“This challenging trail offers various forest habitats and spectacular views on its way to the Benson Plateau.”
— Bruce Hope
This trail enters the Mark O. Hatfield Wilderness and the usual federal wilderness area regulations and restrictions apply here. Practice Leave No Trace (LNT) backcountry skills and ethics. Camp 100 feet from fragile areas; bury human waste at least 200 feet from water, trails, and campsites. This trail is usually snowed in between November and May. It can be done in the winter provided you have excellent snow travel and navigation skills.
Features: Fall Colors — River/Creek — Views — Wildflowers
This is considered the most difficult official trail in the Mark O. Hatfield Wilderness. Putting in the effort rewards you with scenic views, wildflower displays, hanging meadows, lichen-covered rocks, and Indian "vision quest" pits.
To reach the start of the #405, park at Eagle Creek (near the camp host if possible for car safety) and then either: (a) follow the #400 up onto the bluff, past the campground, and then down to join the #400 where it becomes a paved bike path or (b) walk the paved bike path out of the parking lot and around the bluff below the campground to meet the #400 on the other side. From where (a) and (b) meet, it's about 0.3 miles along the bike path to the signed #405 trailhead.
From a signed junction on the Gorge Trail #400 (here a paved bike path), the #405 briefly follows Ruckel Creek (last water until the plateau), climbs easily for 0.2 miles, passes under some power lines, and then continues on up to an open scree slope with what are believed to be pre-contact vision quest pits built by Native Americans.
The #405 then continues climbing to an airy vantage point on the edge of a cliff with a sweeping view of the Columbia River and Table Mountain on the Washington side. From here, Mount Saint Helens, Mount Rainier, and Mount Adams are visible, as is the Columbia River, the Bridge of the Gods, and all of the lesser mountains on the Washington side of the Gorge.
Continuing up you'll, at 1.5 miles from the trailhead, reach the first in a series of hanging gardens or meadows that are filled with wildflowers in April and May. After some easy running through these meadows, the #405, at 2.9 miles from the trailhead, starts its final climb across the wilderness boundary and onto the Benson Plateau.
Once on the plateau, the trail alternates between flat areas and gentle grades as it passes primitive Hunters Campsite and then Benson Campsite before reaching its end at a junction with the Pacific Crest Trail #2000.
If you bear left (south) soon after reaching the forested Benson Plateau, you'll come to Ruckel Creek, the first open water since leaving the trailhead, and a perfect lunch spot and turnaround point for a long day run.