A 40 mile trail that circumnavigates Mount Hood in Mount Hood National Forest.
Total Distance: 40+ miles (longer when doing in sections due to added trails)
Total Elevation Range: 3279′ to 7322′
Total Ascent/Descent: +9152 ft / -9159′
I decided to work on completing the whole Timberline Trail in sections instead of in one trip. I wanted to approach this trail in a way that works well for my body. So I looked at the terrain statistics a lot to find the best ways for me to accomplish each section. I’m able to move faster and it doesn’t affect my muscles as severely when I hike downhill so I’d rather descend more than ascend. So the direction I choose to hike each section reflects that. If you’re the opposite of me consider approaching each section going the opposite direction I went.
Timberline Lodge to Ramona Falls Trailhead
Distance: 12.8 miles
Number of days: 1 day (day hike)
Elevation Range: 2441′ to 6086′
Ascent/Descent: +1401 ft / -4837 ft
Trails: Timberline trail #600, PCT #2000, Paradise Park Loop Trail #757, Sandy River Trail #770
Start time/End time: 8:20am – 3:30pm
Time: 7 hr 10 m
There were a lot of people at the Timberline Lodge parking area going skiing. I didn’t realize people could ski during the summer. I had a bit of a hard time finding the trail behind Timberline Lodge. It was a whole lot easier than I thought. The PCT was easy to follow once I found it. It wasn’t as far away from the lodge as I thought it might be. It was pretty flat and slightly downhill at the start. It was so beautiful! I hiked through the ski area and under the lifts which was sorta cool. The trail went through small sections of trees and bushes. I was barely below the tree line. It was so pretty. There were tons of purple flowers along the entire trail. I dipped down a few valleys. It wasn’t very steep and I was easily able to go uphill in those sections. Then I climbed up a ridge line. I could see the Zigzag River a long ways down in the valley below. The mountain was so beautiful. I went downhill, down switchbacks for a ways until the trail came out at the river below. I was a bit nervous about the river crossing because I had no idea how wide or deep the river was. I was able to find rocks I could easily walk across and didn’t have to get my shoes wet then I had a good climb uphill after the crossing. I passed some slow people on the trail. I wasn’t doing good about eating and felt like I was going to throw up a few times from the overexertion. I took the first trail that went up to Paradise Park. For only hiking a few miles I’d already come across many people. It felt awkward with COVID going on. When I passed other people and couldn’t maintain social distancing we’re supposed to mask up. Because of all the people out I’d barely allow myself to stop and didn’t really take any breaks. I didn’t do good about consistently munching on food either.
I should probably clarify what I mean by a lot of people. I prefer hiking on trails where there is no one or I only come across a few people. That’s my preference and I was thinking because it was a week day that maybe there wouldn’t be many people on the timberline. It wasn’t crowded or overrun by people I just came across more people than I expected.
It was a good climb up as the trail climbed up to paradise park. The forest opened up to tall hills covered in grass with switchbacks climbing up them. Once I got to the top I was in awe.. There were rolling fields of wildflowers with the mountain in the background. It was stunning. I followed the trail through paradise. There were little up and downhills. There were some small and incredibly easy creek crossings. As I came out of the grassy field area there were some sections that looked barren and were just bare rock. I stopped and filled up my water at Rushing Water Creek. It’s the last creek crossing right before split rock. I hiked up to split rock which was here I planned on stopping for lunch. There was someone camping right next to the rock so I went a little ways down the trail and sat on a rock. I ate my lunch while looking at the incredible view of Mt Hood. I didn’t take a very long lunch break and I wasn’t very hungry. I ended up only taking a 20 minute lunch break. I felt kind of nervous about running into people or stopping and then slow people passing me and then I’d have to pass them.
