Proposal: Raker Point Trail


The view from Raker Point in a 1930s postcard

Each year, thousands visit beautiful Lost Lake, one of the most beautiful and iconic places in Mount Hood country. The view of Mount Hood mirrored in the lake has been photographed countless times and has graced hundreds of postcards, calendars and scenic books. Some visitors to the lake climb the old lookout trail to Lost Lake Butte, which provides a sweeping view of the mountain, but only glimpses of the lake as once-burned forests continue to recover there.

Yet, not long ago, another dramatic view was possible: Lost Lake nestled in the forests beneath Mount Hood, framed with blooming Pacific Rhododendrons. This scene was captured from the crest of Raker Point, a rocky spur due north of Lost Lake, and briefly a forest lookout site in the early 1930s.


The view from Raker Point as captured in a Ray Atkeson postcard in the late 1940s

The view from Raker Point appeared in early postcards, and was later captured by Oregon’s famed photographer Ray Atkeson (above) in images that appeared widely in calendars, postcards and even automobile ads (below) in the 1950s.


1951 Lincoln ad featuring the view from Raker Point

Ironically, the famous images captured by Atkeson were made possible by the industrial logging that began sweeping our national forests in the decades following World War II. By the late 1940s, a logging spur pushed over the saddle between Sawtooth Ridge and Raker Point, providing easy access to the spectacular view, even as it enabled the destruction of old growth forests that once grew there.

Today, the old logging road to Raker Point has been decommissioned by the Forest Service and the clearcut slopes are slowly recovering. Now, Raker Point has become all but forgotten.

Where is Raker Point?


Raker Point isn’t the tallest or most impressive among the Cascade peaks that rise up around Lost Lake, but it is the best positioned for a grand view of the lake and Mount Hood. Raker Point can be seen from the Lakeshore Trail, where it rounds the south end of the lake, as shown above.

When the Forest Service first brought a road to Lost Lake and lookout towers to the Lost Lake area in the 1920s and early 1930s, Raker Point was much more prominent, thanks to wildfires in the early 1900s that had cleared both Raker Point and Lost Lake Butte. Their open summits made ideal forest lookout sites.

This early 1930s view shows Raker Point and other nearby peaks from Hiyu Mountain, another lookout site located several miles to the south, and Raker Point’s bald summit clearly stands out:


[click here for a larger image]

A closer 1933 view from nearby Lost Lake Butte in 1933 shows the scorched summit of Raker Point much more clearly. The impressive old growth forests of the Lost Lake Basin are also on display in this view:


Scorched Raker Point from Lost Lake Butte in the early 1930s

This rare 1933 perspective of Raker Point and Lost Lake is from Sawtooth Ridge, where a temporary (and misnamed) “Raker Point” lookout was briefly located:


[click here for a larger panorama]

The origin of Raker Point’s name is unclear, but it’s likely that an early Forest Service ranger or surveyor named the peak — and perhaps was the namesake, too?

Today, forests have returned to all but the rocky summit and surrounding talus slopes on Raker Point. This view (below) from the Lake Branch Road shows the now green slopes, with just a small opening near the top of the butte. Does this mean the classic view of Lost Lake and Mount Hood captured by Ray Atkeson in the 1940s has been lost?


Raker Point rises above the talus fields along the Lake Branch Road

The answer can be found on the opposite side of Raker Point. This view from Indian Mountain, located a few miles north and across the Lake Branch Valley from Raker Point, shows the still open, rocky crest framed in talus slopes and groves of Noble Fir:


The rocky crest of Raker Point from the north, as viewed from Indian Mountain

While rhododendrons may not thrive on the summit, the views of Mount Hood and Lost Lake are clearly still intact, though probably framed in Noble fir boughs and drifts of huckleberries.

The Proposal

The Lost Lake area already has a fine network of trails, but a new route to Raker Point would bring needed opportunities to this popular recreation area.

First, the classic view from Raker Point is reason enough to warrant trail access to the summit. But a trail to Raker Point would also serve as a more attainable challenge for families visiting Lost Lake.

Today, hikers can make the 2-mile trek to the summit of Lost Lake Butte. Yet, while the view from there is excellent, it pales in comparison to Raker Point. More importantly, a trail to Raker Point would shave 400 feet of elevation gain in half the distance compared to the Lost Lake Butte hike, making it much more accessible to casual hikers and families with young children.


[click here for a large map]

The proposed trail is simple: it would begin along a segment of the Old Skyline Trail that traverses the base of the Raker Point, and connects to the nearby campground, resort cabins and lodge at Lost Lake.

Trail building would be straightforward, as well. The area is outside protected wilderness, so would not present limitations on the use of power saws and or other heavy equipment in the construction. The modest 1-mile length of the proposed new trail also puts it within financial reach in this era of cash-strapped federal land agencies.


