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What will become of Waucoma Ridge?

About a 30-minute drive from Hood River, OR on the east side of Waucoma Ridge and south of Mt. Defiance you will find a vast and “stunningly beautiful” part of the forest that hides a network of old roads meandering through a diverse mosaic of forest types. This area has caught the eye of many local explorers including back country hikers and bikers, skiers, and trail runners. The Waucoma area is a recreation treasure, but according to Mt.

Bark, Northwest Trail Alliance, Oregon Timber Trail Alliance, Trailkeepers of Oregon, the Mazamas, and Wildearth Guardians have all come together to make this project a reality and we're looking forward to bringing more groups into this campaign!

The proposed Waucoma Backcountry Recreation Area will be a unique opportunity to showcase collaboration between diverse advocacy groups to achieve both conservation and recreation goals in Mt. Hood National Forest. By partnering with recreation advocates, Bark is charting a new course to protect the forest, enhance wildlife habitat and create more opportunities for quiet recreation near Mt. Hood. The new bicycle and hiking trails we envision will provide a fun, memorable riding environment that welcomes beginners and more experienced bike packers. Converting old, logging roads into trails is a proactive restoration strategy in an area that’s important for the recovery of Threatened summer steelhead, coho and Chinook salmon. 

In June 2012, Tom Kloster, a long time trail advocate who loves Mt. Hood National Forest, posted the idea of a Bicycle Backcountry Area on his WyEast blog - https://wyeastblog.org/2012/06/15/proposal-waucoma-bicycle-backcountry/. With this exciting idea to combine recreation, conservation, and restoration in the Waucoma Ridge area,

he takes a close look at the area and identifies old logging roads that could be converted to trails, also identifiying locations for new singletrack trails to link the old roads into loops for bike packers and other trail users.

Russ Plaeger, Bark’s Restoration Coordinator, is working to move Mr. Kloster's idea forward and create new multiuse trails while also protecting the area from commercial logging proposals.

Kloster's initial proposal encompassed the area from Indian Mountain north to Ottertail Basin and east to the National Forest boundary. Bark worked with Tom to expand the boundary of the recreation area north to Forest Service Road 2820. It now includes Black Lake and the Kingsley – Wahtum Trail (locally known as the Irrigation Trail). The expansion would make it easy to link the proposed new trails to the existing mountain bike trails at Kingsley Reservoir. Bark and our allies agree the new trails should be multiuse but only for non-motorized recreation.

This is a great opportunity for many different groups to work together to create new trails and places for quiet recreation. The proposed area will be a first for Mt. Hood National Forest and in the State of Oregon!

Want to check out this special region of Mt. Hood National Forest? See below for tips on what to do for fun in the Waucoma area.

Bark allies and supporters are focusing on the benefits of creating and protecting the Waucoma Backcountry Recreation Area.

  • The forests in the area will keep growing and storing carbon which helps to mitigate climate change. That’s great because the summer runoff from Mt. Hood’s glaciers is critical to salmon, trout and farmers in the Hood River Valley.
  • Converting old logging roads into trails will reduce soil erosion from poorly maintained roads. That will help improve water quality in 10 creeks that flow into the West Fork and Lake Branch Hood River. These rivers are important for the recovery of Threatened summer steelhead, coho, Chinook salmon and other species. The West Fork Hood River is the only remaining watershed in Oregon that supports naturally reproducing summer steelhead in the Lower Columbia region.   
  • By closing and converting old roads the Forest Service will make progress toward reducing its vast road system to a size that can be sustained from both an ecological and financial perspective. This will help restore natural ecological processes in the area.
  • Wildlife species that depend on talus slope habitat will benefit from keeping the area unroaded and the forests surrounding talus slopes will be protected.
  • This will provide lots of new opportunities for quiet recreation in an area with sweeping panoramas of Mt. Hood, St. Helens and Adams plus vistas of a complex, interesting landscape.
  • Establish new network of loop trails for hikers, bike packers, trail runners and equestrians. We envision up to 38 miles of new trails including 28 miles of road-to-trail conversion and 10 miles of new singletrack trails in strategic places to create loops by linking the converted roads. Currently, there are nine miles of trail within the area.
  • There’ll be opportunities for bike packers, and others, to camp at four small lakes within the area. The proposed trail network, open to bike packers and mountain bikers, will be unique in Mt. Hood National Forest and the State of Oregon.
  • The area will act as a buffer between the Mark O. Hatfield Wilderness Area and intensive logging on private industrial and Hood River County forest land east of the national forest.

