Indian Heaven is one of those must-see places for wilderness lovers. Make that Wilderness, with a capital W, as Indian Heaven now bears all the protections that come with a federal Wilderness declaration. Leave your bike at home, but bring your horse or your own two feet and come visit this beautiful area. And no, you can’t pick huckleberries commercially within the wilderness, but you can fill your belly while you hike.
There are a couple of things to keep in mind: Indian Heaven is home to 23 named lakes and over 100 lakelets, meaning it’s mosquito heaven in summer. For the most enjoyable hiking experience, wait to visit until the first late summer frost kills the biting bugs. Also, don’t wait too long; Indian Heaven is above 4000′, and the ground will freeze hard in early October, making for a slippery melt-freeze cycle of a hike. Consider the area open from early July through early October.
When you do go, you’ll see famed Beargrass, huckleberries, Tamarack trees, beautiful meadows, views of Mt. Ranier and Mt. Adams, subalpine trees, lots of moss, and lakes, lots of lakes. Indian Heaven is a beautiful place.
Directions from Hood River: Cross the Hood River Bridge. Drive west on SR 14. Turn north (right) on Alt 141, just before the (now free) White Salmon River. Follow 141 north to Trout Lake. Bear left at Trout Lake onto the 24 Road. Stop at the Ranger Station (about 1/2 mile ahead on the left), and pick up a Northwest Forest Pass so you can park, a map so you don’t get lost, and some advice where to hike. Total drive time to trailheads is about one hour.
There are multiple loops and all sorts of trails crisscrossing the Indian Lakes Wilderness, so a map and some hints will come in handy. Expect to hike at least 6 miles, and expect to climb at least 1000′. The effort is well worth it.