Here is a high-elevation hike for when the weather isn't so great everywhere else in a 3-hour radius around Portland. You will hike alongside the most recent lava flow from Mount Adams before reaching the meadow.
We chose this hike because it met these criteria in the fall:
• The only subalpine area with the best chance for good weather in the fall
• Less than 3 hours from Portland
• On a big volcano
Unfortunately, most of the hike was burned three times over; the Cold Springs Fire of 2008, the Cascade Creek Fire of 2012, and the Cougar Creek Fire of 2015. This is as burned as it gets on Mount Adams, with very few surviving trees until you get to Gotchen Creek Meadows.
In the spring, this trail is teeming with pink Fireweed.
Beware in the fall, as it is a long waterless stretch until just before the meadow. This is the driest area of the mountain, and thus the hottest. Not only is it on the south side and thus directly facing the sun, but the lava rock heats the air up like an oven. It also creates a mini rainshadow effect.
Also note that this trail is frequented by herds of grazing cattle, and the meadow has received some serious damage from them. The gate and fences that are supposed to keep the cows out of the sensitive meadows have not been repaired since the fires of 2012 and 2015.
By the Trail:
From the Snipes Mountain Trailhead, start a gentle climb up through a mostly burned forest, closely following the snaking-form of the A.G. Aiken Lava Bed. Soon ascend a few switchbacks before reaching the junction with the Pine Way Trail.
Continue on the Snipes Mountain Trail as it climbs higher up the mountain. The views begin to open up as the trail crosses a small rise and then travels alongside several ridges.
Eventually you will start to see signs of green trees as the trail crosses Gotchen Creek a few times. After a little less than five miles, the trail enters the first of the several meadows that make up Gotchen Creek Meadows. Both the first and the second meadow are rather small, but continue to the third meadow for the best views of the mountain. This is by far the largest of the meadows and is arguably the only thing that makes this hike worth the effort.
Road Access: Suitable for low clearance. As of fall 2017.