This is an exciting opportunity to protect a “stunningly beautiful” part of the forest and create a new vision for how it will be managed and what it will be like 40 years from now. By working together, Bark and our allies want to create a new, proactive vision for the Waucoma area that reflects changes in public expectations, community needs and the science of forest ecosystems.

At present the majority of the Waucoma area is designated for timber production which means it is intended for commercial logging and that new logging roads are likely to be built. Bark and our allies don’t think that makes sense particularly because the decision to designate the area for timber production was made in 1990. The communities around Mt. Hood have evolved and changed significantly in the past 27 years. The recreation economy continues to grow and high quality recreation opportunities on protected public lands contribute to the quality of life in Hood River, Sandy, Estacada and Portland. But the Forest Service is still managing our national forest following the directives in an out-of-date forest management plan.

Instead of logging the Waucoma area it should be managed for carbon storage (climate change isn’t even mentioned in the 1990 Forest Plan), watershed protection, wildlife habitat and to provide high quality quiet recreation experiences in an undeveloped forest environment.



Exploring the Waucoma area now

Camping – Black Lake Campground is a minimally developed facility at the end of Forest Service road 2820. A high clearance vehicle is recommended due to poor road conditions.

Another option is to park along the 2820 road and ride a mountain bike or hike the final, rutted section of the road. There are three campsites, for tents, with picnic tables and fire pits; $15. per night fee. There’s an old pit toilet; no potable water is provided. Lake is open for swimming, fishing and non-motorized boating.

Ottertail Lake - You may be able to find a spot to camp near Ottertail Lake at the end of Forest Service road 2810. No facilities are available.

Hiking, mountain biking or trail running – Currently there are two trails in the Waucoma area.

Rainy – Wahtum Trail # 409 – This is a nice ridge hike between Rainy Lake and Wahtum Lake along the edge of the Mark O. Hatfield Wilderness. There are many vistas in open areas along the way. Views of Mount Hood to the south dominate. This trail begins at Rainy Lake Campground, on Forest Service road 2820 and ends at the Wahtum Lake trailhead on Forest Service road 1310. The trail follows Waucoma Ridge along an old abandoned road between Rainy Lake and Wahtum Lake. It heads west on the old road bed and climbs up to Waucoma Ridge.

The Kingsley – Wahtum Trail (locally known as the Irrigation Trail) is open for hiking, mountain biking and trail running. If you’re on a mountain bike you have the option to ride a section of Forest Service road 2820-620 and tie in to the upper Post Canyon trail system at Kingsley Reservoir. Many of the roads in the area are only lightly used by vehicles and may be fine for mountain biking or running.

Along Waucoma Ridge are a number of trailheads that provide access to the Mark O. Hatfield Wilderness Area. One of the many benefits of creating the Waucoma Backcountry Recreation Area is that it will act as a buffer between the wilderness area and intensive logging on private industrial and Hood River County forest land east of the national forest.

Outstanding scenic vistas are available from a number of ridgetop roads in the area - Some of these are suitable for mountain biking on gravel surfaces.


Photos courtesy of: Tom Kloster, Jocelyn Gaudi and Gabriel Amadeus, Limberlost

Waucoma trail maps created by Tom Kloster

Project Status: 
General Information
Hood River
Total Acres: 

West Fork Hood River and Lake Branch Hood River

Driving Directions: 

To Black Lake Campground from Portland or Hood River -

NOTE - The last 1 - 2 miles of Forest Service Road 2820 are NOT suitable for low clearance vehicles due to gullies in the road.

From Hood River travel south on OR Hwy 281 - Dee Highway (pass the Hood River airport) approximately 11 miles to Dee.
Bear right at the old Dee Mill Site and cross the East Fork of the Hood River. Turn right again and go 1.2 miles up Punchbowl Road until it crosses the West Fork of the Hood River.
The road becomes Dead Point Road (Forest Service Road 2820) here. Follow Dead Point Road – FS 2820 for 11 miles until you get to the turnoff for the Rainy Lake Campground. If you have a low clearance vehicle you may want to park near the road junction and walk or mountain bike from here.

