Iron Mountain and Cone Peak are two of more predominate peaks in Oregon’s Old Cascades, a much older mountain range than our current Cascades, but one which lays the foundation for the larger volcanic peaks. The Forest Service has also protected this area because of its vast botanical diversity, with over 300 species of flowering plants and 17 different species of trees, more than any other location in Oregon. The wildflowers typically reach their peak in July, but one species or another will likely be blooming throughout most of the summer.
The hike begins from the Tombstone Pass parking lot right off of Highway 20. I prefer to hike clockwise around this loop so I can get the majority of the climbing done first. The trail leaves out of the west end of the parking area and quickly enters a thick forest as it traverses the hillside. You will parallel the highway for half of a mile until you reach a junction with the Iron Mountain Trail. Turn to the right and climb up and over the highway.
Once you cross the highway, the hike really begins to climb. You will ascend 650 feet in the next mile as you work your way towards the intersection with the Cone Peak Trail. You will primarily remain in thick trees as you climb this section, but about ¾ of a mile from the highway, you will get your first view of Iron Mountain’s rocky face. Once you reach the junction with the Iron Mountain and Cone Peak trail, head to the right and continue your ascent up the mountain.
The climb up the mountain consists of nearly another 600 feet of vertical, but this time in only 0.65 miles. But don’t worry, you will have more than enough switchbacks to help you on your way. This is also the first section that you will finally begin noticing some flowers in the more exposed, rocky areas. Once you reach the top, enjoy the vistas from a nice, wooden platform that occupies the site of an old fire lookout.
When you’re satisfied with the views, head back down the mountain to the junction with the Cone Peak Trail and head to the right. You will pass through a couple more flowery areas as you make your way around Iron Mountain. Finally, as you pass by Iron Mountains north flank, Cone Peak will come into view and flower filled meadows will astound your dainty senses. You will get a nice taste of flowers at first, but will then dive into the forest once again as you make your way up the southwestern ridge of Cone Peak. Then, about a third of a mile and 600 feet from the summit of the peak, the trail makes a hard right and you will quickly find yourself prancing through about a third of a mile of open, wildflower infused paradise. The views looking out to Cone Peak or Iron Mountain with all the flowers in the foreground are truly one-of-a-kind.
But sadly, all good things must come to an end. At about the 4.75 mile mark of the hike, you will dive back into the forest and begin switch-backing your way to the highway. There are some beargrass blooms along this reach and some pretty amazing trees to keep you entertained. You will reach the highway in a mile and a half. As you cross the highway, you will find the trail on the southside a little bit to the east of where you entered. Once you cross, follow the trail the final half mile to the trailhead.
To reach the Tombstone Pass Trailhead, take Highway 20 eleven miles west from the junction with Highway 126 or 36 miles east of Sweet Home. The trailhead and parking area will be on the south side of the road. The trailhead also houses the Tombstone Sno-Park in the winter. .
Passes: Northwest Forest Pass is required at this trailhead.
Dogs: Allowed and must be on leash or under voice command at all times.
Open Season: Snow should be melted off sometime in May to June.
Flowers: Wildflower season ranges from June to August, with it peaking from mid-June through mid-July.