Category Archives: Mt. Hood Area

Devil’s Peak

The end of September/beginning of October brings us a pair of birthday celebrations, my Grandma on 9/30 and our Son on 10/1. We planned a joint celebration dinner in Portland but before the festivities we headed out on a hike to work up an appetite.

Due to the plans we needed a hike near Portland in the 8 to 10 mile range and hiking up the Cool Creek Trail to the Devil’s Peak Lookout fit the bill perfectly. We headed out early to the Cool Creek Trailhead. Oddly our guidebook had us turn on Road 20 at the east end of Rhododendron, OR instead of west of Rohododendron on Still Creek Road which is how the Forest Service directions have you go. We followed the guidebook directions only to be turned back by a closed bridge and had to go back to Still Creek Road. After finding the open route to the trailhead we parked along the shoulder of the road and set off on the Cool Creek Trail.
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The trail started with a steep incline, a reminder that it needed to gain over 3000′ over the next 4 miles. Not far from the trailhead we entered the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness.
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The trail is mostly forested with a few glimpses of Mt. Hood through the trees.
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The best early view came just over a mile along the trail. For about two tenths of a mile the trail passed along an open hillside with a view across the valley to Mt. Hood.
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The trail then passed around to the other side of a ridge where it pretty much remained for the next two miles. The forest here still housed a good number of red and blue huckleberries.
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There were sections of more level trail in the forest which gave a nice break from the climbing, but also meant that the elevation would need to be made up on the sections of uphill.
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Approximately 3.25 miles from the trailhead a spur to the left led to a rocky ridge top which provided what turned out to be the best viewpoint of the day.
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IMG_3232The rocky ridge

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From this point four Cascades were visible, Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, Mt. Adams, and Mt. Hood.
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IMG_3207Mt. St. Helens

IMG_3209Mt. Rainier

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Tom Dick and Harry Mountain (post) was also clearly visible to the NE.
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Beyond the ridge viewpoint the trail traversed the hillside on the west side of the ridge climbing for another quarter mile past one more viewpoint of Mt. Hood to its end at the Hunchback Trail.
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A spur trail to the Devil’s Peak Lookout is just 500 feet after turning right onto the Hunchback Trail.
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The lookout is a little over 200 feet up this spur.
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The tower is available for use on a first come, first serve basis so there was a possibility that it was occupied but it turned out to be empty.
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Mt. Hood was visible from the lookout.
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I had gone ahead of Heather and Dominique who had joined us for the hike so I explored Devil’s Peak while I waited for them to arrive.
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IMG_3263Mt. Jefferson in some haze to the south.

IMG_3268Mt. Hood

IMG_3272Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness

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IMG_3300Clouds coming up the Salmon River Valley

IMG_3339Butterflies on the lookout.

IMG_3346One of several birds foraging in the bushes near the lookout.

It turned out that I had gotten quite a bit ahead and wound up spending about an hour and a half at the tower watching the clouds break up above while they also moved in below.
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After they joined me at the lookout they took a break as well then we headed back down. At the ridge viewpoint the view of Mt. Hood was better than it had been earlier, but not for the other Cascades.
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We continued back down stopping to gather some huckleberries to take to my Grandmas house. We wound up passing beneath the clouds losing Mt. Hood for the last mile and a half.
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It was a tough 8 mile hike given the elevation gain but the views were well worth the effort. That effort was also rewarded with a nice birthday dinner and a tasty piece of cake. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Devil’s Peak

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Salmon River Overnight

For our first overnight outing of 2018 we chose the Salmon River Trail which we had previously visited on August 30, 2015. (post) That hike included approximately 3.5 miles of the 14 mile trail from the west trailhead. This time we would start from the east trailhead with our plan being to set up camp somewhere along the trail then continue to same viewpoint where we had turned around on our previous visit to complete the trail.

Before we could start our hike though we needed to get some water since the city of Salem’s water had been testing positive for a toxin. We stopped at the Trillium Lake picnicking area on our way to the trailhead and filled our packs there. We didn’t take the time to visit the lake since we were on a mission to start hiking but we did stop again on they way home to see the lake and its view of Mt. Hood.
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After filling up on water we continued to the trailhead where we were the only vehicle. The trailhead also serves as the north trailhead for the Jackpot Meadows Trail.
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We took the signed Salmon River Trail and headed downhill.
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The trail descended in the first quarter mile to a footbridge over Mud Creek which flows from Trillium Lake.
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This was the only creek crossing with an official bridge. Over the next mile and a half the trail would cross Fir Tree Creek three separate times.
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Between the first and second crossings the trail passed a now abandoned section of trail that led up to the Dry Fir Trail.
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It also passed through some nice forest with rhododendron beginning to bloom along with a little beargrass.
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Beyond the third crossing of Fir Tree Creek we entered the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness and passed through a variety of scenery.
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The trail also crossed more creeks.
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We had passed a few possible campsites but felt they were too close to the trailhead, but after 5.5 miles we came to a junction with the Linney Creek Trail.
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We had spotted some potential campsites along the Salmon River from above just before the junction so we turned down the Linney Creek Trail to check them out.
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The remnants of an old bridge could be seen on the far side of the Salmon River where the Linney Creek Trail used to cross.
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There was a nice large established campsite here which we claimed and set up camp.
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After getting set up we switched to our day packs and climbed the short distance back up to the Salmon River Trail and continued west. For the next three miles the trial continued above the Salmon River to a junction with the Kinzel Lake Trail. We began seeing more flowers along this stretch and also saw the first of two garter snakes for the day.
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Shortly before reaching the Kinzel Lake Trail we crossed Kinzel Creek which had a small waterfall visible through trees.
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IMG_4853Kinzel Lake Trail