Black Lake Campground is at the end of Forest Service road -2820.


To Wahtum Lake Campground from Portland or Hood River - Drive east on I-84 toward Hood River. From Hood River - Go south on OR Hwy 281 - Dee Highway (pass the Hood River airport) about 11.5 miles to the Lost Lake turn-off. Bear right here and cross the East Fork of the Hood River. Keep to the left and follow the signs as if going to Lost Lake.

One half mile after crossing the West Fork of the Hood River, a signed junction will indicate Wahtum Lake to the right (Forest Road 13); take this road. Although paved, this is a narrow road; expect heavy traffic during the summer. At the next intersection (4+ miles), bear right onto Forest Service Road 1310.

The 1310 road is even narrower and traffic may be just as heavy. Stay on the pavement until Wahtum Lake Campground is reached. This is the trailhead for trails heading down to and around Wahtum Lake.  


"Waucoma Huckleberry Enhancement", a large logging project being developed by the Hood River Ranger District, is located on the northeast corner of Mt. Hood National Forest within the West Fork Hood River watershed. Waucoma includes the area surrounding Mt. Defiance, and is surrounded by the protected Mark O Hatfield Wilderness to the north and west, and the highly fragmented Weyerhaeuser and Hood River County timberlands to the south and east. Much of this land is steep, roadless and remote.

Bark has been tracking this project since 2016. In 2018, the project was re-framed to focus mostly on promoting huckleberry growth. This would be done through "variable density thinning, and shelterwood and intermediate thinning."

Existing recreation opportunities include Warren Lake, Mt. Defiance (in photo), and trails currently used by mountain bikers including the Kingsley Wahtum trail. The Waucoma project area includes irrigation infrastructure associated with the Kingsley Reservior, which is also the site of an Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) staging area managed by Hood River County.

While the Forest Service is proposing this project, the potential Waucoma Backcountry Recreation Area will be a unique opportunity to showcase collaboration between diverse advocacy groups to achieve both conservation and recreation goals in Mt. Hood National Forest. By partnering with recreation advocates, Bark is charting a new course to protect the forest, enhance wildlife habitat and create more opportunities for quiet recreation near Mt. Hood.

Bark is participating in the Hood River Stew Crew, which is a collaborative group of many "stakeholders" working to develop management recommendations for this area. This process has resulted in the following positive changes to the project:

  • Doubling of the riparian buffer width on North Fork Green Point Creek, and Green Point Creek.
  • Removal of "shelterwood" logging in Riparian Reserves
  • Removal of logging in Late Successional Reserves
  • Removal of logging in wet rocky areas
  • Removal of logging in suitable habitat for northern spotted owls
  • Removal of approximately 961 acres of logging

The Hood River Ranger District released the Preliminary Assessment for Waucoma in February 2020, with a 30-day comment period ending on March 19th. Although Bark is relieved to hear of these positive changes to the project, we have deep concerns regarding the following:

  • 550 acres of proposed "shelterwood" logging (15% tree retention), much of which is on steep slopes above Green Point Creek.
  • Waucoma includes a significant amount of logging in mature and old forest. Out of the total 2,557 acres of proposed logging, 1,328 acres are over 80 years old, and 64 acres are over 200 years old. Some of this forest is high elevation subalpine forest which is already at high risk of being impacted or lost due to climate change.
  • The Waucoma project proposes to build 8 miles of roads into the forest, but does not specify where. Without this information, the Forest Service is not fully disclosing the ecological impacts of this project.
  • Recreation opportunities in the project area include access to wilderness trails, developed and dispersed campsites, and mountain biking. If not properly considered by the agency during their planning process, including adequate buffers, these values could be impacted by logging and roadbuilding.
Project Status: 
General Information
Hood River Ranger District
Total Acres: 

West Fork Hood River Watershed

Total Acres: 
"Purpose & Need": 

"The purpose of the project is to create and maintain current and future huckleberry habitat across the landscape to benefit cultural and recreational uses."

New Road Miles: