North Oregon Cascades

Timberline Trail

Length: 40 round trip miles
Low Point: 2800'
High Point: 7200'
Season: Summer/Fall
Scenery: 0/5

Difficulty: 0/5

Submitted by: jswank


From Portland Take Hwy 26 to Government Camp. Just past Government Camp turn left on timberline road and head 8 miles up to Timberline Lodge. Park in the remote lot where there is overnight parking.

Trail Description

This is an absolutely incredible trail! I did it in late fall, just before the snows, and can only imagine how glorious most of those meadows must be in the summer! It is truely Oregon's best example of alpine slendor.
I began the trip from Timberline Lodge and Hiked the 40 mile loop counterclockwise around the mountain. I did the trip in 3 days but even then wished I would have taken 4 or even 5 days to truely enjoy it. The route is filled with varied terrain from rocky glacial valleys to alpine meadows to lush forrests. There are numerous camping opportunities and pleanty of water along the way. The one major obstacle is a number of river crossings that could be quite trecherous in early season. Be sure to take that into consideration.
This trip started at timberline Lodge where I slowly descended down the western ridge of White River Canyon, leading me to the first river crossing, and perhaps the most precarious when there is high water. After crossing the white river you journey up the eastern ridge about 1800 ft in about a mile and a half. Here you hit the western side of Mt Hood Meadows Ski Area which are grassy meadows with Ski lifts hovering vacant overhead. You continue through this area about 2 miles before you wind through some beautiful alpine valley that were full of fall color this time of year. Finally once you round Gnarl Ridge you wind up the slope about 1500 more ft to the highest point on the trail. From here it is a two mile walk over mixed rock and meadows with a few remaining snowfields, even in October, until you reach Cooper Spur. Cooper Spur does have a climber's shelter just off the timberline trail as well and there are incredible veiws of Mt hood and the Eliot Glacier from this area. I continued on another mile and actually camped at Cloud Cap Saddle Campground, right next to Cloud Cap Inn, which is about 14 miles from Timberline Lodge.
The following day I headed through some more alpine terrain staying fairly level at 5800 ft until you drop down 500 ft or so to Elk Cove, a beautiful alpine meadow, which can also make a good day hike. The route continutes through the Wy'east and Cairn Basins which again provide some spectacular alpine scenery. Cairn Basic marks the 20 mile mark of the trail and there is a shelter, as well as good camping here aslo. From here you have another mile of Alpine terrain before you begin to drop along the long 3 mile ridge toward Bald mountain. At the end of this stretch there is a junction where the PCT and the Timberline Trail branch off and head back east toward the mountain and the Sandy Glacier, before returning to the tail that you were on at Ramona Falls. I opted to continue of the strail down to Muddy flats as it was almost a mile shorter and equated to far less elevation gain and loss. The PCT is also temporarily diverted onto this route due to some wahed out sections that prohibit stock. This trail continues to Ramona falls via the Sandy River Flats and a mile past Ramona falls you reach the fort of the Sandy river and the rushing water creek. The trail continues up from here 1500 ft to Paradise Park, where I decided to camp after a very long day. Paradise Park is another beautiful alpine meadow area with fantasic views if you are fortunate enough not to be socked in like I was.
The following day I had only 4-5 miles remaining to reach Timberline Lodge but that included an arduous 1200 ft descent and ascent of Zig Zag Canyon in the first couple of miles before reaching the gentler alpine slopes just west of Tmberline Lodge. Overall it is one of the best trips that I have done in Oregon, I would recommend it to anyone but agian I would probably recommend it in 4 days not 3.