Elk Cove from Pinnacle Ridge Hike
From Oregon Hikers Field Guide
- Start point: Pinnacle Ridge Trailhead
- End point: Elk Cove
- Trail Log: Elk Cove from Pinnacle Ridge Hike/Log
- Distance: 8.4 miles round-trip
- Elevation gain: 2490 feet
- High Point: 5,800 feet
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Seasons: July - November
- Family Friendly: No
- Backpackable: Yes - connects to the Timberline Trail
- Crowded: Sometimes at Elk Cove on weekends
|Add-On Hikes:||Barrett Spur Add-on Hike||, Dollar Lake Add-on Hike|
There are a lot of trails climbing from roads to the Timberline Trail on the north side of Mount Hood and each one has its own character. The Pinnacle Ridge Trail is one of the hardest, with a lot of very steep climbing and several muddy sections.
A lot of the trail below the Timberline Trail got burned in the 2012 Dollar Lake fire so it's not so forested. Flowers are probably better though.
From the trailhead, the trail soon passes a wilderness registration station. While this isn't the actual boundary, virtually all hikers to this point will be entering the wilderness and it's easier to maintain the station closer to the road. From the station the trail climbs a bit to an small summit, then drops to a creek crossing with a hiker-constructed bridge of three small trees.
From here, the trail climbs to an interesting rockfield. This area is worth some exploration, but it's difficult to navigate on the rocks. The trail skirts the lower edge of the rocks and then climbs through the trees just west of the rocks. Above the rocks, the trail continues to climb, quite steeply at times. This section of the trail could probably be improved with a switchback or twelve.
About two miles from the trailhead, you'll reach the lower reaches of Pinnacle Meadows. This is a quite swampy and steep grassy hillside. Near the bottom, look for a trail marked by an orange ribbon. Turning right here, will lead you up a use path along the west side of the meadow, which is a clearer path than the one through the middle. In any event, watch your step through the entire area. There are muddy places hidden by grass in all the paths.
Above the meadows, the trail follows a steep wash uphill. There are a couple of minor creek crossings in this area that are full of flowers in late July and August. The trail continues steeply up to a junction with the Timberline Trail at almost exactly 3 miles from the trailhead.
If you wish, you could go right (west) 0.2 miles to scenic Wy'East Basin for a nice view and a nice stream if you need drinking water. There is an unmarked trail going up from Wy'East Basin to Barrett Spur.
For this hike, go left (east) on the Timberline Trail for about a mile to Elk Cove. Along the way, you'll pass a junction with the trail to Dollar Lake and a series of great views to the north. When the trail hooks around the end of Barrett Spur, you'll find great views of Mount Hood as the trail drops down the side of the ridge into Elk Cove.
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