Iron Mountain and Cone Peak Wildflowers
Friday, July 2, 2009
Iron Mountain and Cone Peak is the wildflower capitol of the State of Oregon. Even though there are a lot of other beautiful places wildflowers can be found nowhere else can rival this area for the diversity you will find here. Nearly every wildflower found in the Western Cascades can be found in this one small area – nearly 300 species in all! It is a combination of soil depth and type, moisture, sunlight, temperature and elevation that make for the special conditions to make this unique area so conducive to wildflowers. These special conditions make for one of the most spectacular wildflower displays in Western Oregon.
Iron Mountain is located 34 miles east of Sweet Home on Highway 20. There are two ways to access the area. The first is to park at Tombstone Pass in the parking area there and do the 1.8 mile hike to the top. Note that there are two trail heads that loop together here. (One for Cone Peak Meadows and the other for Iron Mountain) The second is to turn off on the first road on the north side of the highway west of the pass. This is Road 035 and there is a small wood sign that says “Iron Mtn”. Follow this road for 2.6 miles (at the fork take a right) to the gravel parking area. The top is only one mile from here.
I wanted to get some good close up shot some the flowers so I left Springfield at 5:00 am in order to get there before the usual westerly breeze begins. This is a 75 mile drive, via Sweet Home, and takes a good hour and a half. I decided to take the trail to Cone Peak and the Meadows first so I could take advantage of the morning calm. This portion of the trail isn’t very steep and goes through a series of rocky outcrops and small open area and some forests. I was amazed at how many species were already in bloom and many others still in the bud. I did see 5 or 6 species that had already finished their bloom and were drying up. It appeared that peak bloom would still be another week away but I was not disappointed with what was in bloom. Even though I come here almost every year, it always wows me with the beauty and diversity you find here.
The rocky outcrops were beautiful and were already very colorful. Butterflies were playing tag with some green flies and as soon as they would land to have lunch on a flowers the flies would come along and run them off. So it was a never ending circus of butterflies, flies and wildflowers. As there were some mosquitoes in the wooded areas I put on a new natural mosquito repellant I’m beta testing and was amazed that it really did a good job of keeping both the mosquitoes and the flies away.
Cone Meadows were carpeted with flowers and it was a good thing that I had extra chips for my camera with all the pictures I took. I did a short trip part way up Cone Peak but ran out of time as I wanted to be back in town by 3:00pm.
I backtracked about a mile back to the Iron Mountain upper trail and notice it was 11:00. Even though this is a steep mile it’s always well worth the effort. Every switchback brings a new view and different species of wild flowers.
As you go further up the Mountain you get some wonderful views of the Three Sisters and Mt Jefferson.
As you gain elevation you see new species of wildflowers.
At the summit the old fire lookout building is now going and a new observation deck is under construction. I could see Diamond Peak to the south and Mt Hood just peaking over the north horizon. The view from the top is well worth the hike even if the wildflowers weren’t in bloom. It was time to go and head back for town. Here are a few more shots to enjoy.