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Length: 8.9 Miles Round Trip
Trailhead(s): Killen Creek Trailhead
Elevation Gain: 2,265′
Trail Type: Out & Back
Permit Required? Yes, Free Self-Issue at Trailhead
Considerations: Bugs, Snow can Linger into Summer
Season: Late Spring to Early Fall
This is an amazingly beautiful and dramatic hike. If you can only do one hike on Mount Adams, make it Killen Creek Trail to High Camp. You will not be disappointed!
What Makes Hiking Killen Creek Trail to High Camp so Great?
The Killen Creek Trail is a gorgeous hike with outstanding views of Mount Adams. Even better, if you catch the trail at the right time, as we did at the end of July, you will experience a sea of wild flowers. Paintbrush, aster, and lupine line the trail and fill the meadows on the way up to meet the High Camp Trail.
But if views of Mount Adams and tons of wild flowers are not enough motivation, continuing the hike on the High Camp Trail up to its meadow at the foot of the Mount Adams Glacier will thrill even the most seasoned hiker. Here you will have outstanding views of Mount Rainier, Mount St. Helens, Goat Rocks, and, of course, Mount Adams and its dramatic glacier.
Hiking the Killen Creek Trail to High Camp
Killen Creek Trail to High Camp begins as a woods hike. After a relatively short time in the woods, the hike enters the first of a number of meadows interspersed with patches of trees.
The meadows are gorgeous, particularly if you catch the wildflower season which occurs late due to the altitude. We did this hike in the end of July and caught the flowers in full bloom. There were amazing fields of lupine, aster, and paintbrush which filled our eyes with beautiful scenery and our noses with the smell of blooming flowers. The meadows were truly among the prettiest we’ve seen, and that is saying a lot given the breadth of our travels.
Along with the meadows, incredible views of the top of Mount Adams open up. It feels like you can reach out and touch the volcano, with its large glacier and ice fields in full view. At about 3 miles in, the trail crosses the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). You could turn around here and have a short, outstanding hike, but the best is yet to come.
At the junction with the PCT, the High Camp Trail #10 is visible up to the right (the trails are well marked). At only .7 miles in length, the trail is short, but takes you to the most amazing part of the hike.
Beginning the High Camp Trail at about 6,000′, the trail becomes rocky as you climb to where the trail passes through a scree field (broken down rock). The trail may feel sketchy to some and if there is snow, it will be difficult to follow, so waiting until well into the summer to do this hike is favored.
Looking to the left and over your shoulder as you move through the scree field, you will have unbelievable views of Mount Rainier, which seems to float in the distance. Stop and soak in these views, but don’t worry, they do not disappear as you move into the high alpine meadow further up the trail.
Once you enter the meadow at the top of the High Camp Trail, things open up dramatically. In front of you there is the summit of Mount Adams with its incredible glacier and ice fields. Turning around and looking off to your right, you have views of the Goat Rocks (an extinct stratovolcano) with Mount Rainier rising above it. Turning your head towards the left, Mount St. Helens comes into view. The views from this vantage point are nothing short of stunning.
If all this isn’t enough pay-off for your hike, there is the meadow that you are standing in. It is a beautiful meadow dotted with large rocks and wind blown pinion pines. The meadow makes a great lunch stop to enjoy the views. Should you desire, you also have the opportunity to hike right up to the glacier above (do not walk on the glacier unless you have proper training).
After enjoying lunch or a snack, exploring the meadow, and taking lots of pictures, it is a relatively quick descent back down to your car. Make sure to continue soaking in the views on your descent. The are equally amazing on the way down.
The Killen Trail to High Camp is an incredible hike. The views, the feeling of solitude due to the relative remoteness of Mount Adams, and the opportunity to see an abundant amount of wildflowers are a huge pay-off for your efforts. I cannot stress enough that if you are anywhere near Mount Adams, you should do this hike. Enjoy!
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Killen Creek Trail to High Camp Slideshow
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