Indian Racetrack and Red Mountain

With a beautiful forecast for Sunday I was flipping through my hiking books trying to decide where to go. In Matt Reeder’s new book he has the hike to Red Mountain via Indian Racetrack and I decided to do that. All I have to say is WOW. I can’t believe this hike doesn’t get more attention. The views are fantastic!

Just past the wilderness registration board is the abandoned and unsigned trail to the Basin Lakes area. Matt mentions this in his book, but I didn’t have the time to explore up there today.

Crossing Falls Creek, the outflow from Basin Lakes.

Crazy to think how that creek becomes this (Falls Creek Falls) a few miles downstream!

After that the trail climbs steeply. It’s so steep in this spot that they’ve laid logs down for erosion control.

I saw a whole bunch of mushrooms.

The trail levels off for a bit and then there’s just lots of forest hiking.

Then the trail reaches a meadow with a snowmelt pond.

Red Mountain ahead. Almost there!

Indian Racetrack, where Native Americans used to race their horses.

This is the trail to Red Mountain and thank goodness for that sign or I would not have seen it. Once the trail comes out of the forest there it totally disappears in the meadow.

Back in the forest for the final push up the hill.

The last 0.2mi of trail before it dumps out on the road is very very steep. I was very glad to get onto the well-graded road which shortly brought me to the summit. Oh man the views! An unobstructed 360-degree view!

Looking north out over Indian Heaven Wilderness to Mt. Adams, which had a fresh dusting of snow.

Mt. Rainier also had fresh snow:

Close-up of Indian Heaven:

Looking south to Mt. Hood:

Looking southwest (that forested bump left of center is called The Wart:

Looking west to Mt. St. Helens:

The lookout isn’t used anymore but is in good shape. (You can see from the first picture below how this mountain got its name.)

There isn’t much inside.

It seems that maybe the Red Mountain lookout is in some limbo. A winter storm blew the roof off in 2006 which caused the walls to collapse. Yikes!

Volunteers with the Passport in Time program restored the lookout in 2010 but at that time future plans were uncertain. The website says that it’s slated to become part of the rental program, but I don’t know when that was last updated. A 2011 report from the Forest Fire Lookout Association said that once toilet facilities were installed the lookout could become part of the rental program. There are still no toilet facilities up there and the inside needs a bed, a stovepipe, etc. so who knows what’s going on.

Anyway, I sat on the catwalk of the lookout for over an hour, enjoying the views and reading my book. It was the perfect temperature and I had the place all to myself. Pretty awesome! My timing was perfect because right when I was leaving two other hikers showed up, and five minutes later I passed a group of four hikers headed up (they asked me to take a jump shot of them and I was happy to oblige).

Almost back to the trailhead, just after passing the wilderness registration board, I passed two hunters who were decked out in full camo with facepaint and everything (yes, hunting is allowed in wilderness areas, just like cattle grazing is allowed). Their weapons looked strange…perhaps they were bows? Neither of them carried overnight packs. I turned to see if they would fill out a wilderness permit but they just blasted right past the sign without giving it a glance.