This year has been one of exploring new areas since original plans were put off due to weather. Mike Suggested the Timberline Trail around Mount Hood since he has never done a trail around a mountain before, he thought it would be a great challenge.
- Total Distance – About 40 Miles
- Total Elevation Gain – About 9,000ft
- Average Trip Duration – 4 Days
- Some Loose/Sandy Trail
- Some River Fording
We planned to drive all day Saturday and start hiking clockwise from the Timberline Lodge and camp at the first campsite about 2 miles in. The trailhead with the self registration permits is about 1.5 miles from the parking lot.
We ended up going further than we first thought and camped above Zig Zag creek at the junction to Paradise Meadows. The weather was supposed to turn clear the next day, but Mount Hood had other plans and decide to keep us in cloud for the night and the next day.
This trail is known for its multiple ups, downs and creek crossings, but has waterfalls and wildflowers around every corner to keeps you going.
Day 2, the first full day on the trail was hiking in a cloud, misty and wet but it brought out the green of the forest. We were also on the PCT and ran into a few NoBo and SoBo hikers and exchanged trail conditions and brief trail stories. One thing we found out about was that PCT days was happening in Cascade Locks the next weekend, and lots of hikers were going to be there. Food, Beer and vendor giveaways, who could say no. We decided to make a point to see if we could work this into our schedule.
We did not get too many views, but we did have a great view of Ramona Falls and wondered through old growth forests and rhododendron fields. We ended up setting up camp at the junction of the PCT and the Top Spur trailhead. Note that the cut off trail saves about 1 hour and it very short 2 minute short cut.
Day 3 we were greeted with beautiful sun and blue skies. We were going to try and make it to Cloud Cap, but ended up at a nice campsite just before Compass Creek. This is listed as one of the difficult crossings, but at this time of year it was not too bad and could be crossed by rock hopping. There was lots to explore and a great sport to watch the colours of the setting and rising sun. One of the surprises was the Cairn Basin of meadows, tarns and wildflowers that went on for as far as the eyes could see.
Day 4 was another clear blue day and was perfect to cross Eliot creek and the open plains of the eastern side of Mount Hood. Eliot creek can be a difficult crossing with the elevation loss and gain, plus the constant eroding sides. There was a large group working on managing the trail, but it seems like a constant project to keep it safe.
It was a bit of a climb out of Cloud Cap, but then it was relatively flat for the rest of the day. We were going to drop down into the valley, but decided to stay on Gnarl Ridge for the night and we are glad we did.
Day 5 was a day of a big down, big river crossings and then a big up back to the Timberline Lodge. The big surprise of the day was all the little creeks and meadows of flowers. It was a long hot day, and great to finish out adventure around Mount Hood.
Here is a link to the GAIA GPS track and statistics
A big thanks to this very detailed blog post that helped a great deal in some of the decisions we made on the trail. Oregon Hikers