Plaza Trail is one of the more rugged and isolated trails you can take on the Mt. Hood National Forest, close to Portland. Even on a summer weekend day, you are not likely to run into more than a few other runners, if that. You can reach Plaza Trail on the north end by parking in the BLM Wildwood Day Use Area off Hwy 26 near Welches, and running 4 miles south on Boulder Ridge Trail #783A
to its end and pick up Plaza Trail. Or you can start Plaza Trail on the south end, off of Abbot Road outside of Estacada off Hwy 224.
In either case, Plaza Trail follows the ridge lines of the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness namesake mountains. At the end of Boulder Ridge, Plaza Trail follows the ridgeline of Huckleberry Mountain as it winds across the wilderness towards Salmon Mountain and then a feature called Sheepshead Rock at the south end of the wilderness. The following description assumes you start at the south end and run north.
This trail starts at Forest Road 4610 and ends at it junction with Boulder Ridge Trail #783A
. From Forest Road 4610 (4,240’), the trail heads north and after 50’ the trail branches. The trail heading west is Old Baldy Trail #502
. Head east (right) onto this trail (#783). At 1.3 miles, the trail passes Sheepshead Rock (4,460’) which offers nice views to the north, west and east. Leaving Sheepshead Rock, the trail climbs several switchbacks, descends briefly then contours a further 1.5 miles to the junction with Salmon Mountain Trail #787
From the junction, #783 continues north, and after 2.6 miles the trail reaches the junction with Douglas Trail #781
(4,040’). Head right to stay on #783 and continue 1.6 miles to the junction with Bonanza Trail #786
(4,200’). Head left to stay on #783 and the trail passes Huckleberry Mountain (4,290’) in 0.1 mile. Continue heading north, going downhill 1.7 miles to the trail’s end at the junction with Boulder Ridge Trail #783A
. The only significant sustained grades on this trail are between the Sheepshead rock and Salmon Mountain Trail #787
. There are some short, steep sections along the trail.
Plaza Trail runs through thick second growth forests of Douglas fir, mountain hemlock, silver fir, and noble fir. Vine maple and alder make for fall colors. Undergrowth consists of sword ferns, salal, Oregon grape, and rhododendrons. Blooms are best in June and include bear grass, lupine, penstemon, Indian paintbrush, larkspur and many other wildflowers that are found in the rocky outcroppings along this trail.