The flower display continued to improve beyond the Kinzel Lake junction with the rhodies now in full bloom.
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We also passed our first other person of the day when we spotted another backpacker camped near Goat Creek. A bit over a half mile beyond Goat Creek the trail entered a grassy area with the first real viewpoint of the day.
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We turned out toward the viewpoint where we found more flowers and a limited view of the Salmon River below.
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We knew from our 100 Hikes in Northwest Oregon guidebook that there was a series of three viewpoints along this section of trail. The third of which (coming form the east) being the only one we had visited on our previous hike. After the first viewpoint we passed by what appeared to be a use trail and kept going for a moment before deciding to go back and make sure this wasn’t the route to the middle viewpoint. It was not, but what it turned out to be was the very steep, rugged scramble to an overlook of Frustration Falls.
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We were aware that there was a use trail to a view of these falls and originally had no intention of seeking it out. We lucked out in that the conditions were perfect on this day so the trail was not wet or muddy which could make it extra slick. It was slick enough just due to the steepness and loose rocks so we relied heavily on our poles. In all the trail lost around 350 feet in less than a quarter mile. This was definitely not a trail for everyone and anyone wishing to attempt it does so at their own risk. With that said we were happy to have accidentally stumbled on the trail and sat next to a small creek with it’s own fall for a bit admiring the thundering cataract below.
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IMG_4941Cliffs along the hillside above the Salmon River

After the break we struggled back up the scramble path.
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Shortly after being back on the Salmon River Trail we came to the actual middle viewpoint which didn’t have a view of the river at all just up and down the forested canyon.
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Another quarter mile brought us to the start of a familiar small loop around the final viewpoint area.
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This was as far as we’d come from the west end of the trail and meant that we had now covered the entire Salmon River Trail. The grassy viewpoint here was full of June flowers which would be long gone at the end of August.
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The view was quite a bit different too.
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Salmon River Canyon

We finished the .4 mile loop and started back for camp. We had run into a few more hikers since Goat Creek but by the time we got back to the campsites along that creek we had passed them all. We saw one additional hiker between Goat Creek and the Kinzel Lake Trail then not another soul on the rest of the backpacking trip.

We got back to camp a quarter to five and relaxed for the rest of the evening. I had figured that it could be a 16 mile day if we decided to camp near Linney Creek, but I hadn’t figured in the side trips to viewpoints, the scramble trail down to the Frustration Falls view, or the hike up and down the Linney Creek Trail to the campsite. At the end of the day we’d covered closer to 18 miles so we were pretty well pooped. We were however excited to try out some new pieces of gear including an Enlightened Equipment quilt that Heather had recently purchased and for me it was a Thermarest Air Head pillow.

We were both pleased with our new gear and after a good nights sleep at what turned out to be a great campsite we were up at 5am ready to hike back to the trailhead. Even though we had hiked those same 5.5 miles the previous day we managed to spot some candy sticks starting to sprout that we’d missed on our way by the first time.
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As I mentioned at the beginning of this post we stopped by Trillium Lake on the way home where we got some more water and took a look at the lake. This time we paid a $5 day use fee that attendants were collecting, apparently we were there early enough the day before that the attendants weren’t yet out. We figured we’ve paid $5 for two bottles of water before so why not.

Were looking forward to more overnight trips in the next several months and this was a great trial run for the new gear. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Salmon River Overnight

Mirror Lake and Pioneer Bridle Trails

As our official 2017 hiking season came to a close, a break from the recent wet and cold weather provided us an opportunity to turn back to a hike we had be planning to do two weeks earlier. Possible icy road conditions had kept us from attempting the early morning drive to the Mirror Lake Trailhead near Government Camp, OR then.

The Mirror Lake Trail is one of the most popular trails in the Mt. Hood area and the parking area fills up fast so we wanted to get to the trailhead as early as possible. The Federal Highway Administration is in the process of moving the trailhead which is scheduled to be completed in the Fall of 2018 (click here for details).

We arrived before dawn and then discovered that the batteries were dead in my headlamp so we had to wait for some light before setting off on the trail which starts by crossing Camp Creek on a footbridge.
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A second footbridge crosses over Mirror Lake’s outlet creek.
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It was still fairly dark as we climbed up towards Mirror Lake which is just 1.4 miles from the trailhead. The short distance is part of the reason for the trails popularity as it makes it kid friendly. As it climbs the trail passes through some rock slides with limited views.
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Just before reaching the lake the trail splits providing a loop around the water. We went left crossing the outlet creek again and worked our way clockwise around the small lake.
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Across the lake we could see our goal for this hike, Tom Dick and Harry Mountain.
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One of the other things that makes this hike popular is that there is a view of Mt. Hood from the south end of Mirror Lake.
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It was too windy to have a reflection of Oregon’s tallest peak.
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When we came to a T-shaped junction on the west side of the lake we turned left toward Tom Dick and Harry Mountain and we were soon in the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness.
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The trail traversed along a hillside passing through more rock slides where we heard some pikas and had a view across Highway 26 and back over our shoulders to Mt. Hood.
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Approximately a mile from the junction the trail turned sharply left at a huge rock pile.
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The trail then climbed gradually through an open forest to the rocky summit of the western most of three summits that earned the mountain three names.
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Two weeks before, snow had been down to Mirror Lake and the summit was covered but warmer weather had melted all of it. It was going to be another unseasonably warm bluebird day which allowed us a clear 360 degree view from the summit.
IMG_1077Mt. Hood and Mirror Lake with Mt. Adams in the background

IMG_1081From left to right: Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, and Mt. Adams.

IMG_1073Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness

IMG_1071Mt. Jefferson

IMG_1094Olallie Butte, Mt. Jefferson, and the top of Three Fingered Jack

IMG_1096The rest of Tom Dick and Harry Mt.

IMG_1099Lookout Mountain and Gunsight Butte in the Badger Creek Wilderness east of Mt. Hood.

There were a few other hikers at the summit (those that had working headlamps) but it was still early enough not to feel crowded. We spent a while sitting on the rocks and might have spent more time had it been a little less breezy. Instead of pulling layers out of our packs we headed back down. We passed a lot of people on their way up, but we also passed a number of local residents including a squirrel and a pika who both took a breaks from gathering food to pose for us.
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Any hike that involves a pika sighting is a success.

