NW Forest Pass or day pass required to park at the Herman Creek Trailhead. There is a restroom at the trailhead. Deer reside in the area and there is ample undergrowth along the trail, so long pants are recommended as a tick deterrent.
Some areas on the ridge are still stabilizing after the fire. Watch for soft dirt patches, which will easily give way.
Beginning from the Herman Creek trailhead, start on Herman Creek Trail #406
as it gently winds to an intersection with a BPA service road. Head straight across onto the uphill gravel road, looking for trail signs as you go. The #406 should reappear on your left within a few hundred feet.
Continue on #406 up a couple of mild switchbacks until you reach a trail junction. Take the left path that proceeds uphill (this is still #406). At about 1.2 miles into the route, you'll encounter another junction, this time with Gorton Creek Trail #408
; take the right path to stay on Herman Creek Trail #406
. At 1.5 miles into your run, you'll encounter a third junction, this time with Nick Eaton Trail #447
. It is time to bid #406 adieu for now; take the left path to start on Nick Eaton Trail #447
The Nick Eaton Trail #447
begins a climb into a burned area populated by significant undergrowth and charred snags. The trail becomes a little steeper right away and the trail tread becomes a little harder to follow. Pace yourself appropriately, not only because you are going to be climbing a steep trail for the next 1.5 miles, but also because this reconstructed trail winds to and fro and the tread may not be visible until you are right on top of it. If you are paying attention, you'll have no trouble following the trail.
After a brief introduction, Nick Eaton starts a steep ascent straight up the ridge with sharp switchbacks that gain about 1,700 feet of elevation in 1.5 miles. There are peek-a-boo views as you go, so there is no shame in taking a breather to admire the Gorge through skeletal burned trees. Near the top of the climb, the trees thin out into some small rocky meadows. Once you level out and head back into denser forest, be on the lookout for a trail junction with Ridge Cutoff Trail #437
on your left.
Taking #437, travel the excellent (and flat!) cutoff trail for about 0.5 miles until it descends steeply for a few feet to a T-junction with Gorton Creek Trail #408
. Here you have the choice of accessing Indian Point via a scramble trail or skipping the scramble and descending on the #408 by turning left.
If you are interested in the Indian Point scramble trail, turn right onto Gorton Creek Trail #408
and immediately look up and to your right to see a sign posted high on a tree for Indian Point. This will mark the scramble trail, which descends off the ridge to your left. Make your way down Indian Point Trail
, watching for root systems and loose rocks. This scramble is quite doable but benefits from a leisurely pace due to the loose footing and steep descent. Moreover, though the scramble trail is mostly unexposed, there are a couple of sharp turns in the trail near exposure where a slip could be quite hazardous.
As you descend and wind to the right, you'll see the Indian Point rock formation below you and to your left. Traverse along the scramble trail until you reach the sharp talus ridge that runs out to the basalt column at the end of the point. There is a flat area amongst the trees right before the talus that makes for a good lunch/snack/water/etc. spot. If you are unafraid of exposure and are comfortable running on talus, you can run out onto the ridgeline for truly outstanding views of the Columbia River, the Gorge area, and Mt. Adams.
The ridge is quite narrow and there is very little space for passing, so it is best to wait for other runners to return from the ridge before running out onto the talus. Some people like to climb the basalt column, but I cannot recommend this; the rock is quote dodgy and falls to either side are extremely exposed. A fall could easily be fatal. Once you've had your fill of the the views, return up the same scramble trail and then turn right onto Gorton Creek Trail #408
Gorton Creek Trail #408
gently and continuously descends through dense underbrush for about 2.5 miles, meeting up with Herman Creek Trail #406
in a small clearing. Take a right onto #406 and follow it back to the trailhead!