Timberline Trail 2021

Start of the Timberline Trail

Yes, the Timberline Trail is the finest loop trail in America and my fifth year in a row trekking around it was another epic adventure. The bottom line though is that this trail is tough and my old body struggles to pull it off. Typically after the tough second day I really question why I do this. But the rewards are incredible especially when the weather is so beautiful.

Rather different to start a summer backpacking trek by making your way through a crowd of skiers, but that is Mt Hood. So starting out July 11th in beautiful weather with no chance of rain for the entire trek. Joining me is Shannon “Snuffy” Leader, blogger of Must Hike Must Eat. And to be joined that night by Bryce and Chris at Paradise Park. The hike up to Paradise Park is a good half day warm up which is a bit out of the way but totally worth it. The trail is so easy over to the Zigzag Canyon overlook, but then it is down and up.

Above ZigZag Canyon

Down to the ZigZag and then the climb up to Paradise Park. It was a warm day and the black flies were out so we did pay our dues to get an excellent campsite at Paradise Park.

Paradise Park Campsite

Some of the best flowers were displayed on the climb.

Hiking with “Snuffy” was a real treat to compare backpacking prowess and stories but I had no interest in her culinary concoctions. But that is what Shannon does, she validates really interesting wilderness trail meals, whereas I just try to consume my evening Mountain House meal. This colorful meal that she made was supposedly excellent.

Bryce and Chris joined us later in the evening in Paradise enjoying a great cloudless sunset together.

The second day after staying at Paradise Park requires a plunge into the Sandy River Canyon with the always exciting crossing of the Sandy. This year the challenge was medium, but mistakes could not be made.

Snuffy Crossing the Mighty Sandy River

The reward for crossing the Sandy is your visit to Ramona Falls. We got there a bit earlier then typical years so the sun was only at the top. But Ramona Falls is the best.

Ramona Falls

Just after Ramona Falls you have the option to take the high or the low trail to Bald Mountain. The high route has been devastated by a tree blowdown and is essentially closed but unfortunately Bryce and Chris forgot about that when they left us to accomplish their trek in 3 nights instead of 4. They completed the high route but paid a heavy price for their effort. There should have been a sign at the turnoff to the high trail, however, I believe that sign did not get placed until after we passed by.

This stretch of the Timberline is the toughest for me because of the 3000′ climb with no good water options. Every year this stretch tests my resolve and I contemplate why I do the Timberline. This year was as difficult as ever but as with every year I eventually make it to the great view at the top and the streams coming off McNeil Point. Our campsite in that area turned out to be excellent.

The next day’s goal is typically to cross the Eliot Canyon which this year we knew would be the greatest test. But this stretch of trail offers some of the most beautiful views of Mt Hood and surroundings. The burnt areas from the Dollar Lake Fire 10 years ago now seem to offer a unique contrast to the lush green slopes. The Cairn Basin shelter did take a hit from a blowdown tree.

The Eliot stream crossing has been a breeze in recent years thanks to a large log that spanned the water but that log has washed away along with a lot of the canyon wall to create a new treacherous crossing. However, the greatest danger in the Eliot Canyon is just getting down to the stream. The steep approaches to the stream present numerous loose boulder situations, but we experienced that last year.

Slope down to the Eliot

This year we also got to experience one of the most forceful river crossing I have ever accomplished. The video is of a hiker from Michigan.

This year the option to just stay at Tilly Jane Campground seemed like a good idea since nobody else was there probably due to the mess that has been made by more tree blowdowns.

On this Northeast side of Hood you get to experience above treeline hiking which has become a favorite of mine.

Heading down to Newton Creek

The goal for the last night is typically to reach Newton Creek which has clear streams and good campsites. This year the Newton Creek crossing was a bit more challenging than usual. I do love the view of Gnarl Ridge from the Newton.

Gnarl Ridge

The final day offers many beautiful waterfalls before you enter the Mt Hood Meadows Ski Resort land.

Then down to the White River and the killer climb up to Timberline Lodge. The climb isn’t really that bad except that you are fairly exposed and pretty much spent from the previous 40 miles.

Thank goodness for visions of your post trek meal to carry you up the ridge of the White River Canyon. Once you see the lodge you know you can make it.

This year’s Timberline Trail again taught me a lot about my 67 year old body. Many times it “Hurt So Good”. I do believe I will return to the Timberline Trail next year, but maybe do it in 5 nights.

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 17, 2021, in Adventure, Backpacking, Cascades, Mt Hood, Oregon, Pacific Northwest, PCT, Wilderness and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Beautiful views from the trail, but it looks quite challenging. Ramona Falls is exquisite!

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  2. Chris LeGalley

    Greg, I really enjoyed reading the write up and thank you for letting me tag along this year, it’s was really great to meet you. I’ve had some time to reflect and the Timberline is really a life changing adventure, it inspired me. I look forward to hopefully connecting at some point in the future! Until then enjoy the next adventure!

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  3. HI Greg: I really enjoyed your description. I am planning on doing this in 4 days : Ramona – Elks Cove- Newton Creek camp stops. I will be doing this on Aug 17. I am hoping that the stream crossing will ease up by then. I have water shoes also. Any tips, highly appreciated.

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  1. Pingback: Great PNW Multi-day Backpacking Loops | The Adventure Continues

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