By the time we passed by Mirror Lake there was a steady stream of hikers coming uphill. Luckily the trail is wide enough to allow two way traffic in many places. IMG_1126

The roundtrip distance for the hike was 6.5 miles with 1500′ of elevation gain. That left us with plenty of time and enough gas in our tanks for a second stop.

That second stop was basically just across Highway 26. From the current Mirror Lake Trailhead we headed east on the highway for three quarters of a mile where we turned left opposite the western entrance to Mt. Hood Ski Bowl at a sign for the Glacier View Sno-Park. We parked at a gate after just .2 miles and followed a pointer for the Crosstown and Pioneer Bridle Trails.
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A confusion of trails met here but we followed the pointers and signs for the Pioneer Bridle Trail.
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After a very short distance on the Pioneer Bridle Trail we came to a fork where a sign on the path to the left identified it as the “Route of Barlow Road
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The 80 mile Barlow Road is a historic wagon road was built by Sam Barlow, Phillip Foster and their crews in 1846 as a new route on the Oregon Trail. Although it was steep and rough the route offered an alternative to the dangerous and expensive Columbia River passage. The ability of large wagons to pass over the Cascades to the Willamette Valley led to a significant increase in the number of emigrants to Oregon.

Our route followed the Pioneer Bridle Trail though so we took the signed right hand fork which soon crossed over the small outlet creek of Enid Lake.
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The Pioneer Bridle Trail spent most of it’s time close enough to Highway 26 that the sound of traffic on the road was consistent and for a short stretch was right next to the guard rail which didn’t make for the most peaceful hike. Just under a mile and a half from where we’d parked the Pioneer Bridle Trail passed under the abandoned Mt. Hood loop highway.
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Before descending to the tunnel we took a short spur path to the old road and turned right hoping to visit Little Zigzag Falls.
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After following the road for a tenth of a mile we arrived at the Little Zigzag Falls Trailhead (yes you can drive here).
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A short quarter mile family friendly path here follows Little Zigzag Creek to scenic Little Zigzag Falls.
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After visiting the falls, which we were lucky enough to have to ourselves for a bit, we returned to the Pioneer Bridle Trail. We turned right and passed through the tunnel continuing west on the trail.
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Not long after passing under the old highway the current highway began to fall away from the trail making this section a bit more serene. A fence along the way marked the spot of an old mine shaft.
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Approximately three quarters of a mile from the tunnel the trail split. This wasn’t shown on our map or in our guidebook but we forked right which wound up being the Original route of the Oregon Trail.
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The trails rejoined in under a half mile (the Pioneer Bridle Trail was often visible through the trees). We continued for approximately another 3/4 miles to the start of a series of switchbacks. We decided to end our hike here instead of descending for about a mile to the lower Pioneer Bridle Laurel Hill Trailhead.
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We stuck to the Pioneer Bridle Trail on the way back. The total distance for this hike was 7.4 miles with around 700′ of elevation gain. If we were to do it over as a stand alone hike we probably would have started at the lower trailhead and hiked up to Little Zigzag Falls and back due to how close Highway 26 was to the trail at the upper end but having done the Mirror Lake hike first it made more sense to start at the upper end.

For the day we put in 13.9 miles and we got a lot back. Clear views of 5 volcanoes (and the top of Three Fingered Jack), a lake with a mountain view, a waterfall, some history and best of all a Pika. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Mirror Lake and Pioneer Bridle Trails

Vista Ridge Trail to Elk Cove – Mt. Hood

August is typically one of our busier hiking months but this year things are working out differently. We’ve both had things come up at work leading us to change our vacation plans, the date of our annual family reunion changed, there are forest fires closing large areas of both the Mt. Jefferson and Three Sisters Wildernesses, and the upcoming solar eclipse essentially eliminated any realistic plans for hiking around the 21st.

We actually almost skipped our weekly hike this time around but knowing we’d later regret that decision we turned to Mt. Hood, which has thus far escaped the fire issues this year. Our plan was to take the Vista Ridge Trail up to the Timberline Trail and visit a few familiar areas – Eden Park, Cairn Basin, and Elk Cove.

We began at the Vista Ridge Trailhead.

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We set off through the forest which was damp from a light mist that fell for most of the day.

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It was actually really nice to hike in the cool temperatures and to see some moisture falling.

 

The trail enters an area burned by the 2011 Dollar Lake Fire near a registration box for the Mt. Hood Wilderness after a half mile.

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The Vista Ridge Trail is probably best known for its displays of avalanche lilies in the burn area during July but we discovered that August provided an amazing display of its own.

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The amount of fireweed was simply amazing.

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With all the fires currently burning it was nice to be reminded that the forests will recover eventually.

With the misty conditions views were limited but Pinnacle Ridge was visible across the Clear Branch Valley and we spied a bit of Laurence Lake as well as Bald Butte further in the distance.

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After two and a half miles we arrived at the junction with the Eden Park Loop Trail.

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A few avalanche lilies were still blooming in this area.

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We turned down the Eden Park Trail which descended through more burned forest filled with more fireweed and some small meadows with other wildflowers.

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We also crossed several small wildflower lined streams flowing down toward Ladd Creek.

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Eight tenths of a mile from the Vista Ridge Trail junction we arrived at Ladd Creek itself.

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Just beyond Ladd Creek we arrived at Eden Park.

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Beyond Eden Park the trail began to climb on its way up to the Timberline Trail at Cairn Basin.

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We turned left on the Timberline Trail and took a short snack break in Carin Basin and visited the stone shelter.

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After leaving Cairn Basin we recrossed Ladd Creek.

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It was about a mile from this upper crossing to the junction with the Vista Ridge Trail. There were lots of wildflowers along this stretch as well as some lingering snow.

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Wy’East Basin lay just beyond the junction with more flower lined streams.

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We continued on from Wy’East Basin heading toward Elk Cove. Despite not being able to see the mountain, just being on the Timberline Trail gave us that alpine feeling that only the mountains can.