[click here for a large panorama]

The new trail would also be accessible from trailheads along the Lake Branch Road, allowing hikers to visit the trail without adding to the crowds and congestion at Lost Lake, proper.

What would it take to make this happen? Interest from Forest Service officials, for sure, but support from the Lost Lake Resort operators, in particular, could put this new trail on a fast track. The resort would clearly benefit from a new family-friendly trail option near the lodge, and would be powerful advocates if they were to bring this argument to the Forest Service.

So, consider mentioning the idea if you happen to visit the resort this summer..!


Postscript: at about the time I was writing this article, uber-adventurer Paul Turner was exploring Raker Point and nearby Sawtooth Ridge. He posted some excellent photos from his trip over here on the Oregon Hikers forum. Thanks, Paul!

Sunshine Rock

Located in a deep canyon near Lost Lake, Sunshine Rock is a 700-foot monolith that would rival famous Beacon Rock in the Columbia Gorge, were you to set them side-by-side. The two rocks might even look a bit like twins: both feature walls of distinctive columnar basalt, and rise to a broad, fluted crest.

Despite its impressive size, Sunshine Rock is nearly hidden from view in the Lake Branch canyon, a few miles upstream from the West Fork Hood River. The rock briefly comes into view traveling down Lake Branch Road from Lost Lake, but only for a moment. With a little exploration, though, better views of this massive rock can be had from less-traveled routes in the area.

Sunshine Rock from Lake Branch Road

Sunshine Rock is a classic basalt plug — the solidified lava throat of an ancient volcano that was once a mountain. Geologic maps of the area identify the rock as andesitic basalt, dating back to the Miocene period of more than 7 million years ago.

This means that Sunshine Rock was formed as part of the “Old Cascades”, the range or deeply eroded peaks and ridges that pre-date today’s relatively young big volcanoes, like Mount Hood, by millions of years.

View across the Lake Branch valley to Sunshine Rock

Over the millennia, the Old Cascades have been carved by erosion and folded by fault lines, with countless new volcanoes emerging to cover older peaks in successive layers. Like most of the rock from the Miocene area, Sunshine Rock was buried by huge shield volcanoes of the Pliocene era, which dates back 2-5 million years.

Shield volcanoes are broad, gently sloped peaks that we now know as the mostly forested summits surrounding Mount Hood, including Larch Mountain, Lost Lake Butte, Mountain Defiance and several other volcanoes in the area. In the case of Sunshine Rock, nearby Indian Mountain is the overlying shield volcano that covers the older Miocene geology.

Giant firs give scale to one of the lower ramparts on Sunshine Rock

In more recent geologic times, the U-shaped valley of the Lake Branch was excavated by 7-mile long glacier that stretched from near present-day Lost Lake to the West Fork valley. There, it joined an enormous, 1,000-foot thick mega-glacier that extended 17 miles from Mount Hood to what are now the apple orchards of Dee Flat, along the Lost Lake Road.

The glacial period covers the Pleistocene era, which spans the most recent 2-million years, and numerous ice ages. The most recent ice advance peaked just 15,000 years ago, and was responsible for the most recent extent of the prehistoric Lake Branch glacier that exposed Sunshine Rock, along the flanks of the valley.

Recent History

Sunshine Rock seems to first appear in the modern record in early lookout tower survey photos. These photos were taken in the 1930s from new lookout sites, and include views from nearby Buck Peak, Raker Point and Lost Lake Butte. The view (below) from Raker Point in 1933 shows the rock most prominently, along with Indian Mountain in the background (another early lookout site).

The venerable Oregon Geographic Names doesn’t list Sunshine Rock among its thousands of entries, so short of historical files kept by the U.S. Forest Service, the inspiration behind the name may be lost to history. The name doesn’t appear on maps until the 1950s, suggesting that it came into being after the logging era was well under way, in the post-war period.

While the exact origin of the name is unknown, the thinking behind it seems evident: the position of the rock on a southeast facing valley wall allows it to catch morning sunlight, and thus would have been a bright beacon for nearby lookouts or loggers in the area.

Visiting Sunshine Rock

Forest Road 13 to Lost Lake forms a large loop, with Sunshine Rock located on the northern leg, along the Lake Branch Road segment of the loop. The best way to spot the rock is to approach from Lost Lake, winding down the Lake Branch valley, and watching for it through the trees.

You can also get a close-up view from Road 1330, which intersects Forest Road 13 near the rock, and leads to an abandoned quarry directly opposite the rock. For more adventurous explorers, Road 1320 climbs nearly to the top of the rock, with old logging spurs leading to the base of its cliffs.