Gnarl Ridge from Hood River Meadows Hike
From Oregon Hikers Field Guide
- Start point: Hood River Meadows Trailhead
- Ending Point: Gnarl Ridge
- Trail Log: Trail Log
- Distance: 8.9 miles round-trip
- Elevation gain: 2460 feet
- High Point: 6860 feet
- Difficulty: More Difficult
- Seasons: July - November
- Family Friendly: No
- Backpackable: Yes - follows the Timberline Trail
- Crowded: Summer weekends
From the trailhead, go northeast on the Sahale Falls Trail (no. 667C). The trail travels through forested flats for a short distance before passing an abandoned trail on the left, then reaching the marked Umbrella Falls-Sahale Falls Trail East Junction, the first of many trail junctions on this hike. You’ll also notice blue nordic ski route markers along this section of trail. These ski trails are perpendicular to the Umbrella Falls Trail so if you just keep going straight you should be alright. Continue straight to another trail junction and the L-shaped bridge over the rushing waters of Clark Creek that form the boundary of the Mount Hood Wilderness. Cross straight across the bridge. Reportedly, this bridge has been washed out in November 2006. If so, it should be possible to cross without bridge. The next stream, Newton Creek, is harder, and it never had a bridge.
Continue across the valley floor, crossing two small creeks, then one larger stream on stepping stones. Reach a junction with the Newton Creek Trail (no. 646) on the left at the one mile mark. This will be your return route if you opt for the longer hike.
Continue straight a short distance to the silty torrent of Newton Creek. There is no bridge to help you here, though trail workers usually pile a few logs to form an impromptu bridge. Cross carefully - a hiking pole is recommended here. In the spring or after heavy rains this can be impassable. See Tips for Crossing Streams.
Clark and Newton Creeks are the twin glacial streams formed by the broad Newton Clark Glacier, which dominates the view of Mount Hood throughout the hike. Newton Creek, in particular, is one the most unruly of Mount Hood’s glacial streams, periodically sending huge floods of debris onto Highway 35, far below. The raging power of the stream is evident at several points on the hike, where the river channel is continually changing, tossing boulders and trees around like so many pebbles and matchsticks.
Locate the resumption of the trail on the far side of the creek, and begin climbing a series of switchbacks up the eastern wall of Newton Creek Canyon. The route first travels through lush forest, and a grove of especially large douglas fir, before reaching familiar forests of noble fir and beargrass as you near the ridge crest.
At the 2.0 mile mark, reach a four-way trail junction on a broad, forested saddle. Turn left on the Gnarl Ridge Trail (no. 652).
If you wanted, you could do a slightly longer detour and walk around Elk Meadows. Continue straight, turn right at a junction with Elk Meadows Perimeter Trail, stay left at the junction with the Bluegrass Tie Trail, turn left on the Elk Meadows Perimeter Trail, stay right at the Gnarl Ridge Tie-Elk Meadows Perimeter Trail Junction, and join the main route by going right at the junction with the Gnarl Ridge Trail. This adds 0.8 miles and 150' elevation gain. See Elk Meadows Hike.
The main route proceeds on the Gnarl Ridge Trail from the Elk Meadows Trail junction. Go steeply up. At mile 2.7 the Gnarl Ridge Tie Trail joins from the right at the Gnarl Ridge-Gnarl Ridge Tie Trail Junction, keep going straight (up). At the 3 mile mark the Gnarl Ridge Trail ends at the Timberline Trail. Turn right on the Timberline Trail.
The Timberline Trail goes steeply up until it reaches the top of Gnarl Ridge at mile 4 and the end of this hike. You get great views all around. If you'd like a spot to camp, just before the ridge crest, is the remains of a shelter with nice campsites on the opposite side of the trail. The closest drinking water is the Newton Creek crossing of the Timberline Trail (there's a silt free stream on the other side), the outlet of Elk Meadows, or the Timberline High Point. Return the way you came to the junction of the Gnarl Ridge Trail with the Timberline Trail. If you skip this leg of the hike you save 2 miles round trip and 1100' of elevation gain.
From the junction of the Gnarl Ridge Trail with the Timberline Trail this hike returns via the scenic Newton Creek Trail, but you could return the way you came, saving 0.9 miles and 200' of elevation.
Continue (West) on the Timberline Trail, over a difficult Newton Creek crossing (Newton Creek Crossing on Timberline Trail). See Tips for Crossing Streams. Continue to the Newton Creek Trail. Turn left and go down the Newton Creek Trail where you get some great views. Turn right on the Umbrella Falls Trail and follow it back to the trailhead.
Another nice camp spot is on the Timberline Trail just after the Newton Creek crossing. There is a small drinking water stream there also.
- Maps: Hike Finder
Fees, Regulations, etc.
- Northwest Forest Pass required
- Search Trip Reports for Gnarl Ridge
Related Discussions / Q&A
- Search Trail Q&A for Gnarl Ridge
Guidebooks that cover this destination
- Hiking Oregon's Geology, by Ellen Morris Bishop