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We had passed several rock fields where we had listened and looked for one of our favorite animals, the pika, but had not had any luck. As we began the descent to Elk Cove though we heard the distinctive “meep” of a pika. It’s a sound that always brings a smile to our faces. We had stopped along the trail for a moment to look around and just as we started to resume hiking we spotted one sitting on the rocks ahead.

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The descent to Elk Cove when hiking clockwise on the Timberline Trail is an extremely scenic section of trail when visibility is good. The clouds and mist took a bit away from the epic views but it was still an impressive sight.

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The further down into the cove we went the better the flower display became.

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We stopped at an empty campsite near a creek and took a seat while we took in the beauty of the surrounding area.

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We could occasionally see some blue sky to the east which gave us a just a bit of hope that maybe we’d get a view of the mountain after all.

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The blue sky looked to be just on the side of the mountain though and the clouds were continuing to blow in from the west.

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After a while the combination of our damp clothes and the cool breeze became a little chilly so we decided to head back. It appeared that we were out of luck on a mountain view this time but as we were climbing out of the cove the clouds began to break even more.

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We waited and watched as the sky cleared up just enough to reveal the mountain before swallowing it up once more.

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It had lasted less than a minute and then we were back in the cloudy mist but it was the icing on the cake for what had already been a great hike. We returned to the junction with the Vista Ridge Trail where we turned downhill, passing the Eden Park Trail junction in .3 miles and arriving back at our car in another two and a half miles. The total distance for the day was just over 11 miles with a little under 2000′ of elevation gain.

We were very glad we hadn’t skipped our weekly hike. Getting out on the trail was really just what we had needed. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Vista Ridge Trail

Lower White River Wilderness and Twin Lakes Loop

We took advantage of a favorable weather forecast and ended our “hiking season” with a pair of hikes south of Mt. Hood in two separate wilderness areas. Our first hike was in the Lower White River Wilderness.

Designated a wilderness area in 2009, the 4 square mile Lower White River Wilderness has no official trails. The narrow wilderness SE of Mt. Hood covers a portion of the White River and it’s canyon on either side from Keeps Mill Forest Camp for approximately 7.5 miles. A use trail from the forest camp follows the river a short distance and this was our planned route into the wilderness.
Lower White River Wilderness Sign

Keeps Mill Forest Camp is located at the end of Road 2120 which is accessed from Highway 216. The narrow dirt road is poorly maintained along the final mile and a half making it suitable only for high clearance vehicles. Instead of driving all the way down to the camp we parked at a pullout near the Camas Trail which crosses Road 2120 on it’s way from Camas Prairie to Keeps Mill Forest Camp.
Camas Trail sign along Road 2010

We followed the Camas Trail down to the campground. It was still pretty dark and also fairly foggy when we arrived back on Road 2120 near the entrance of Keeps Mill Forest Camp.
Keep's Mill Forest Camp

The campground is located near the confluence of Clear Creek and the White River.
Clear Creek
Clear Creek

White River
White River

We found the use trail along the river and followed it for about half a mile where it appeared to become fairly brushy.

Lower White River Wilderness

White River

Lower White River Wilderness

The trail had been traveling between the river and a talus slope where the remains of an old flume could be seen amid the rocks.
Talus slope with the remains of an old flume

Old flume remains in the Lower White River Wilderness

We turned around here having accomplished our goal of hiking into the wilderness and seeing some of the flume remains and headed back to the campground and up the Camas Trail.
Camas Trail

Fog and a little blue sky over the talus slope along the Camas Trail

When we got back to where we’d parked Heather spotted a doe that quickly fled into the forest. The hike had been just under 2 miles with approximately 250′ of elevation gain climbing up the Camas Trail.

We hopped back into the car and headed toward Mt. Hood turning off Highway 26 at the Frog Lake Sno-Park for our next hike.
Frog Lake Sno-Park sign

Our planned hike here was a loop visiting Palmateer Point, the Twin Lakes, Frog Lake Butte, and Frog Lake. We began by heading north from the large parking lot on a short connector trail that brought us to the Pacific Crest Trail.
Pacific Crest Trail near the Frog Lake Sno-Park

We turned right on the PCT at a sign for Barlow Pass.
Trail sign for Barlow Pass

Pacific Crest Trail

After 1.4 miles we arrived a trail junction with the Twin Lakes Trail.
Pacific Crest Trail near the Mt. Hood Wilderness boundary

Turning right on the Twin Lakes Trail would have led past Lower then Upper Twin Lake before returning to the PCT 1.4 miles to the north after traveling a total of 3.1 miles. We had a longer loop planned so we stuck to the PCT and entered the Mt. Hood Wilderness.
Pacific Crest Trail entering the Mt. Hood Wilderness

There were no views along this section of the PCT but it was a pleasant forest walk and we kept busy spotting all the different mushrooms along the trail.
Mushroom

Mushrooms

Mushrooms

Mushrooms

Mushrooms

Mushroom along the Pacific Crest Trail

We passed the other end of the Twin Lakes Trail sticking to the PCT for another 3/4 miles to the Palmateer Trail.
Twin Lakes Trail

Palmeteer Trail

We turned onto the Palmateer Trail and followed it for nearly a mile passing a junction with the Devil’s Half Acre Trail along the way.
Palmateer Trail

Trail sign along the Palmateer Trail

We forked left at a post after .9 miles.
Spur trail to Palmateer Point

This .3 mile spur trail led up to Palmateer Point.
Heading to Palmateer Point

View along the spur trail to Palmateer Point

We were hoping for a close up view of Mt. Hood but found that a jumble of clouds were preventing that.
Mt. Hood behind clouds from Palamteer Point

We took a break on the point watching a pair of hawks soaring nearby and admiring the golden larches in the valley below.
One of two hawks flying around Palmateer Point

Hawk on Palmateer Point

Larches

Larches

This was our first good look at the larches, the only deciduous conifers, sporting their fall colors.

