Check out some less-trodden trails by wandering up through the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness in Mt. Hood Nation Forest, located about 55 miles from Portland. Out here on the south side of Mt. Hood there’s a fair number of acreage to explore, including some beautiful streams, an abundance of spring/summer wildflowers, and some historic relics from Oregon’s early mining days.
A nice introduction to this section of wilderness is the Bonanza Trail Hike, which leads up the ridge of Huckleberry Mountain and includes a nice mix of vistas, stream-side trails, and a detour to check out the remnants of a Chena Mining District mine. It’s a roughly 5-mile there and back, but it packs in a lot of switchbacks on the way up, so be ready to work for the view at the ridgetop. It’s best hiked in the late spring through early fall, with snow closing access to the trailhead from around December through April, and even in peak season you’re likely to have the trail to yourself.
The hike starts off at a cable gate, following an old road bed through dense woodlands that leads up to an intersection. Here you’ll keep straight and head down a series of switchback to another junction. Take a right (the left turn leads off to private property) and head along the trail under the shade of an alder grove. Up ahead is a wide creek and an old cedar bearing a sign for the Bonanza Trail.
You’ll have to ford Cheeney Creek as there is no footbridge or log crossing, and as these rocks can be slippery with algae, a set of hiking poles comes in handy here. The Bonanza Trail picks up on the other side via a road bed, then leads out to a regular trail. It’s a gradual push uphill here, winding up through cedars, hemlocks and Douglas firs, with tiny streams networking the woodlands and trickling across the trail. You’ll briefly hit creek level again, then rise above via a series of switchbacks through an increasingly mossy stretch of woodlands, with Oregon grape and salal dominating the trail-side foliage.
Another group of switchbacks leads to a long traverse, this one offering up beautiful views of the creek and valley below. Just ahead is another creek crossing, and then there’s a view of what’s left of the Bonanza Mine, which was established around 1900 as part of the Chena Mining District. There’s not much left to see from this 5-year period, but it’s worth pausing to check out.
The rest of the trail is a mixture of switchbacks and long traverses, with brief respite from the uphill work along small ridges. You’ll hike a winding path up around the nose of the ridge, nearing to top as the woodlands dry out and noble firs become predominate. The last stretch of trail leads up steeply (you’ll see the true peek of Huckleberry Mountain to the right) before dropping through a clearing dotted with juniper and manzanita. One last stretch through a grove of rhododendrons before the rise up the ridge opens to a summit with a stunning view of Mount Hood.