Burnt Rock is a scenic, fire-scarred outcrop near the Pacific Crest Trail on the west side of Mount Adams. The best way to approach Burnt Rock is via Divide Camp Trail. This route offers the easiest climb to the PCT, after which point the hike becomes a nearly level promenade of vistas, wildflowers, and cascades.
Begin at Divide Camp Trailhead near the West Fork Adams Creek. Mosquitoes often linger at the parking lot but may be outrun once on the wide and gently ascending trail. Silver fir and mountain hemlock dim the sky over lupine and huckleberry. The trail is composed of mostly dirt with some rocks and roots.
Adams Creek runs near the trail on the left, and offers a breeze that repels any remaining mosquitoes and carries a refreshing coolness from up high. A steep uphill push relaxes just in time to enter a big, glorious meadow. Mount Adams dominates the view ahead with the Adams Glacier shining brightly at its base.
At 2.2 miles the trail comes to a junction with a short side path heading right to Divide Camp. Stay straight to proceed to Burnt Rock. The way resumes its uphill grade, coming within earshot of Adams Creek, again at a convenient spot where the icy breeze can be enjoyed with a little more scenery this time.
At 2.9 miles the Divide Camp Trail meets the Pacific Crest Trail. The forested solitude of the previous few miles is now traded for mountain vistas and greetings of “Happy Trails’ by the myriad thru-hikers on their way from California to Canada. Indeed, hikers appear to be smiling on the PCT.
Stay right at the junction, marked by “PCT S” for south. The tread is generous and beautifully laid into the landscape, running nearly level as it traverses meadows broken by gurgling streams, some of which are difficult to cross until August. Paintbrush, arnica, and lupine produce a riot of primary colors.
Camp sites abound along the PCT, and some are large enough for groups. Most of the creeks are silty and thus harder to filter. Boil water here if possible. The trail passes through gardens divided by clusters of subalpine fir. Views to the right include Mount St. Helens, the Dark Divide, and Mount Rainier.
The trail comes out onto a lava flow where the milky Mutton Creek meanders among the once molten rock. The way now descends steadily and loses a total of 400 feet, passing many fine camp sites before coming to a junction with the Riley Camp Trail junction at 5.6 miles. Stay left here for Burnt Rock.
Just after the junction is Riley Creek, the largest stream crossing of the hike. Take caution through mid summer. Tiny Sheep Lake lies on the right as the trail climbs its final push to Burnt Rock. Finally the trail levels out among a ghost forest of burnt snags that perfectly frame Mount Adams. Burnt Rock is the knob just west of the trail, but the views are just as good here. Return by the same route.