This is an easy half-day hike and well worth it, for the views are spectacular. The trailhead starts at over 4,000 feet in elevation so be prepared for snow even as late as July. We attempted to climb this peak in late June of this year and even though there was little snow on the roadside, the trail was still covered with it. After 30 minutes of walking on top of snow and uncertain if we were following the trail, we decided to turn around and go back to the car. For your own safety, please remember to fill out the Wilderness Permits.
The trail begins just to the left of the signboard and meanders through second growth Douglas fir and western hemlock. The under-story is thick with bear grass, huckleberry, lupine, vanilla leaf, columbine, wild strawberry…. Should I go on? OK, I will. Bunchberry, miterwort, Queens cup, native rhododendrons, Solomon seal, ferns, penstemon, lilies, pyrola and an entire hillside thick with devils club. Thanks to the wet weather this year and the late snow, the wildflower display is still beautiful. The trail is a shady, gradual climb and there are some good views of Mt Hood to the north.
After 1.5 miles we come to Spire rock, an extremely large basalt outcropping. Here the trail takes a sharp right turn and we begin ascending our first switch back. At this point, there is just a half-mile remaining of the hike and 500 feet in elevation to climb. We reach the ridge and our first view of Mt Jefferson. The trail forks and we head to the right towards the rocky outcropping for panoramic views of the Cascade peaks. There used to be a fire lookout here but it is long gone and we find little evidence of it. This is a great spot to take a break and have a bit to eat.
After enjoying the views and trying to identify the other peaks in the Cascade Range, we head back to the fork. Instead of turning left and returning to our car, we veer to the east towards MT Jefferson. We are in search of the “hidden” Boca Cave. We walk along a flat saddle/ridge following the trail as it heads to the east, through the trees and begins a gradual descent. It soon becomes a steep downward scramble and we are careful with each step. There are some loose rocks but luckily the trail is short as it curves to the left.
We are soon rewarded with the opening of the cavern. The cave is 100 feet deep with moisture seeping from the back wall. Its floor is red lava crushed to tiny pieces and we rest here again to admire the view of Mt Jefferson, only 7 miles away. This is really the view we enjoy the most, for the cave opening frames the mountain as if it were a framed photograph. There is evidence of others who have camped here, old fire pits and burnt wood.
Maybe next time, we will pack in our gear.
How to get there:
Head east on HWY 22 for 56 miles, passing Detroit Lake and the very small town of Idanha. Just after milepost 56, turn left turn onto McCoy Creek Rd 2233. This is a paved road for about 5 miles and then it turns to gravel, for another 5.5 miles. It is a well-graded logging road but watch out for the potholes, especially the ones in the shadows. There are a few junctions but keep straight until you come to a sharp right turn after 9 miles and a wooden shelter. Follow the curve to the right and continue the remaining 1.5 where you will see the parking area and the trailhead.
Distance and elevation gain:
It’s an easy 4.2 miles round trip and only 700 feet in elevation gain. It’s a gradual trail that is dog friendly, and we saw quite a few the day we visited. Remember to bring water for your pets, for they get thirsty too.
Fees and Permits:
There are no parking fees or permits but you are required to fill out a self-issue Wilderness Permit, which you obtain at the trailhead. Camping is permitted and there are also no fees. There are also no public bathrooms, so plan accordingly.