Vistas and Wildflowers: Hiking Cone Peak/Iron Mountain

Generally I try to avoid high traffic areas during their peak usage. Iron Mountain is world renown for it's impressive collect of wildflowers. Being that the only time to see the wildflowers is during the time of peak use, I opted to hike on a Monday. Though the wildflowers were slightly passed their peak it was still incredible.

Having a vague idea of where I wanted to hike, I stopped by the Sweet Home Ranger Station, Isabel Fish was very helpful. She gave me a map of the area trails and a booklet on some of the wildflowers growing along the trail. Deciding that I wanted to hike out of Tombstone Pass I set out for the trailhead.

Turn off for the Tombstone Pass trailhead
Not sure of what the trail was like in either direction I opted to hike toward Cone Peak first, saving the wildflowers of Iron Mountain for last. The trail starts out just passed a large fairly new sign, area maps are located in the box there.

The beginning of the Cone Peak Trail

The trail descends slightly into a mature forest before coming to the Tombstone Meadow.  

 Next you will reach Tombstone Meadow and an interpretive sign. There is actually a trail that circles the meadow, but I didn't take it this time. I'm sure it would be worth the time though. After you come to a trail junction with the Cone Peak Trail you'll pass a stream and then cross highway 20, look west when you cross, the trail is fairly obvious. This is the start of a climb to the base of Cone Peak.

The climb up to the shoulder of Cone Peak was a pleasant one, the forest provided needed relief from the warm sun. After about 6 switchbacks you will start to see the first of many impressive open areas filled with wildflowers.

Before August is better to visit to see wildflowers 
Near the top of the climb you will start to see a few groups of Alaska Cedars, which are rare in Oregon. They have also been called 'Weeping Cedars'.

The views get better and better as you reach the saddle between Iron Mountain and Cone Peak.

Cone Peak Trail- looking south

Iron Mountain 
The trail now descends passed a seasonal creek and follows the saddle towards the north side of Iron Mountain. Vistas soon disappear as you re-enter dense forest. If you decide to climb to the top of the saddle the view isn't really worth your time, unless you enjoy massive clearcuts.

Clearcuts dominate the views north

Soon after you contour around Iron Mountain you reach a trail junction to the top of Iron Mountain or down to the parking area with a garage.

Though it says LO there is only a platform now
The short climb to the top is somewhat difficult but very rewarding. There are benches along the way and quite a few good spots of shade to rest in. I was definitely wishing that I had brought two liters of water, not one. As you climb both the wildflowers and vistas improve.

I hadn't seen any pictures of the new platform on top of Iron Mountain and was impressed with what the Forest Service had done.

Iron Mountain 'Lookout'
Geographic Locator in the middle of the platform
Because of the relative ease of getting here you probably won't ever be alone, but if you wanted similar views and solitude climbing Cone Peak would give you that.

Three Sisters from Iron Mountain
After backtracking down the 'LO' trail you continue south on the trail you had left. The trail descends pleasantly down to Highway 20. Passing through Grouse Meadow and some impressive native forest.
Huge Douglas Fir
Grouse Meadow

The crossing of Highway 20 is pretty straightforward, the trail cuts slightly west and then mostly follows the highway east back to Tombstone Pass. There is a slight climb just before you reach the trailhead. 

This hike was very diverse in plant life and had epic vistas. I would suggest coming early on a weekday. That would be the best way to avoid any crowds. This hike definitely makes my Oregon top ten. 

Directions from Sweet Home: Follow Highway 20 east for 36 miles. It will be on your right, between mileposts 63 and 64.

Hike Distance: 7.1

Hike Type: Loop

Elevation Gain: 1740

Highest Point: Iron Mountain 5,450

Usage: Heavy

Difficulty: 3 out of 5

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