There was an amazing viewpoint that looked down into a valley. There were 3 waterfalls and and epic view of the mountain. That section of trail was sandy. I had to stop twice to give my feet a break because they were really starting to hurt with all the downhill. I was starting to feel physically exhausted when I suddenly came across a huckleberry bush with a few ripe berries on it. It was just the mental boost that I needed. I made it down to the Sandy River crossing. I followed the cairns which lead me to the place where there were 2 logs across the river. There were 2 veins of the river I had to cross. The first was easy and I just walked across some rocks in the water. The second one had the two logs across it and the water was ferocious. I was able to cross safely. I followed the cairns again and there was a piece of pink tape marking where the trail started again on the other side. The trail soon met up with the ramona falls junction. I decided I wasn’t going to go to the falls and just continue on to the trailhead instead. It was about 3.25 miles to the trailhead and I had one last river crossing across the sandy river (there were logs again). I stopped for a break 0.5 miles away from the trailhead and munched on some food. I continued on to the trailhead. Once I got there I waited for my mom and sister to get there to pick me up. I ended up just sitting on the ground and waiting for them for a half hour. I finished faster than I had anticipated I would. I counted the number of people I came across on the trail: 35 people on the Timberline Trail/PCT section 57 people from the ramona falls junction to the trailhead Total of 92 people
Cloud Cap to Timberline Lodge
Total Distance: 14.73 miles
Total Elevation Range: 4869′ to 7333′
Total Ascent/Descent: +3745 ft / -3733 ft
Number of days: 2 days
Campsite: Near Newton Creek
Trails: Timberline Trail #600, PCT #2000
Dates: 8/10/20 – 8/11/20
Day 1 - Cloud Cap to Newton Creek
Distance: 6.43 miles Elevation Range: 5395' to 7336' Ascent/Descent: +1625 ft / -2073 ft Start time/End time: 12:30pm - 5:30pm Time: 5 hours Campsite: Near Newton Creek Note: Date: 8/10/20
I woke up at 8:30am and got ready to leave. We drove to Timberline first and left the truck. Then we drove to Cloud Cap in the car. We got to the trailhead and my mom dropped me off. I started my hike 12:32pm. I was nervous because I was feeling tired, but I was also excited. The first section of trail was in tree cover, but it very quickly became barren. I started climbing uphill through scree and rock. I walked through an area with some small trees. I heard something running downhill towards me. I turned around just in time to see a deer dash right by me. I scared me pretty bad.
I was in exposed sun almost all afternoon. I climbed uphill for probably close to 3 miles. There were only 3 or 4 small snowfield patches I had to cross. Earlier in the summer there is probably a lot more snow. At one point I saw and heard an avalanche way up on one of the glaciers on the mountain. I saw chipmunks and birds occasionally. I could see Mt Adams, Mt Rainier, and Mt St Helens as I hiked uphill. I reached the highest point on the timberline trail, around 7300’ elevation. I thought there might be a view or something, but there wasn’t really.
After reaching the high point it quickly started descending downhill. As I was working my way downhill the trail passed through some pretty areas where there were purple flowers lining the trail. I could see Mt Jefferson and Three Sisters I suddenly came around a bend in the side of a hill and saw the trail neared a drop off. From that drop off was the most amazing view of the mountain! It reminded me of the view from Emerald Ridge on the first day of the Wonderland Trail. After that the trail continued down the bridge of the ridge. It was quite the drop down into the valley below. The trail dipped into some forest. It was pretty and quiet. There were pretty green meadows scattered throughout the open forest. The trail was really dusty and I couldn’t stop without inhaling a lot of dust.
