The Shorthorn Trail to Shorthorn Butte (Point 6227) at Gifford Pinchot National Forest in Yakima County, Washington is a moderate 6.9-mile out-and-back trail that features stunning views of mount Adams.
Here is a fantastic hike up a lesser known, unnamed hill on the southwest slope of Mount Adams. The view from the trail junction with the Round the Mountain Trail is stunning enough, but the view from the top of Point 6227 "Shorthorn Butte" is worth the extra effort, if a little off-trail hiking is something you're comfortable with. This peak is one of the few places on the mountain that you can get a panoramic view looking both "down" and "up" at the mountain, rather than just up.
Start hiking the Shorthorn Trail #16, beginning at the trailhead at the far end of the eroded loop road at Morrison Creek Forest Campground. This GPS track in this guide starts at the Crofton Ridge Trailhead, an alternate starting point with much better road access, however. But you can start at either. Crofton Ridge TH will require a short bit of road walking–do not take the Crofton Ridge Trail if you start at Crofton Ridge Trailhead. That is a completely different hike, with no connection back to the Shorthorn Trail.
The Shorthorn Trail is very well graded up until the crossing of Crofton Creek, never getting too steep. It passes through the heart of the Cascade Creek Burn, so everything is burned. Beargrass and other grassy vegetation has returned, and the forest floor is no longer devoid of greenery anymore. Hike among the rolling grassy slopes and white sun-bleached tree snags, then enter a more flat area with a some surviving trees. Mt Adams can almost always be spotted through the dead trees.
Pass through a small unnamed meadow, sometimes called "Shorthorn Meadow," with a fantastic view of Mt Adams. Cross a small babbling creek, a tributary of Shorthorn Creek, then the trail crosses a rubbly debris field of old glacial and avalanche deposits. Notice the variety of different colored rocks on the ground, reds, purples, whites, greys, blacks, oranges, and yellows. These were most likely deposited by old avalanches, from just below the summit of Mt Adams. Scattered about, you may also notice some peculiar boulders, with many different sized rocks all fused together into one solid mass. These broke off from just below the summit, as well, evidence of a highly geologic area of unstable rock and ice on this side of Mt Adams.
After the rocky plain of colored rocks, the trail crosses the steep, eroded avalanche gully of Crofton Creek. This canyon was extensively carved out in the great winter floods of 2006, that took out many roads and bridges all across Washington that year. After crossing Crofton Creek, the trail makes a sharp right, follows above the creek along the canyon rim, and then switchbacks very steeply up to the Round the Mountain Trail #9.
Once at the Round the Mountain-Shorthorn Trail junction, you are greeted with a stunning view of Mt Adams. Turn around here if you do not wish to add any more miles, or do any off-trail hiking. There are many options to extend your hike, such as proceeding to the left on the Round the Mountain Trail to Horseshoe Meadow, or to Trail #9A to get down to Lookingglass Lake, but both of those will add significant mileage.
A much better, and more rewarding option, is to hike to Point 6227, less than half a mile off of the trail. At the junction, turn left and walk the Round the Mountain Trail a few dozen feet, to the high point of the ridgeline. At the ridge, take a left, perpendicular to the trail, and make your way through short pines and then open meadows. Always follow the top of the ridgeline. It may be tempting to angle to the left, but stay to the top. Once you get out of the forest, the ridgeline opens up, and the views behind you just get better and better. Make your way to the highest point you can see in front of you–this is Point 6227, sometimes called "Shorthorn Butte." The views from just below the summit are better for Mt Adams, but the top of the butte will give you better views to the west, toward Mt St Helens, and the avalanche-prone western flank of Mt Adams. Notice the orange-yellow mounds below Mt Adams, and the orange-yellow ground extending down the mountain a ways. This is one of the most avalanche prone regions of Mt Adams, and the sulphur-stained color of the ground is evidence of that. Some of the most recent rock and ice avalanches happened in the last 30 years.
Getting to the Trailhead:
From Trout Lake, Washington: From the gas station at the intersection of WA 141 and the Mt Adams Recreation Hwy, take a right onto the Mt Adams Recreation Hwy. At the 23 Road junction, stay on the Mt Adams Recreation Hwy, which curves to the right. Then turn left onto Road 80 (paved one lane), which then becomes Road 8040 (gravel 2 lane) after a ways. Follow 8040 to the Morrison Creek Campground, and then the Shorthorn Trailhead at the far end of the campground loop. Or, alternatively, start at the Crofton Ridge Trailhead, just before the Morrison Campground entrance, and walk the road the short distance up Road 8040 and the loop road through the campground.
The campground road is extremely rutted and rocky–only recommended for high clearance. If you cannot make it through the campground, you can park at the Crofton Butte Trailhead, and hike up a short ways on gravel one-lane Forest Road 8040, then walk up the campground loop to hook up with the Shorthorn Trailhead. This GPS track shows this route, starting at the Crofton Ridge Trailhead.
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