Waucoma Backcountry Recreation Area

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!

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

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