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Backpack - Indian Heaven via Cultus Creek

Enjoy vivid fall colors, see variety of mushrooms (a few edibles) and many lakes on a circuit through Indian Heaven Wilderness.

  • Moderate
  • Moderate
  • Mileage: 14.0 mi
  • Elevation Gain: 2,150 ft
  • Pace: 1-1.5 mph

* Updated 10/9:  Trip canceled due to rain 2 of 3 days, and will reschedule to Sep/Oct 2024.

Meet 8:30am at Cultus Creek TH (near CG sites 325 & 330), following CG/TH signs.  Recommend camping at Cultus Creek Forest Camp near TH, night prior to backpack.

Directions to Trout Lake to trailhead/Cultus Creek camp: 

From Trout Lake junction (store/gas stn) at 141/FR 23 to trailhead:  take highway 141 north passing Mt. Adams Ranger Station (on your left), turn right at junction with forest road 24 (gravel) following signs to Cultus Creek Forest Camp/trailhead parking.  Trailhead parking area is located near campsites 325/330 or via left turn just past entry road for CG.

From Seattle/Tacoma area to Trout Lake:  From I-5 take exit for WA-7 south to Morton, exit highway 12 east 17 miles to Randle, county road 131 south then  Forest Road 23 south for 41 miles (incl approx 12 miles on gravel) to Trout Lake.  Travel time from Tacoma to TH:  approx 4-4.5 hours (saves 100 miles by avoiding I-84 Portland/Vancouver route).

From Olympia/Centralia area to Trout Lake:  From I-5/highway 12 take exit for highway 12 east to Morton, exit highway 12 east 17 miles to Randle, county road 131 south then  Forest Road 23 south to Trout Lake. 

From Vancouver/Portland area to Trout Lake:  From I-5/I-205 take exit for I-84 east to Hood River, take exit 64 for Hwy 35/Hood River bridge and White Salmon/Bingen, cross Hood River Bridge ($3.50 toll/car), WA-14 east to Bingen, north 26 miles on highway 141 via White Salmon to Trout Lake.  Travel time from Van./Portland:  approx 2-2.5 hours.

*Updated 9/17: 

Review all leader notes before requesting leader permission.  

NOTE: Leader will have limited email access while traveling remotely in Canada 9/18-10/8, and will respond to permission requests as soon as possible.

Members only.  Minimum 3 persons.  

Leader Permission Requests (non-members or incomplete  requests not reviewed):   Submit your leader permission request with completed responses and submitted via permission link.  Include complete responses to the following:    completed within last 12 months at least 1 Mountaineers 2 night moderate backpack (12-15+ miles, with 1500-2100' gain).  Also provide  examples of at least 2 moderate 1-2 night (or longer) backpacks completed within last 24 months with location/trail name, # nights, distance, elev gain;  describe your routine outdoor/conditioning activities (hiking, backpacking, other exercise), transportation plans (drive or ride, need ride, carpooling interest). 

We'll hike as a group:  Participants should enjoy hiking in a group and be patient for other participants.

We'll hike at 1-1.5 mph pace, with short snack/rest breaks as needed, and approx 20 min. lunch. 

*Planned itinerary:   Day 1: hike 5-7 miles to base camp in mid-Indian Heaven basin (Bear or Clear Lake areas) with possible side trip to Deep Lake; Day 2: hike 6-8+ mi to Blue Lake and nearby lake in southern basin; Day 3:  break camp by 9:30am and return to Cultus Creek TH early afternoon.

Water sources:  primarily lakes, preferably less shallow lakes.

Be prepared for cool to mild day temps, cool evening temps, possible light precip.  Heavy precip forecast will cancel or reschedule trip.

*Safety issue (yellow jacket nests & sting risk) through Sept/Oct at 2 locations about 3/4-1 mi from TH.  Leader is aware of 2 sites during 9/16 scouting trip (no other sites encountered/reported by hikers on IH trails) and will provide avoidance/detour guidance when approaching the 2 sites. Recommend you bring EPI pen if you experience allergic reaction to bee stings AND all should pack OTCs (antihistamine tabs and ibuprofin, or other NSAID/antinflamatory) to ease any pain/swelling.  Extra coverage clothing (long-sleeve shirt, long pants or rainpants, windblock gloves)  advised while traveling through the yellow jacket zone to minimize/avoid sting risk.

*Car camp recommended night prior to backpack, at Cultus Creek Forest Camp or nearby camp.  Bring water & TP for CG use, as CG sites remain open although serviced restrooms (pit toilets) may end for season, between late Sept and mid-October.  No fees due if CG seasonal services ended.

*Mt. Adams Ranger Station (Trout Lake) is open for Mon-Sat (8-4) for forest travel/camp info, G-P NF and ranger district maps (free R-D /Trout Lake map), brochures, guidebooks, etc.  Accepts cash only for map/guidebook purchases.

NOTE:  This backpack is one of the South Cascades routes  which qualifies towards the Seattle bronze, silver or gold backpack award badge. 


Indian Heaven via Cultus Creek

Required Equipment

Required Equipment

The Ten Essentials plus overnight gear which may include:

  • Tent with footprint/ground tarp
  • Stove and fuel
  • Sleeping bag
  • Sleeping pad
  • Water filter
  • Ursack or extra stuff sack and cord designated for hanging food
  • Cooking pot/pan with plate and utensils
  • Toilet paper and shovel or blue bag to deal with waste
  • Trekking poles optional
  • Recommended:  camera or phone w/camera. 
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