After getting a brief glimpse of Mt. Hood’s summit we headed back down to continue our loop.
Mt. Hood hiding behind clouds from Palmateer Point

We passed in and out of small patches of fog for the next .6 miles to a junction with a .2 mile tie-trail that would have led to the Twin Lakes Trail.
Sunrays in the Mt. Hood Wilderness

Trail sign along the Palmateer Trail

This was the route equestrians would need to take, but we stuck to the Palmateer Trail heading for another viewpoint.
Palmateer Trail

Mt. Hood was still mostly hidden when we arrived at the small rocky viewpoint so it was once again the larches that were the highlight.
Mt. Hood from the Palmateer Trail

Larches in the valley below the Palmateer Trail

Larches

We followed the Palmateer Trail to it’s end at the Twin Lakes Trail along Upper Twin Lake.
Upper Twin Lake

Mt. Hood was starting to reveal more of itself as the day went on.
Mt. Hood from Upper Twin Lake

We followed trails counter-clockwise around the lake getting an even better view of the mountain’s snowy summit from the lake’s southern end.
Upper Twin Lake

Mt. Hood from Upper Twin Lake

Mt. Hood from Upper Twin Lake

When we arrived back at the Twin Lakes Trail we headed south down to Lower Twin Lake which was .7 miles away.
Trail junction near Upper Twin Lake

The lower lake is just off the Twin Lakes Trail and is accessed from the direction we were coming from by the Frog Lake Butte Trail.
Frog Lake Butte Trail sign near Lower Twin Lake

Lower Twin Lake

Again we did a counter-clockwise loop around the lake.
Lower Twin Lake

The quickest way back to the sno-park would have been to return to the Twin Lakes Trail and follow it back to the Pacific Crest Trail for a 9.1 mile loop (not counting the loops around the lakes). By being willing to do an extra 4 miles though we could visit one more viewpoint and another lake by taking the Frog Lake Butte Trail.
Frog Lake Butte Trail

This trail led 1.3 miles to a junction on a saddle with the Frog Lake Trail.
Frog Lake Butte Trail

At the junction we turned uphill toward Frog Lake Butte climbing steeply for .7 miles to the summit.
Cell tower on Frog Lake Butte

The final portion of the trail followed Frog Lake Butte Road past a communications tower to a viewpoint where Mt. Hood was now mostly visible.
Mt. Hood from Frog Lake Butte

Mt. Hood from Frog Lake Butte

We stayed at the viewpoint for awhile watching as the clouds slowly passed by.
Mt. Hood from Frog Lake Butte

When we were satisfied that we’d gotten about as good a view as we were going to get we headed back down to the Frog Lake Trail and continued downhill on it.
Frog Lake Butte Trail

This trail crossed Frog Lake Butte Road before entering what appeared to be an old clear cut where we had a nice view of Mt. Jefferson to the south.
Frog Lake Butte Trail

Mt. Jefferson from the Frog Lake Butte Trail

Mt. Jefferson from the Frog Lake Butte Trail

After 1.3 miles we arrived at the Frog Lake Campground where we detoured briefly to get a look at Frog Lake.
Frog Lake

Frog Lake

A .7 mile walk along Frog Lake Butte Road brought us back to the sno-park and our waiting car.
Frog Lake Butte Road

The loop came to 14.1 miles which was nicely broken up into shorter sections by the various sights and trail junctions. It was a very enjoyable hike on a great weather day and a perfect end to our 2016 hiking season. We’ll try and get out on a trail at least once a month until next year’s season starts. For now – Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157672250482753

Cooper Spur

We have had the hike up Cooper Spur on Mt. Hood in our plans for the last several years but for one reason or another it has wound up getting bumped from the schedule.  It was on our schedule again this year with an October date set.  Not wanting to miss out on this hike again we decided to take advantage of what appeared to be an excellent weather forecast and move it up.

Our plan was to start out at the Tilly Jane Ski Trail along Forest Road 3512 and explore the Cloud Cap/Tilly Jane Historic District as well as hiking up Cooper Spur. This starting point adds nearly 2000′ of elevation gain and approximately 5.5 miles to the hike vs starting at either the Tilly Jane or Cloud Cap Saddle Campgrounds but we decided we’d rather spend time hiking up to those areas than driving an additional 30 minutes each way.

The trailhead is located just beyond the Cooper Spur Ski Area on Forest Road 3512. To reach it turn off of Highway 35 onto Cooper Spur Road then turn left onto Cloud Cap Road (Forest Road 3512) at the Cooper Spur Mountain Resort. The trailhead is 1.5 miles along this road with parking on the right.
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Informational signs at the trailhead told a little about the historic district.
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The trail headed uphill through the forest, reaching a junction after a half mile with the Polallie Ridge Trail which we would be taking as part of our return route.
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The trail climbed very steadily and soon entered forest burned in the 2011 Dollar Lake Fire.
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The burnt trees allowed for some nice views of not only Mt. Hood but also Mt. Adams, Mt. Rainier, and Mt. St. Helens in Washington.
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It was very apparent that earlier in the year there had been a nice display of wildflowers along the trail but most of them had long since passed although a few holdouts did remain.
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The dead trees seemed to host plenty of life in the form of a variety of birds flying from tree to tree.
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After nearly 3 miles of climbing we neared the Tilly Jane A Frame which was hidden in non-burnt trees.
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Despite being threatened by the 2011 fire, firefighters had been able to save all the structures in the historic district.

Heather and I were busy talking as we approached the A-Frame and I suddenly noticed there was a deer in the trail about 20 yards away. It walked into the trees as I was grabbing the camera, but then a second deer appeared.
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She sized us up for a moment then proceeded to take a few bites of the plants as she followed the other one into the trees.
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As we continued up the trail we spotted the first deer and saw that it was a young buck.
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After watching the deer for a moment we proceeded to the A-Frame to have a look.
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The A-Frame was constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1939 and can sleep up to 20. It originally had a kitchen and dining hall on the ground floor with the sleeping area above in the loft.

