Tucked beneath towering cliffs and scree slopes in a forgotten swath of land to the southeast of Mount Hood, Boulder Lake makes an ideal summer day hike. But be warned: once you’ve arrived, you’ll feel the allure of the overnight. In addition to its healthy population of brook and rainbow trout, the 11-acre lake boasts a sequence of tent sites along its east and south shores, some with picnic tables.
Among numerous options, the Boulder Lake Trailhead on Road 4880, less than half a mile east of your destination, provides your best approach to this idyllic pool. From the well-marked trailhead, climb 200 feet through a dense thicket of old-growth Douglas fir, hemlock, and willow, passing shallow Spinning Lake after .25 miles. Soon after, you’ll arrive at a junction on the eastern shore of the bigger Boulder Lake—a placid, blue-green expanse nested within an amphitheater of soaring, pine-dotted cliffs. If you’re staying the night, set up camp here before continuing on a scenic, 1.7-mile ramble to the wildflower-strewn Bonney Meadows. Follow the trail north, skirting the east side of the lake, up a forested hillside to the top of a ridge. Then duck back into the forest and emerge into a dazzling expanse of summer blooms, lush grasses, and a gurgling creek, with Bonney Meadows Campground at the far end. If you’re hankering for views, continue past the campground, take a right on Road 4891, and sweat it out up the 0.6-mile trail to the top of Bonney Butte. The only things that beat the perspective on Mount Hood are exhilarating sightings of golden eagles and prairie falcons soaring above its forested foothills.
Post-Hike Watering Hole: In addition to relief from the July heat, the recently renovated Mt Hood Brewing Company pub in Government Camp offers a handful of house taps, plus seasonal cask and nitro selections, along with hand-tossed pizzas and a memorable Olympia Provisions bratwurst on a pretzel hoagie. 503-272-3172; mthoodbrewing.com