Grouse Mountain Trail
If big views are your sole purpose for hiking, then this is the trail for you. The trail follows the ridge of Grouse Mountain overlooking the North Fork Umatilla Wilderness area. This trail is magical in spring when everything is still lush and green from all the early rain, and the wildflowers are just spectacular. Bring a guidebook or two as the variety of foliage and incredible beauty will no doubt spark your interest. This trail is great for the family–short, manageable elevation changes, and stunning vistas.
What To Do
Grouse Mountain Trail (#3081) begins at Zig Zag Springs Trailhead. Walk 0.8 miles along Lick Creek Trail (#3070) to the junction. At the junction, continue on Grouse Mountain Trail (the trail to the right) for 1.7 miles. This trail is out-and-back and follows the Grouse Mountain ridgeline. Thanks to the Blue Mountain Land Trust's Blues Crew, the trails and various features of the trails are well marked.
What To Expect
The Grouse Mountain Trail is a family-friendly hike. The views are big the entire trail, and there is little net elevation gain. There are a few abrupt ascents/ descents that will require effort and shoes with good traction, but for perspective our five-year-old was able to complete the entire trail. Typically, trails in this area start diving down the mountain to their lower trailheads near the Umatilla Forks Campground area. Traversing up and down a mountain with little ones is often challenging. In contrast, this trail stays on the ridge and overlooks the North Fork Umatilla Wilderness. The trail fades away into the landscape at its end, but if you follow the ridge to its point you get a view of the Umatilla River down below. Clocking in at under an hour from town and only three miles of gravel road, it really is a spectacular area to enjoy the Blue Mountains.
Because there is ample room at the trailhead, it is also a great place to bring family who might not be as mobile or trail ready. The views are fantastic without even stepping foot on the trail. Those wanting to stretch their legs for a few miles could enjoy the Grouse Mountain Trail, and other folks could bring a set of binoculars and be equally as entertained. There is a viewpoint less than 100 yards from the trailhead as well. Meet up for a picnic back at the trailhead, and everyone in the family can enjoy a day in the wilderness.
When To Go
Late spring is a great time to start enjoying this trail. Even when Tollgate, Oregon receives fresh snow, this area is down the mountain just enough to skirt late season snow showers. Use your best judgement on the trail if it turns out there is snow present. As an example, we hiked this area late May and many areas are still quite muddy. Bring sunscreen for summer hikes and a good jacket in the fall. Most of the trail is exposed to the elements. This is a great trail to repeat throughout the year to take advantage of the changing season.
How To Get There
Please do not solely rely on Google Maps as their route might not always reflect what is maintained. From Walla Walla, take HWY 11 south through Milton-Freewater, OR. Travel another five miles and turn left on Winn Road. Follow this little backroad for two miles and then turn left to connect with HWY 204. Just past mile post 14, turn right on McDougall Road. Travel three miles on this gravel road to its end, which is Zig Zag Springs Trailhead.
Please do not solely rely on Google Maps as their route might not always reflect what is maintained.
- Your Public Lands
Umatilla National Forest (Walla Walla Ranger District), North Fork Umatilla Wilderness
Within 1.5 Hours
Day Tripper, Adventurer
Spring, Summer, Fall
4,400 - 4,100 feet
None required to park at Zig Zag Springs Trailhead.
Wilderness regulations apply in the North Fork Umatilla Wilderness. Such restrictions include no motorized equipment, bicycles, or hang gliders to name a few. Groups larger than twelve are prohibited as well as caching or leaving equipment or supplies for longer than 72 hours. Most applicable to hikers is the fact that shortcutting a switchback on any trail is also a violation of wilderness regulations. For a complete list of wilderness regulations visit the Umatilla National Forest website.
Pack in and pack out. There are no vault toilets in the area.