West of the A-Frame is the Legion Cookhouse (built in 1924) which is not in the best of shape.
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Just beyond the cookhouse a trail sign announced the Tilly Jane Trail.
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We turned left on the trail after taking a quick look at the American Legion Amphitheater which was also constructed in the 1920s.
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The Tilly Jane Trail enters the Mt. Hood Wilderness about a quarter mile from the cookhouse.
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The trail then proceeds uphill along the Polallie Creek Canyon just over three quarters of a mile to the Timberline Trail. A 1980 flash flood sent an 80′ deep wall of water and debris down the canyon. Viewpoints along the way offered a look at the origin of the flood at the headwall of the canyon.
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Beyond the viewpoint of the headwall the forest began thinning out providing nice views ahead of Mt. Hood.
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We also had a great view of Mt. Adams which is something we seem to rarely get.
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Just over a mile from the cookhouse and 4 miles from the trailhead on FR 3512 we arrived at the Timberline Trail.
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We followed the pointer for Cooper Spur a tenth of a mile to the Cooper Spur Shelter.
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Cloud Cap Inn was visible from the shelter which we planned to visit on our way down.
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We continued up from the shelter following a clear trail.
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The official trail shown on maps switchbacks uphill but we wound up off the trail after visiting a viewpoint of the Eliot Glacier near a memorial plaque for Robert Edling, a mountain rescue pilot that died in a crop duster accident near The Dalles.
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From the memorial plaque we headed straight up the ridge following a confusion of faint paths up through the rocks.
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This was much steeper than the switchbacks would have been and when the official trail came close enough for us to see it we hopped back on. We left it again though when it headed straight for a snowfield. It was a cold morning (the expected high for the day in the area was 48) and we knew that the snow would be covered in ice so we wouldn’t be able to cross it. We returned to the edge of the ridge and headed straight up again. In addition to making the distance a little shorter, the main advantage to this route were the views. The views of the Eliot Glacier were really interesting.
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The route steepened quite a bit as it veered to the east to climb to the top of a moraine.
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A stone windbreak at the top wasn’t housing any hikers but there were a few ladybugs taking shelter.
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The official trail ends here where the views were spectacular. To the south Broken Top, The Three Sisters, and Mt. Jefferson were all visible.
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To the north Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, and Mt. Adams were all virtually cloud free.
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To the NE the Columbia River snaked from the dry brown landscape of eastern WA and OR into the forested cliffs of the Columbia Gorge.
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Further to the east the Newton Clark Glacier drained into the Newton Creek Canyon.
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Mt. Hood provided the most dramatic view though.
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One of the features on Mt. Hood that we had a good view of was Pulpit Rock.
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Another unique feature in the area is Hiroshima Rock. A boulder inscribed by a group of Japanese climbers in 1910.
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For more information on the Hiroshima Rock check out this post by WyEast Blog.

Even though the official trail ended at roughly 8500′ on top of the moraine, a climbers trail continued along the ridge past Tie-in Rock, a large boulder not far beyond the start of the ridge. The ridge was snow free so we continued on passing Tie-in Rock and continuing to an elevation just over 8900′ where the trail dropped slightly to a saddle between the Eliot and Newton Clark Glaciers.

Heather crossing the ridge. (Tie-in Rock is the large boulder in the distance just to the right of the trail.)
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The first section of the ridge was somewhat level before a final rocky climb to our turnaround point.
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We passed a final memorial plaque along the way remembering the victims of a 1981 climbing accident.
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Other than a bow hunter, who had been at the trailhead when we arrived that morning, we hadn’t seen anyone other people and were alone on the ridge.
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From this highest point one final Cascade Peak came into view to the south – Diamond Peak.
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After enjoying the views we headed back down the way we’d come. As we were descending some high clouds passed overhead changing the scenery a bit.
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We decided to follow the official trail on the way down from the moraine which turned out not to be the best decision. The snowfield was still impassible and it was a lot bigger than we had anticipated which caused us to have to swing out wide and make our way down along the snow in loose rocks and sand.
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After passing below the snowfield we contoured back toward the official trail eventually picking it up about a mile and a half from the Timberline Trail. We then followed it back down to the junction and turned left on the Timberline Trail and headed toward Cloud Cap.
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The trail descended to a crossing of the upper (and dry) portion of Tilly Jane Creek where it split. With no signs it was difficult to tell if we should turn downhill along the creek or climb to the ridge along the Eliot Moraine. We chose to go up where we found a nice path with great views along the ridge.
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Near the end of the moraine the trail dropped down to the right into the forest.
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After 1.2 miles we came to a sign for the Cloud Cap Trailhead.
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We followed that trail for 100 yards to the Cloud Cap Saddle Campground where a road led up and around a hill to the Cloud Cap Inn.
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Snowshoe Cabin
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Cloud Cap Inn
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The inn was opened in 1889 and is currently maintained by the Hood River Crag Rats who use the inn as a base for snow surveys and mountain rescues. Click  here for more on the inn’s history.

After visiting Cloud Cap we passed back through the campground where we turned left on the Tilly Jane Trail.
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This section of the trail passed through a mix of burnt and unburnt forest and still had a few flowers along it.
Aster
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Pearly everlasting
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Goldenrod
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We followed signs to the Tilly Jane Campground and the 1924 Tilly Jane Guard Station.
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The trail crossed Tilly Jane Creek on a footbridge between the Guard Station and the amphitheater.
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Instead of returning on the Tilly Jane Ski Trail which led past the A-Frame we turned back uphill on the Tilly Jane Trail for a couple hundred feet to a trail sign for the Polallie Ridge Trail.
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The Polallie Ridge Trail quickly entered the Dollar Fire burn area. The trail stuck closely to the top of the ridge as it headed straight downhill.
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There was a nice view back to Mt. Hood as well as the headwall of the Polallie Creek Canyon.
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The trail was faint and appeared to get more use by deer than hikers. Manzanita and chinkapin covered sections of the trail but it was passable.
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chinkapin
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The trail eventually reentered forest unaffected by the fire and just over 2 miles from the Tilly Jane Trail junction we turned left following a blue arrow for the Polallie Ridge Trail.
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Another quarter mile brought us back to the Tilly Jane Ski Trail just .5 miles from our car.
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The total distance for the hike was 13.9 miles with a little over 5000′ of elevation gain. It had been a near perfect day for the hike with the cool temperatures and lack of troublesome clouds. Having had Cooper Spur all to ourselves was just a bonus. We had begun seeing other hikers when we began descending from the moraine at 8500′ and there were plenty of cars at Cloud Cap and the Tilly Jane Campground as well as the trailhead when we got back. It was another good reminder why we get ourselves up so early on hiking days.

Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157674245738906

Paradise Park via Hidden Lake Trail

Just like our previous hike (Jefferson Park via Woodpecker Ridge) our latest outing consisted of a new way to visit a familiar area. Our goal this time was Paradise Park on Mt. Hood which we had hiked to twice previously; first in August 2012 on a day hike from Timberline Lodge and again in July 2014 during an overnight trip that started from the Burnt Lake Trailhead.  This hike was originally going to be a 13.2 mile day hike consisting of  a loop using the Hidden Lake, Pacific Crest, and Paradise Park Trails.  The drawback to this plan was that the planned loop did not bring us to Paradise Park. We would need to add at least another mile to the hike to reach the park and even then we would only be seeing a small portion of the Paradise Park area.   Our solution was to turn it into an overnight backpacking trip which would allow us to set up camp and then explore to our hearts content (or until our feet said no more).

We decided to park at the Paradise Park Trailhead and walk .9 miles along Road 39 to the Hidden Lake Trailhead.
Paradise Park Trailhead

Hidden Lake Trailhead

We turned up the Hidden Lake Trail, stopping to fill out a wilderness permit and read a nearby sign recalling the organization of the Mazamas.
Hidden Lake Trail

Interpretive sign near the Hidden Lake Trailhead

The Hidden Lake Trail climbed at a pretty good pitch at first, eventually becoming less steep as it gained the forested ridge and approached Hidden Lake.
Entering the Mt. Hood Wilderness on the Hidden Lake Trail

Hidden Lake Trail

We reached the spur trail to Hidden Lake about 2 miles up the Hidden Lake Trail. The lake itself was not visible from the trail but the presence of a campsite just off the trail gave its presence away. We followed the spur trail past the campsite to the small forested lake.
Hidden Lake

Hidden Lake

Hidden Lake

The muddy lake shore seemed to be attracting a fair number of yellow jackets so we kept our distance and didn’t stay long. From the lake the trail climbed nearly another 2000′ in approximately 2.5 miles. The forested ridge provided no views of Mt. Hood but there was a nice supply of ripe huckleberries for us to munch on as we climbed. The trees did provide some protection from the Sun which was welcome because it was already a warm morning. Temperatures in the Willamette Valley were supposed to hit triple digits and the high at Paradise Park was forecast to be around 70 for the day. We were able to keep a decent pace though and at the Pacific Crest Trail we turned left toward Paradise Park.
Hidden Lake Trail junction with the Pacific Crest Trail

Mt. Hood finally came into view as we hiked along the PCT.
Mt. Hood from the Pacific Crest Trail

From the Hidden Lake Trail junction it was a mile and a half to the dramatic Zigzag Canyon overlook. From the overlook, Mt. Hood looms behind Mississippi Head as the Zigzag River roars below.
Mt. Hood and the Zigzag River Canyon

To the south Mt. Jefferson was visible although it was a little hazy.
Mt. Jefferson

The PCT drops approximately 500′ from the overlook down to the Zigzag River. We rock hopped across the water then decided to head upstream toward Zigzag Falls.
Zigzag Falls

On our 2012 hike we noticed the fall but didn’t actually make it all the way there. It had seemed too far away. Our definition of “too far” has apparently changed over time. This time Zigzag Falls appeared relatively close and it didn’t take us long to arrive at the waterfall.
Zigzag Falls

Zigzag Falls

We were surprised at the power of the waterfall as it crashed down into the splash pool. A nice cool mist was being generated and we took advantage by sitting nearby and taking a fairly long break. After cooling off we returned to the PCT and continued toward Paradise Park. The climb out of the northern side of the canyon was much shorter than the descent on the far side and shortly after climbing out we came to a junction with the Paradise Park Loop Trail.
Pacific Crest Trail junction with the southern end of the Paradise Park Loop Trail

The 2.4 mile Paradise Park Loop Trail climbs up to the wildflower meadows of Paradise Park and eventually rejoins the PCT further to the north. Before we headed up to Paradise Park though, we wanted to find a campsite so we could leave our heavy backpacks behind. After passing the junction we began looking for a suitable spot. We were hoping to find something near the junction with the Paradise Park Trail which was just a half mile from the Paradise Park Loop Trail. There were a couple decent spots just before we reached the Paradise Park Trail but we preferred to be a little further off the busy Pacific Crest Trail so we decided to turn down the Paradise Park Trail and see if we could find something along this trail.
Paradise Park Trail junction with the Pacific Crest Trail

As we descended the .2 miles to a junction with the Burnt Lake Trail, we agreed to turn around if we were unable to find a decent campsite. We found what we were looking for near the trail junction and were able to set up our tent.
Campsite along the Paradise Park Trail

After getting camp situated we headed back up to the Pacific Crest Trail where we faced a choice. To reach Paradise Park we could go straight up the Paradise Park Trail, turn right and take the Paradise Park Loop counterclockwise, or turn left and do the loop clockwise. We had done the loop counterclockwise in 2012 and gone straight up the Paradise Park Trail in 2014 so of course we chose clockwise this time just to be different. When we reached Lost Creek we turned off the PCT and headed up a sandy hill to visit Lost Creek Falls.
Lost Creek Falls

Lost Creek Falls

Lost Creek Falls

Continuing on from Lost Creek Falls we passed the trickle of the ironically named Rushing Water Creek.
Rushing Water Creek

