Topping out on Tipsoo peak

    Hikers wend their up the steep, but short final stretch to Tipsoo Peak. Photo by Lee Juillerat

    Some hikes are pure pleasure.

    With an excellently graded, well maintained trail that slices through shaded lodgepole pine, mountain hemlock and fir forests and, best of all, ends with a summit payoff that features panoramic views of neighboring Cascades mountains and lakes, the Tipsoo Peak Trail is a delight.

    Located near Diamond Lake, the 8,034-foot-tall Tipsoo Peak is little known, partly because it lacks the visual drama of nearby Mount Thielsen and Diamond Peak, both stunningly visible from Tipsoo's summit.

    The Tipsoo Peak Trail is one that's possible for all levels of hikers, climbing about 1,780 feet in 3.1 miles. Although the treeline is usually much lower, typically an elevation range of 6,000 to 7,000 feet, Tipsoo's treeline nearly reaches its lava rubble summit.

    Over the last quarter-mile, the dense forest transforms into weather-twisted and stunted whitebark pines. Reaching the summit requires a steep but short climb to a black and red lava ridge. Happily, some of those lava blocks provide natural windbreaks. Although some openings along the trail, especially where it winds through pumice meadows, reveal teaser views of Thielsen and Howlock Mountain, Tipsoo's summit views are 360-degrees stupendous.

    Along with pointy Thielsen and rugged Howlock, which seem even more impressive when viewed across Tipsoo Meadows, the panorama includes Diamond Lake, Mount Bailey, Cowhorn Mountain, Diamond Peak and the Three Sisters, along with Miller, Lemolo, Lucile and Maidu lakes.

    Just because it's there, it's possible to take a short scramble to a nearby red volcanic butte for another vantage. In addition, about a half-mile from Tipsoo's ragged top an unmarked route through Tipsoo Meadow connects with the Pacific Crest Trail.

    The meadow, a broad pumice field, was created by the explosion and collapse of nearby Mount Mazama more than 7,700 years ago. In spring and summer, botanists say the area is lush with varieties of wildflowers, including purple penstemon, heather and dwarf lupine.

    Tipsoo, for the curious, is Chinook jargon for "grass" and also means "hair."

    The Tipsoo Peak Trail begins near Diamond Lake. From Highway 138, between mileposts 75 and 76, go east on Cinnamon Butte Road 4793, a gravel road with some bumpy, rutted sections that might scrape the bottom of some cars. After about 5 miles the road reaches a tattered, barely discernible Tipsoo Trail #1472 sign, with a pull-off area. During hunting season expect pickup trucks with camouflage-dressed hunters driving along the road.

    The Tipsoo Peak Trail is a secret that shouldn't be kept little known.

    — Lee Juillerat has been writing about outdoor adventures in Southern Oregon and elsewhere for more than 30 years. He is also a regular contributor to the outdoor-travel website High On Adventure at He can be contacted at or 541-880-4139.




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