Akin to Hunchback Mountain (and not very far away), Salmon Butte is a north-south trending ridge within the Salmon Huckleberry Wilderness which is also within the Mt. Hood National Forest. The trail to the summit is similar to Hunchback except it is about 800-1000 feet higher. It's a great morning hike with around 3000 feet of elevation gain over about 5 and 1/2 miles. Views from the top are 360 degrees in the wilderness with amazing views of Hood and indeed all the Cascade volcanoes from Rainier to the Three Sisters. There are a few choice views of Hood along the way as well as of a large rock spire jutting up out of the west side of Salmon Butte called Green Knob. The summit is the site of an old lookout that burned long ago.
Black bears and Mule deer call this area home and indeed I spent a few minutes among 3 deer at about 3500 feet that seemed quite tame. When I say "among", I mean I was within several feet of them as they ate, napped and pissed (did you know that deer squat when they pee?) with little regard for my presence. Aside from the fauna, there are some huge old growth firs along the way, tons of gigantic rhodies (would be a great place to hike in May when they bloom) as well as some Devils Club about 7 feet high (don't worry, they are off the trail). The trail is very well maintained and graded and this one makes for a nice workout with better views you get than in a health club and it's only an hour away from Portland.
Oh, and if you go and hike Salmon Butte, which appears to be a fairly popular hike, stay on the trail or be careful on the precarious viewpoints or you could end up like this guy apparently did.
Link to another website with photos of the hike
Getting ThereFrom Portland, drive east on Highway 26 about 42 miles to Zig Zag, OR. Turn right (south) onto Salmon River Road (there is a Subway restaurant at the intersection). Follow Salmon River Road about 4.9 miles on paved road and then about .4 gravel road miles to a sign for the Salmon Butte Trail at road's end. Plenty of parking available.
Note-if you are looking at the Sullivan hiking books and wondering why my information is different, please note that most of the gravel road that used to exist was decommissioned in late 2010. The gravel road was dozed and replanted with some trees and ferns and a new trail zig zagging through them. It's adds at least a mile to the hike from what Sullivan states.
Red TapeThe obligatory Northwest Forest Pass was required to do this one at least up until 2010. When the old road was decommissioned and turned into more trail, they did not put up any signs at the new trailhead saying a NW Forest Pass is required (at least not yet). So, it is unclear at this time if it is still needed.
When To ClimbAnytime of the year as long as you can get to the trailhead at around 1800-1900 feet feet. Winter hikes might require snowshoes.
CampingThere are many places to camp along Salmon River Road, spots should not be hard to get.
Green Canyons Campground also located along Salmon River Road (closes for the year on 9/12, 15 sites, each is $14 per night)
There are also campsites at the trailhead. Could also camp at the summit where an old lookout was.
Mountain ConditionsZig Zag Ranger District
70220 E Highway 26
Zig Zag, OR 97049
Mon-Fri 7:45 am - 4:30 pm (closed National Holidays)
Road Cam in nearby Government Camp, OR
Weather for Government Camp, OR