I came to a trail junction. I saw a guy and girl come from the trail I was going to be continuing on. They said there were 2 logs across the creek upstream where they crossed over. I hiked downhill towards the Newton Creek crossing. There were some huckleberries along the trail that I munched on. When I came to the creek I had a hard time spotting the cairns or the logs across the creek. I spotted a guy up creek and he waved me up to him. When I got to where he was he was really nice and asked if I wanted a spotter. He was a really sweet older guy. He held my hand and we crossed the logs together. On the other side we chatted. He had gone ahead to find a campsite for his group. He told me all the campsites near Mt Hood Meadows were full. His group was going to camp on the other side of the river were we had come from and I decided I’d camp on the side we’d just crossed over to. There was a sheltered flat area. The guy went back to fetch the rest of his group and I set up my camp. I finished my day of hiking around 5:30pm. Five hours on the trail. I did a really good job taking care of myself. I went nice and easy. I would stop and take pictures. I made sure I was eating and drinking enough. I made sure I was taking breaks when I needed to.
I set up camp and started eating my supper. The guy and the rest of his group came by me and they all stopped and said hello. It was there first day out on the trail too. We had some really pleasant conversations and then they crossed over to the river to their camp. They invited me over to their campsite for the evening if I wanted. I was really worn out and decided I was just going to try and head to bed early. My feet were sore and I was nervous about my first night backpacking on my own. I was glad there were nice people nearby. I went outside my tent and got to see a beautiful sunset! The line along the horizon was sky blue, then above it was a delicious pink and light peach blended into a whitish blush. It was incredible. I’m not going to lie. I majorly psyched myself out and didn’t sleep well. I don’t really know how much I slept. I rested, but was on high alert. I also was wet fro sweating for overheating on and off all night. I was trying to make sure I didn’t get myself chilled because that would be bad. I don’t think I fully allowed myself to sleep until early morning. I feel asleep a little bit but kept waking up. At one point in the middle of the night it looked like a flashlight was being shined at my tent so I opened up my tent (I was guessing it was probably just the moon but I wanted to make sure) and it was the moon. It was at half it’s fullness, but was shining super bright. It was pretty and so were the stars.
Day 2 - Newton Creek to Timberline Lodge
Distance: 8.3 miles Elevation Range: 4880' to 6020' Ascent/Descent: +2333 ft / -1822' Start time/End time: 7:25am - 1:20pm Time: 5 hr 55 m Date: 8/11/20
I woke up at 6:20am. I changed into my hiking clothes, did some stretches, and then immediately started packing up my gear. I ate breakfast and then started hiking at 7:26am. I followed the trail which ended up climbing to the top of a ridge. It climbed to the top and then down the other side. The scenery was so incredibly beautiful! I ended up walking through a steep rock/sand field slope. I don’t understand how the trail doesn’t just slough away. I got the the bottom of the valley and had a creek crossing (Clark Creek.) This one was a bit trickier. There weren’t any great rock hopping places or logs across. I found a place that was a bit of a stretch, but I could step across some rocks that weren’t slick. I used my trekking poles to help balance me and was able to get to the other side. In hindsight it would have been safer to just walk across in the water instead of jumping between rocks.
The trail on the other side started climbing uphill. There were beautiful fields of flowers on the side of the hill. I came to a beautiful small waterfall. It looked like a place fairies would live. Neon green moss lined the water and a blanket of flowers framed the sides of the moss. I filled up with water there and then kept hiking. Around the next corner was another waterfall that was a lot bigger and required a stream crossing. There were rocks I was easily able to hop over just slightly upstream.
At the top of the next ridge I descended into Mt Hood Meadows. There really are meadows full of wild flowers! I didn’t run into as many people as I thought I might in this section. There were a lot of ups and downs in the trail. I munched on some huckleberries along the trail and passed under ski lifts. I ended up hyperextending my left knee through a semi-overgrown section of trail. I was like “oh shit” in my brain and worried it would make it difficult to continue onwards. It hurt, but wasn’t limiting thank goodness (NOTE as of November 4th when I’m writing this - that stupid knee is still giving me issues and made it so I wasn’t able to do a backpacking trip in the Wallowa’s in August lol).
