Echo Basin: Hike Among Ancient Alaska-Cedars

Only being about 70 miles from home the Old Cascades region has quickly become one of my favorite areas in Oregon. Now that winter is setting in, most of the great hikes will be covered by snow. This is bad for hiking but opens the area up to low impact snow camping and snowshoe trips! The majority of the hikes in the Old Cascades are fairly short and often climb mountains. Some of my favorites are Iron Mountain and Crescent Mountain, these would be substantially more difficult in heavy snow, but with proper planning could be done. Knowing that little snow had fallen and on the advice of one of my professors at Oregon State, Caitlin and I decided to hike Echo Basin before any more snow had fallen. 

Echo Basin: Rain falling
Heavy rain had been falling most of the drive to the trailhead, so we had decided to park at the plowed Hackleman Old Growth Grove trailhead about .2 mile west of FR 055. When we arrived FR 055 was mostly free of snow so we drove to Echo Mountain trailhead. The gravel road was in fairly good shape, except for a small stream running across it shortly before the trailhead. The trail almost immediately begins a fairly steep( and slippery) accent up an old logging road, complete with an old metal cable.

 Sitka alder lines the old logging road
Not long after your ascent you leave the second growth forest for an incredible area with large true fir as well as massive Alaska-cedar. The area is open and provides you with some awesome vistas even on a rainy day. The trail was somewhat difficult to find in the open because trail side Sitka alders and willows bend onto the trail under the weight of snow. If you have ever hiked the Cone Peak/ Iron Mountain loop you will have seen a few much smaller Alaska-cedars, the ones at Echo Basin are incredible.

Bridge crossing is the start of the loop portion

Myself among a few of the Alaska-cedars
The trail switchbacks to the north before cutting south along a meadow, fairly high in the glaciated bowl. Snow was melting fairly rapidly because of the heavy rain, so it made this portion fairly treacherous. More than a few times Caitlin and I both fell through the snow, thankfully it was only about 24 inches deep in most places. There are a series of bridges that I'm sure are necessity both for protection of the fragile meadow and to keep your feet dry, but in the snow they were difficult to spot.

Fairly steep section lined with Sitka alder

Short bridge across a small stream
Without having a general idea where the trail went it would have been nearly impossible to find in the meadow section. Once the trail traverses a portion of the glacial cirque it returns to the forest among some impressive Alaska-cedars. Shortly after re-entering the forest the trail will lead back to the bridge where the loop started. Return the way you came from here.

Directions from Sweet Home: Follow Highway 20 east for 37 miles, turn left onto FR 055(signed for Echo Basin), follow for approximately 2 miles to well signed trailhead.

Trailhead Elevation:
Approximately 4,150 feet

Hike Distance:
2.2 miles according to my Garmin Oregon 550 GPS 

Hike Type: Loop, with short out and back portion 

Elevation Gain: Approximately 700 feet


Difficulty: 2 out of 5

Fees: None

Echo Basin Hike at EveryTrail
EveryTrail - Find the best Hiking in Oregon

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