We reached the northern end of the Paradise Park Loop Trail 2 miles from the Paradise Park Trail and turned uphill.
Pacific Crest Trail junction with the northern end of the Paradise Park Loop Trail

The northern end of the trail passes through drier meadows that were filled with aster and big views of Mt. Hood. A wider variety of flowers were present where there was more moisture.
Mt. Hood from the Paradise Park Loop Trail

Mt. Hood from the Paradise Park Loop Trail

Mt. Hood and split rock from the Paradise Park Loop Trail

Gentians
Gentians

Cat’s ear lily
Cat's ear lily

Mt. Hood from the Paradise Park Loop Trail

Mt. Hood from the Paradise Park Loop Trail

We stopped to get water from the wildflower lined north fork of Lost Creek.
Mt. Hood from the Paradise Park Loop Trail

Wildflowers along a branch of Lost Creek

Wildflowers alogn a branch of Lost Creek

Mt. Hood was briefly hidden as we wrapped around a hillside covered in aster and fireweed that separates the branches of Lost Creek.
Fireweed and aster along the Paradise Park Loop Trail

Meadows of aster and lupine were visible below the trail.
Aster meadow

Lupine and groundsel

Beyond the hill we passed the site of the former Paradise Park Shelter before descending to the main branch of Lost Creek.
Site of the former Paradise Park shelter

Mt. Hood from the Paradise Park Loop Trail at Lost Creek

There were lots of flowers near the creek including an impressive patch of yellow and pink monkeyflower.
Wildflowers along Lost Creek

Mt. Hood from the Paradise Park Loop Trail

The meadows along the trail on the south side of Lost Creek were much greener with more wildflowers.
Lupine and groundsel

Mt. Hood from the Paradise Park Loop Trail

When we arrived at the junction with the Paradise Park Trail we remarked at the difference in the types of flowers present from our visit in 2012. That visit had been on August 27th and the meadow had been full of lupine and bistort.
Mt. Hood from Paradise Park

This time it was mostly aster that filled the meadow.
Mt. Hood from the Paradise Park Trail

One area we had not explored on either of our previous visit was further up the Paradise Park Trail so this time we turned toward the mountain and headed up through the wildflower meadows.
Mt. Hood from the Paradise Park Trail

It was interesting to see how the composition of the meadows changed along the way. We passed areas of purple aster, white bistort, and eventually dwarf lupine and yarrow.
Mt. Hood from the Paradise Park Trail

Mt. Hood from the Paradise Park Trail

Mt. Hood from the Paradise Park Trail

Mt. Hood from the Paradise Park Trail

We took a break on a large rock with a great view of Mt. Hood and Mississippi Head.
Mt. Hood from the Paradise Park Trail

Mississippi Head

There was a cool breeze coming off Mt. Hood which made the temperature perfect. After a snack we followed the trail over to a ridge overlooking the upper portions of the Zigzag Canyon where a couple of waterfalls were visible.
Trail heading over to an overlook of the Zigzag River Canyon

Mississippi Head and Mt. Hood

Seeps flowing down into the Zigzag River Canyon

Waterfall in the Zigzag River Canyon

We headed back down to the Paradise Park Loop Trail and then opted to finish the loop instead of heading straight back down the Paradise Park Trail to the PCT. Once we were back on the Pacific Crest Trail we decided that we would hike back to Lost Creek Falls in order to cook dinner and then refill our water supply for the night. We cooked dinner on the sandy hill then moved to a rock with a view of the falls to eat. As the Sun lowered there was almost a rainbow effect at the base of Lost Creek Falls.
Lost Creek Falls

Lost Creek Falls

After dinner we filtered some water then returned to our campsite along the Paradise Park Trail. Stopping along the way at a nice huckleberry patch for dessert.
Huckleberries along the Paradise Park Trail

Huckleberries along the Paradise Park Trail

It was just after 7pm when we arrived back at camp. There were a ton of little flies out and a fair number of mosquitoes that were much more interested in Heather than myself so we quickly headed into the tent for the night which was okay because we’d somehow managed to put in 19.7 miles for the day.
Campsite along the Paradise Park Trail

It was still dark when we woke the next morning as I went to check the time on my phone. We both expected it to be somewhere around 2 or 3am so we were relieved when it turned out to be 5:23 and not too early to get up. After packing up camp we braved the bugs and prepared breakfast – instant coffee and Backpacker’s Pantry bacon and cheddar mashed potatoes. After eating we began the 6 mile downhill hike toward the Paradise Park Trailhead. We made good time despite being distracted by the abundant ripe huckleberries. The trail was just as view-less as the Hidden Lake Trail had been the day before. Where it would have been possible to filter water on that trail the Paradise Park stream crossings were basically dry. The forest was nice though and this ridge was a bit wider than the one the Hidden Lake Trail, creating a little more of an open feeling.
Paradise Park Trail

Mt. Hood Wilderness

In the middle of the trail was a long section where the trail was about as straight as a trail can be and almost looked like it was following an old road bed. As the trail approached the edge of the ridge the forest thinned and there was a viewpoint looking toward Tom, Dick, and Harry Mountain to the south.
Tom Dick and Harry Mountain

While we were at the viewpoint a Turkey Vulture passed by several times close enough to hear the wind on its wings.
Turkey Vulture

Turkey Vulture

Turkey Vulture

The trial then veered away from the ridgeline for .7 miles and began a final set of switchbacks down to the Zigzag River, which it followed back to the Barlow Campground and the Paradise Park Trailhead.
Paradise Park Trail

Zigzag River Trail

Both the Hidden Lake and Paradise Park Trails are longer, steeper routes to Paradise Park than the more popular Pacific Crest Trail from Timberline Lodge hike but they do have things to offer. Solitude and dense forest replace mountain views making these good options for quieter hikes while still bringing you to the big views at Paradise Park. If you’ve already been to Paradise Park via Timberline Lodge either of these trails make a nice alternative, especially when the berries are ripe. Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157671573939900