At the end of Mt Hood Meadows the trail started to quickly descend and went into a heavily forested area. The switchbacks got steeper the closer I got to White River. The trail, once I reached the bottom of the valley and river area, was lined on each side with a rock pathway leading up to where the first arm of the river crossing was. There ended up being two veins of the river I had to cross. There were no logs or rocks to walk across. I put on my sandals and secured my boots to the back of my backpack. The water was ice cold and had a strong flow. I found the safest spot to cross and then I took it slow and easy. Just one step at a time, making sure I was solid and balanced with each step. The water came up right below my knees on the deepest section of the crossing. Then I had to walk a ways over rocks and sand to the other vein of the river. This vein had an 8-10 ft embankment along each side of the river which was too steep to climb down or up. I walked up stream a ways to where there was a waterfall and it was only 4-5 ft (and not as steep) down to the water. I was able to take only 2 large steps in the water to cross this time and it didn’t come up as high on my legs, it didn’t even hit mid calf.
Once I got to the other side of the second crossing I rinsed my feet off and put my boots back on. I took a short break on the river’s edge. I’d been so focused on crossing the river I hadn’t even noticed the amazing view of Mt Hood right in front of me. I just ate my food and took in the scenery.
I was able to find the trail on the other side of the river pretty easily. It was an all uphill climb from White River to Timberline Lodge. The trail climbed up to the top of the ridge where it met up with the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail). Then the trail followed the top of the ridge. The trail got really sandy. The sides of the steep slopes on either side of the ridge were made of loose dirt/sand. The wind would whip up the side of the slopes and would gust across the top. It would get in my eyes and when I’d breathe in it felt like I was sucking in dirt. I continued my slow uphill hike in the sand. There was only one short hill section with sand where I was sliding two steps back for every step I took forward. Thankfully there weren’t any more sections like that. There were some pretty views of White River and the valley below. It was crazy to see how far I’d climbed up from where I’d been. I made it to the “top” of the ridge near Timberline Lodge. I had one last easy stream crossing and then I came out on the PCT/Timberline Trail above Timberline Lodge. My feet and knee hurt. I was tired, but I didn’t fully feel it because I was so excited and proud of myself. My first solo overnight backpacking trip. I did it! I felt euphoric.
Cloud Cap to Ramona Falls Trailhead
I planned on competing this 16 miles section as a day hike the first week of September 2020, but the day I had originally planned to do this hike my family had to evacuate due to the wildfires near our home. So this section of trail will have to wait until another year.
The conditions of river crossing change each year and by each season. There are no “bridges” across any of the river/creek crossings on the Timberline Trail. My pictures and descriptions only show what it was like for me. It could be very different even a day later from when I crossed. I’m sharing the photos and descriptions because I feel like it at least gives an idea of what the river crossings are like.
Fairly easy. I was able to hop across rocks.
Two veins of the river. First on easy, hopped across rocks. Second one difficult, walked across 2 logs. Water very strong.
Sandy River (Ramona Falls Trail)
Fairly easy. One log to walk across another log to hold on to. Water very strong. (Forgot to take photo)
Difficult. Water very strong. Two smaller logs across creek to walk across.
Sketchy rocks across. Would have been safer to walk across in water.
More difficult. Two veins of the river. First vein was wide and strong knee height water. Was able to walk across both veins in water.
Guthook - Oregon PCT The Oregon section map of the PCT is helpful for the west side of the mountain where the PCT & Timberline Trail are considered the same trail. It useful for finding water sources and looking at the conditions of water crossings (Zigzag River, Sandy River, and Muddy Fork).
Directions to Trailheads
My Wild Adventure is not responsible for your safety, any possible injury, or anything that happens if you choose to follow anything on this website. Maps are not intended to be used for navigational purposes, but to give an overview of the route taken. By going outdoors you are solely responsible to know your strengths and limitations, be aware of current conditions and proceed with the appropriate caution. My Wild Adventure is not responsible for your choices and the outcome. Reference my disclaimer for more information on being responsible outdoors.