Timberline Trail 2020

StartSignI still believe that the 41 mile Timberline Trail around Mt Hood is the finest backpacking loop in America. It just has it all with adventure galore which is why it was the theme of a Podcast I did. This was my 4th year to take on the Timberline, which I use as my age/health meter, and I am pleased with how my old body held up this year. Bryce again joined me for this year’s trek, we failed on our attempt last year in mid June due to snow and weather.


Zig Zag Canyon

This year there was about as much snow but the trail was more navigable. Last year the beautiful portion was the first 2 days which served as a good memory for the wet weather that dominated the first 2 days this year.

Each year I think about going counter clockwise around Hood but each year my analysis of conditions steers me clockwise. Paradise Park is a great first night goal to warm up your hiking legs and prepare you for the grueling descent down to Ramona Falls and then back up the ridgeline to mid-mountain. This year’s trek started out with beautiful weather for the view from Paradise Park.

I had already decided that I wanted to checkout the most western campsite at Paradise Park located next to some tree cover. This turned out to be a fortuitous decision since a heavy wet fog moved in just as we had finished setting up camp. PPCampsiteThe trees gave us some relief from the wet fog but by morning it didn’t really matter, everything was damp and we were set for hiking in a mist.

On the trail you quickly adapt to being cold and wet which actually serves as a great motivator for knocking off miles. The emerging Rhododendrons on the lower trail help as well.

Your first concern is making it across the Sandy river, this year we got advice to go up stream where there were a couple of small logs providing a dry crossing. By now it was essentially raining so passing through an empty Ramona Falls was not as inspiring, but Ramona Falls is still one of the most beautiful places on earth.


Now begins the most challenging part of the trek, climbing about 2400′ over 8 miles taking the upper route but cutting over before Bald Mountain.

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I had hoped to go all the way to McNeil Point but the rain and low cloud cover nixed that option. We opted to camp at Glisan Creek because we saw a couple of spots that were relatively dry under the trees. Bryce was totally inspired to start a fire relying on his Air Force survival trainer expertise, I was impressed. As for me, I really got chilled after setting up my tent and needed to get in my sleeping bag to warm up. It was still raining and seemed to be getting colder. An hour later I emerged to Bryce’s fire ready for dinner. We went to sleep that night hoping for the rain to stop.

We awoke to blue skies with great anticipation to be warmed by the sun. The goal for the day was to get past Cloud Cap, maybe even go up to Cooper Spur, however, this next section was going to be physically challenging for our tired bodies.

We hiked over a lot of snow but unlike last year there had been plenty of people before us to set the trail.

Some of the stream crossings presented you with a decision to trust using the snow bridge, but no real danger.

This day was crystal clear giving us some of the best photos I have of the north side of Mt Hood.

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The challenge for the day was crossing Eliot Creek and it was not about the creek crossing but instead about getting down to the creek. The water was running high probably from the previous day’s rain and the sunny day so it was not obvious where we would cross. There is a huge tree that provides an excellent bridge down from the trail entrance, however, you do not see that crossing option at first.

This is the canyon where the trail had to be rerouted in 2017 due to a slide. The 20 feet or so of drop off to the creek is a mixture of loose dirt, rocks and boulders. Getting from the trail entrance to the log bridge crossing was flat out dangerous. You could not trust any rock to step on and when a large rock started to slide you had be be extremely careful not to get dragged along with it. I don’t remember this descent to the stream ever being so loose, maybe it is just an early season issue. But somebody could get killed here, so I think it is time for some sort of a reinforced trail down to the stream. Now the climb up to Cloud Cap and all was good. As we climbed east from Cloud Cap our weary bodies enticed us to camp near the head of Tilly Jane Creek in a really nice sandy area.

We were able to dry everything out and enjoy a wonderful evening underneath Mt Hood.

Morning broke with more beautiful weather motivating us for our climb above treeline over high point which is one of my favorite areas.

MorningCapOnHoodThe weather was all over the place with sun and fog but it was a great temperature for the climb.

And then you descend down Gnarl Ridge to Newton Creek which presents a unique landscape of a really harsh existence for vegetation.

The Newton Creek campsites are excellent and within an easy distance to hike the following day, however, I thought that I remembered a spot near the upcoming waterfalls.

