Fun Trail Facts
Volunteers, the Pechuck Look Outs in Molalla, have done amazing work with the BLM to keep this amazing lookout cared for so that it remains accessible to hikers and backpackers. Nestled in the lovely Table Rock Wilderness (6,028 acres) of the Old Cascades, the lookout is available for overnight stays on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Pechuck Lookout via Rooster Rock Road Trailhead
County & State
Clackamas County, Oregon
Cascades | Western Cascades Montane Highlands
Table Rock Wilderness (Part of the BLM's National Wilderness System)
Latitude & Longitude (DEC)
Let's just say I either held the lad's hand or had him on my shoulders for 90% of the hike. There are a few spots that are incredibly steep and nervous-making, especially at the summit.
Pechuck Lookout from Rooster Rock Road Trailhead is 5.2 miles.
Out and back
Access to Trailhead
The Molalla River Corridor is a beautiful, paved drive. Expect about 7 miles of pretty decent gravel roads to reach the Rooster Rock Road Trailhead.
Trip Report, Part I - Saturday, or the day I lost the trail
Warning: Wrong trail forthcoming.
After getting to the Rooster Rock Road Trailhead, we parked the car and gathered our gear up. Looking around, I saw a little embankment near the end of the parking area with a little trail beyond. It looked good, so we started on our way.
With a little bit of incline, things seemed to be jiving with the trail description I had printed out and put in my pocket. Then we needed to cross a stream. Umm, not mentioned in the description. Oh well.
Moving along, we strolled through a beautiful mid-mountain forest, admiring hundreds of butterflies that provided ample opportunities to teach the kiddo all about coloration patterns and what they can mean: camouflage a la' mimesis or warning colorations a la' "don't eat me."
In any case, the trail continued and so did we. After some eventual steep uphill climbing (finally!), we reached a beautiful outcropping halfway up the southern side of the mountain. The rhododendrons, paintbrush, and beargrass were exploding.
The smell! Oh, the smell! The only thing I can liken it to was sticking your nose in a bottle of honey and just inhaling. It was a scent for the ages.
Holes in the ground, complete with double-dog-dares to stick arms within. Neither of us took the other one up on it.
Monstrous banana slugs just aching for company as they slowly moved across a .... leaf.
Oregon flags in full bloom.
Lunch time was in order, and we broke out the goodies. Prosciutto, sharp cheddar cheese, granola bars, and a few apples delivered the calories.
Speaking of the latter, I was able to line up where we were on the topographic map with a view of Rooster Rock.
Well, we managed to go over two miles, but down the mountain from our original goal. Conclusion: Way off the original trail, crossing creeks we never should have crossed.
Making our way back, I was a little disheartened by the fact that the boy was disappointed. It was entirely his idea to see Pechcuck Lookout after seeing some amazing pictures and video of the place online. Not making it to the "castle on the mountain" really bummed him out.
I did everything possible to have him appreciate what had been accomplished and enjoyed throughout the day, but I still know it was a downer for him. I figured I would make it up to him during the next weekend or two. We got back to the car at the trailhead, and that was when I noticed the uphill trail that should have been our original destination.
Trip Report, Part II - Sunday, or the day we found Pechuck
With clearance granted from my lovely wife, the lad and I kissed the ladies of the house goodbye and hit the road again.
This time, we pulled up to the Rooster Rock Road trailhead and immediately went to the trail so conveniently missed the previous day. Greeted by blooming rhododendrons, mushrooms, and beargrass, the initial part of the trail hid the fact that we would be going vertical for the next mile.
I like to have the boy try his hardest to climb stretches of trail, but I did carry him for significant chunks on this one. When it was his turn to hike, there were two significant lessons I have learned with him during elevation gains:
- He always holds my hand on the side furthest away from any drops.
- Switchbacks uphill make great small "goals" for him to achieve. The reward is a break, a snack, some extra time on my shoulders, some goofing off, or usually a combination of every single one!
The trail was largely flat for a while, but then dips quite a bit. While a relief after the climb up the mountain, it was definitely a reminder to be ready for coming back!
After stumbling across the old trailhead booth near an abandoned road atop the mountain, we started one more steep climb toward Pechuck Lookout. An eerie forest of secondary growth silver fir forest awaits, as does an amazing view of Table Rock near a rock face alongside the trail.
After immediately scoping out the lookout and heading upstairs, it is easy to say that this was worth a day of being on the wrong trail and tackling the tougher correct trail to correct for it.
It isn't only the history of the lookout that bled such neat feelings, but the sense of all folks who had trekked up that way and all of those having camped there. Reading the log book, and scribbling our own entry was in its own way an amazing gesture of camaraderie and a way to break bread with those before and after us.
The boy was over the moon about Pechuck Lookout, and we had to go back up to the second story one last time before our departure. I promised him that we would be back one day to stay for an entire evening, but that will have to happen when he is a little more capable of carrying some extra pounds and not residing on my shoulders for 80% of the hike!
Checking the time, we bid the other hikers adieu and headed downward so that my poor wife would not worry too much about our whereabouts. It was a speedy departure on the descent, and a definite reminder of how tough my little guy was on the way up. I was really proud of him for tackling an entire weekend of some pretty good terrain and elevation gain. Pechuck - you are awesome.