few years, they burned the berry fields after harvest, to kill invading trees and to insure healthy fields the following year.
Stop 6: Horseshoe Lake - Continue on to another alpine lake – picturesque Horseshoe Lake. This high mountain lake provides boating for canoes and small rowboats. A trail runs partly around the lake open to walkers, bikers, and horse riders. For anglers, bring your fishing pole – this lake is a popular fishing hole and electric motors are allowed. Spring Creek, High Lakes, and Keenes Trail all pass near Horseshoe Lake and each provide spectacular views of wildflowers, huckleberries, volcanic features and views of other high elevation lakes. These historic trails were once used by Yakama Indians picking berries in the high lakes area. The road to Horseshoe Lake is rough and suitable only for high-clearance vehicles.
Stop 7: Equestrian Riding - Nestled in a stand of magnificent Lodgepole pine, this popular area for horse riders offers many trails leading from Keenes Horse Camp on FR2329 and Cody Horse Camp on FR5600 059. Enjoy access to several equestrian and hiking trails with various degrees of difficulty. Spring Creek, High Lakes and the famed Pacific Crest Trail are a few choices offering a spectacular opportunity for wilderness exploration.
Stop 8: Walupt Lake - Off of FR 2160, stop here and discover a true backcountry experience without the need to hike any distance. Stunning, 384-acre Walupt Lake offers expansive waters and a small beach, with a beautiful background view of the southern Goat Rocks Wilderness. Find Walupt Lake Campground situated on the west end of this crystal clear lake. A boat ramp at the campground provides access for non-motorized and small motorboats. So bring a pole and enjoy some quiet fishing. No boat? Fish from the bank! Or take a hike on the Nannie Ridge Trail or the Walupt Lake Trail, both beginning at the campground – a great way to explore the magnificent beauty of the Goat Rocks Wilderness.
End: The route comes to an end as it rejoins US 12, about 3 miles west of Packwood and 13.6 miles east of the beginning of the route in Randle.
All roads in this itinerary are windy and many have steep drop offs on the either side. Always drive with caution and expect wildlife. Please check local ranger stations for winter road closures. For current road conditions, click here.
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