Unfortunately just after we left Newton Creek it started to rain and I was not finding those campsites so we ended up camping between Gemini and Voyager ski runs in Mount Hood Meadows Ski Area. The campsite worked out just fine and set us up for a relatively easy final day hike back to Timberline Lodge.

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I do love hiking through Mt Hood Meadows Ski envisioning how I will ski down those runs next winter.

WhiteRiverCrossing the White River was more difficult then I remember, but it was a beautiful day.

The 1000′ climb up to the parking lot always seems tough but the motivation of your reward, Halibutthis year Halibut Fish & Chips, at the Barlow Trail Roadhouse, puts a hop in your step.

This years Timberline Trail Trek may have been the best yet. The still early season, unpredictable weather with pretty good awakening of flowers and no bugs made for a great Continuing Adventure.

About ghsmith76

Backpacker, Grandfather, Volunteer, Advisor, Mentor and still Technologically Aware. Greg retired as a technologist who served as a Chief Information Officer in Higher Education at various universities. Prior to the IT career in Academia, Greg was a Systems Consultant with Hewlett-Packard. Other early jobs included IT activity in the oil shale and coal mining industries along with owning a computer store in Steamboat Springs, Colorado.

Posted on July 11, 2020, in Adventure, Backpacking, Mt Hood, Oregon, Pacific Northwest, PCT, Wilderness and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 14 Comments.

  1. Denny Lawrence

    Very cool! Fish & chips were great!

    On Sat, Jul 11, 2020, 12:31 PM The Adventure Continues wrote:

    > ghsmith76 posted: “I still believe that the 41 mile Timberline Trail > around Mt Hood is the finest backpacking loop in America. It just has it > all with adventure galore which is why it was the theme of a Podcast I did. > This was my 4th year to take on the Timberline, which I ” >

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m so happy I found this on the Oregon Hikers website today. I’m headed out in early August to hike the loop for the first time. Your post was very helpful and inspiring. This will be a good test for me as well as I too am an older gent. I’m going to take my time and enjoy it. Hoping to complete it in 4 days, but we shall see. Thanks again!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Darrel Johannes

      I did it last week and I am 64 . I do day hikes but never anything like this . It took me 5 and I enjoyed myself . The elevation gains , losses and stream crossings add alot to the effort . Hell if it takes a person 7 days so what . A friend of mine texted me saying it’s a journey not a race . Out of maybe 100 people I passed maybe just a couple were my age .

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hello, I am considering doing this trip solo with my 2 pups in a few weeks. The only concerning thing I noticed in your post was the trek down to Eliot creek. Would you be able to give me some more insight about that portion? How long is this risky part? Are you scrambling down a bit?

    I’m an experienced hiker from Canada, now living in Portland but always like to do my due diligence around safety.
    Especially when I bring my dogs.

    Also, were any of the creeks really high? Knee deep and fast? I saw a YouTube post that the Sandy was quite high one year and challenging.

    Thank you

    Liked by 1 person

    • Michelle:
      Doing the trail clockwise, the trail entrance into Eliot Canyon to the log crossing down stream is about 20 yards. I would assume that by the time you get there it will be fairly well travelled with respect to defining the trail. You will not want your dogs running above you but they will probably be more concerned anyways, dogs don’t like this kind of loose gravel & rock. I took my dog (@aussiebrook) in 2017-19 but she decided she no longers wants to backpack. My Dog is Complicated. However, she had good paws and never had problems with the harsh volcanic soils that you will be exposed to on the Timberline Trail. Stream crossings have been an issue for my dog only because she hates to get wet. The Sandy is the largest but hikers do work on the log crossings there. I have had to wade the Sandy, but there are places to do that. Other creeks are smaller but the flow is stronger so you want your dogs to be careful, actually I think a good stream jumping dog should be able to handle all of the crossings.

      Enjoy the Timberline, I’m headed up to do Section K of the PCT in a couple of weeks.


  4. Thanks for sharing your adventures. I’m looking to backpack this trail in a week with my 12 year old son. This was a good primer.


  5. Hi my name is Darrel , I meet you and your buddy at white River last Friday . I mentioned this was my first time attempting the trail and you suggested doing it in 5 days not 4 . Good advise , no way I could have done it in 4 . Had all kinds of foot blister problems so it took a lot of first aid breaks to patch them up . But I did it , pulled into timberline about 5 pm 5th day .


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