Mt Adams as seen from atop the Columbia River Gorge on the Oregon side
A Cascade titan not very well known to a lot of Washingtonians is Mt Adams, towering over 12,000 ft, and is the second largest mountain peak in the state. We have all come to love and revere the mother of all the Cascade peaks, Mt Rainier, but Mt Adams is worth taking a look at as well. It is a sleeping giant, a volcano in hibernation. One cannot see it from the Puget Sound area except on some very clear days, especially during the wintertime. If you know where to look, you can spot the upper part of her jutting up over the ridges from certain viewpoints. She looks very similar to Mt Rainier is some ways, but her dome is a bit more rounded out.
In my traveling experiences, I have found that the best viewing spots for Mt Adams are from the Lower Columbia River Gorge area and some miles inland north from the gorge on the Washington side and also some areas on the Oregon side of the gorge. Unlike Mt Rainier and some other Cascade peaks in the region, there are no major developed highways that lead right up to this mountain. The only way you are going to get up as close as you can is through the National Forest Service Roads. They are narrow, winding roads through the heart of the Southern Cascade Forests: Bigfoot Country. If you ever decide to go this route, make sure you top off your fuel tank because it’s a long distance through the forests and rather slow going. But most importantly, get hold of a detailed map of the area since there is a rather large system of these forest service roads, some connecting, some not.
A very nice viewing point for the mountain is when you are driving north on Washington SR 97 from the Columbia River Gorge. From the gorge you drive up, up and around scenic undulating hills. Once you get to the top of the ridge, you will feast your eyes on a magnificent view of the mountain as seen from the Goldendale Valley. Miles of rural farmland stretch out before you and this magnificent giant sits there like a guardian over the rural valley. It really is quite breath taking. There is a pullout on the west side of the highway along with a sign giving information about the Cascade peaks. The mountain looks most picturesque during the winter and spring months when totally covered in white.
Mt Adams as seen from Goldendale, Washington
Mt Adams sunset as seen from Goldendale, Washington
And if you have the chance to stay overnight in Goldendale, there is an observatory located there to view the evening sky with a large telescope and a friendly state park guide that will give a talk and invite all the visitors to peer through the telescope at various planetary bodies. I highly recommend this experience for the whole family. For more information, visit: http://www.perr.com/gosp.html
Another interesting viewpoint of the mountain is from the southwest approach along the Columbia River Gorge via Washington SR 14 and then heading north, inland from ALT 141. Go through the town of Stevenson and then watch for the ALT 141 highway sign. Continue north on this road for a good 40 miles. As you get closer to the mountain, you will notice plenty of evidence of past volcanic activity with the many outcroppings of volcanic basalt rock.This particular highway ends at the rural community of Trout Lake. To get any closer to the mountain itself, you would then have to start navigating the Forest Service Roads that I mentioned about earlier in this post. Alternately, if you are traveling from the east end of the gorge on SR 14, Highway 141 also commences at the town of White Salmon. You can proceed north from here, and if you wish, stop to visit the town’s collection of small shops and galleries. Closer to the mountain, you will find areas along the way to pull over on some of the rural roads to get some good photo shots of the mountain’s south face. In the many times I have traveled this particular area, I notice that this mountain peak likes to attract clouds, like many do, and you may want to make sure that you have a clear sky day before heading out so as not to be disappointed with a cloud covered mountain. As a side interest, if you are a bit more adventurous, there is the Conboy Lake National Wildlife Refuge that is located further east of the Trout Lake area. Just be aware that you are driving on country roads in the middle of nowhere and keep your gas tank full. It’s always a good idea to bring along extra food and water for the long day. Enjoy your journey without having to worry about where you will be getting your next meal. Towards the end of your trip, when you start to return via the same highway, you will get some awesome views of Mt Hood, Oregon as you head back down to the gorge. But that, dear friends, is another story and another blog post.
Mt Adams as seen from SR 141, Washington