Battle Ax, the second highest point in the Bull of the Woods Wilderness Area appears to be a flat-topped peak from most perspectives. It rises in the Western Cascades, the lower more-eroded line of mountains that runs parallel to the High Cascades, to 5558 feet. It is the fourth most prominent peak in Marion County at 998 feet of prominence. It has two trails to the summit where the ruins of an old lookout remain. The Battle Ax Trail is shorter with lots of switchbacks and views of the high peaks from Rainier to Diamond Peak as well as out to Marys Peak in the Coast Range. The Bagby Hot Springs Trail #544 is about twice as long and wanders through forests filled with many neat small ponds and streams. Beware though, the road in to the trailheads requires a high clearance vehicle unless you want to add many more miles to your trip. Combining these trails makes for a nice loop hike.
It is a shield volcano about 1 to 2 million years old and is made up of mostly andecite. Click here for more info and a view of the flat-top of Battle Ax. One interesting feature is the cave on the south side of the peak. It is climbable in 2-3 pitches (route info and photos coming soon).
It's not quite determined how it got it's name according to Sullivan whether it was from it's shape or a popular chewing tobacco used by loggers back when it was named.
Take Highway 22 form the east or west to Detroit, OR. On the east side of the bridge over Breitenbush River is Road 46 with signs pointing to Breitenbush River. Take Road 46 about 4 to 4 and 1/2 miles north to a small sign for Elk Lake. Turn left here (Road 4696) and go .8 miles to a small gravel road. Turn left here (Road 4697 - there is a sign that says Elk Road not maintained for trailer travel) and go 4.6 miles on a road that will test the limits of any passenger car (just really bumpy and rocky for a 4WD) to a fork in the road. Sullivan's book says there is a sign here to follow the left fork to Elk Lake but I could not see it. There is a light green faded metal post here. Just take this left fork.
Go as far as you can on this road staying right at the fork for Elk Lake Campground. There is a large brown wooden post here that looks like it used to have a sign for the campground but it's just a post now. The road is very rough and you really need a high clearance vehicle. 4WD may be necessary as well. It is potholed and rocky and very rough and slow-going.
If you are looking for the Bagby Hot Springs Trail, watch carefully for a path that comes at an angle on the right. There is a small beat up sign there as well. It's at about the .3 mile point on this road and is hard to spot.
If you are trying to find he Battle Ax Trail, just go as far as you can until the road ends.
Red TapeNo fees or passes required. This trailhead is pretty remote and there are no signs for anything.
When To ClimbJuly - October
CampingElk Lake Campground is located near the trailheads. Contact the ranger station number listed above for availability.
There are lots of places along the Bagby Hot Springs Trail where one could set up a tent as well as the old lookout site on the summit.
Mountain ConditionsDetroit Ranger Station
Stephanie Phillips, District Ranger