This short and sweet little hike to Round Mountain offers nice views, and a good half-day hike for those looking to explore the Goat Rocks Wilderness while staying at a nearby resort. Alternatively, you can tack it onto a longer day, make it a thru-hike, or even a side trip while hiking the PCT. For such a low-key destination, it’s remarkably accessible.
The easiest way to get to the top is from the Indian Springs trailhead off Forest Road 530. Starting from this modest parking area, head up the trail, gradually climbing through forest and around to the south before getting on a wider trail, likely a converted old road bed.
Elevation gain on this trail is steady—not a lot of flat sections to get your breath, but it’s relatively evenly built, so even though you’re constantly climbing, it’s never overwhelming.
The forest is sparse, with groves of trees dotting dry-side rocky slopes. In one section, about halfway into your hike, erosion has made the trail a braided mess, but stay to the left on your way up and you’ll be on the right path.
After the eroded section and a steeper-than-normal climb, you’re on top of a ridge, 5406 feet in the air! The trail turns left (southwest) and continues along this ridge to a junction, where heading right takes you eventually to the Pacific Crest Trail. Stay straight on. This is the short hiker-only spur to the summit, just 0.4 miles away.
Continuing through the forest, pass a small talus (rock) field to your left, listening for pikas chirping away in the rocks. These funny little fuzzballs live in alpine areas and make an adorable “eep!” to alert others that an intruder (hiker) is coming by. Leave them be, and continue to the top.
Switchback above the talus field, and in just a few hundred feet, top out at the summit. Clear Lake (the smaller one) and Rimrock Lake are obvious immediately. Look south, and see Bear Creek Mountain and Tieton Peak in the foreground, as well as Mount Adams looming large. The eastern edge of Old Snowy is visible too, but the trees have grown up since the lookout days, so views are somewhat restricted—Rainier is just barely visible through the trees.
Don’t forget to look down! There’s a surprising profusion of wildflowers here. You may spy insects flitting from flower to flower, busily pollinating as you soak in the views. When you're done, head back the way you came.