Coffin Mountain is a steep, flower filled mountain with a cliff-lined summit located in the Old Cascades just south of Detroit. This trail will grant you some breath-taking views of Mt Jefferson and the neighboring Cascades. Even though the climb is steep, if you are hiking the trail in the early summer, the never ending flowers will help take your mind from the grind. And as a reward, once you reach the summit, you will find yourself at a cool fire lookout with a neighboring helipad perched on top of a cliff. The lookout is staffed, however, so don’t try and barge in or anything. That is their home away from home.
Begin your hike from the Coffin Mountain trailhead. This isn’t the most well-defined trailhead as it consists mostly of a wide spot near an intersection, but there is a kiosk so you will know you are in the right place. The trail begin climbing immediately and doesn’t really let up. While short, you will gain over 1,000 feet in elevation as you march your way up to the summit.
You can start finding wildflowers very quickly into the hike, with meadows of Indian paintbrush, Oregon sunshine, columbine, and more. Most of the trail is pretty exposed, which can get hot in the summer, but it also leaves you exposed to the wind, which can help to cool you. So everything works out great!
After a half mile and a few switchbacks, you will find yourself on the southern ridge of the mountain. The trail will continue up the ridge, but off to your right, you will start to enter Coffin Mountain's famous beargrass meadows. Beargrass only blooms every 5-7 years, so some years will be better than others as different waves of the plants sprout their tall, white-flowered stalks. In 2019, much of the beargrass all came into season at once, resulting in a super bloom, where the entire hillside was covered in the flower.
After about a quarter mile of climbing up the ridge, the trail veers to the right onto the northwestern face of the mountain and into the beargrass meadows. A couple more sweeping switchbacks will then put you on the saddle between the southern summit and the true summit. Keep heading straight ahead in a northerly direction.
Soon, you will emerge from some trees on the saddle and find yourself staring at a small structure perched on top a giant black cliff. The trail sweeps around the cliff as it climbs towards the fire lookout. This lookout was built in 1984 and is the fourth structure located at the site dating back to 1905. Once atop, the views are expansive. The only thing between you and Mt Jefferson is Bachelor Mountain which makes for a great second hike of the day, if you still have some gas left in you.
If you are coming from the south, follow Highway 22 eighteen miles and make a left on NF-11, Straight Creek Road. If you are coming from the north, follow Highway 22 east for three miles past Marin Forks, then making the right onto NF-11.
Once on NF-11, follow the paved road for 4.1 miles before bearing right onto a wide gravel road. The road is in good shape and is suitable for most passenger cars. Follow this main road as it rounds Buck Mountain and continues you will reach an intersection with a road heading to your left at the base of Coffin Mountain. The trailhead is just down that road a couple hundred feet.
Passes: No passes required.
Dogs: Allowed and must be on leash or under voice command at all times.
Open Season: The trail will usually be snow free by Mid-June, most years.
Wild Flowers: Wildflowers can usually be found blooming along the trail beginning in late June and through July.