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Hood River Meadows Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Upper Heather Canyon Falls (Tom Kloster)
Lamberson Spur (Tom Kloster)
The Clark Creek crossing on the Timberline Trail (bobcat)
Bog paintbrush (Castilleja suksdorfii) at Clark Creek (bobcat)
Clark Creek Canyon (Tom Kloster)
  • Start point: Hood River Meadows TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • Ending Point Hood River Meadows
  • Trail Log: Trail Log
  • Hike Type: Loop
  • Distance: 9.9 miles round-trip
  • Elevation gain: 2055 feet
  • High Point: 5,930 feet
  • Difficulty: Difficult
  • Seasons: Summer and early Fall
  • Family Friendly: No
  • Backpackable: Yes - follows Timberline Trail
  • Crowded: On summer weekends

Contents

Hike Description

While most think of Paradise Park, Cairn Basin or Elk Cove as the most prolific wildflower gardens on the flanks of Mount Hood, the most expansive displays are found in the vicinity of Hood River Meadows. While the Meadows ski resort has expanded to cover much of the area, the trails remain surprisingly free of reminders that a throng of skiers that crowd the slopes here in winter. The massive display of wildflowers in July and August and series of pretty streams and waterfalls makes this a good destination even when clouds obscure the mountain.

The hike begins at the Hood River Meadows Trailhead. From the trailhead, hike 0.3 miles through open forest to the well-signed Umbrella Falls-Sahale Falls Trail East Junction. Turn left here; you’ll be returning on the other fork at the conclusion of this hike. The Umbrella Falls Trail immediately begins climbing around a rocky bluff, passing under the first of several chairlifts that crisscross the area. Hood River Meadows, proper, spreads out below. Soon, the route levels off and passes through small meadows, passing a junction with the trail to Sahale Falls at the 1.7 mile mark. Keep straight, and at 2.0 miles, reach graceful Umbrella Falls.

The route continues from Umbrella Falls through more meadows, then reaches the main access road to the Meadows resort. Cross the road, and look for the resumption of the Umbrella Falls trail a few yards uphill. The trail re-enters forest, then crosses rushing Mitchell Creek before traversing a sloping meadow waist-deep in giant hellebore. Soon, the trail reaches a broad crest, and curves through more meadows that are now dominated by lupine and goldenrod. Cross a small stream twice before reaching the junction with the Timberline Trail at the 3.5 mile mark.

Turn right on the Timberline Trail, and immediately cross a gravel access road before descending to a second crossing of Mitchell Creek. Here, the trail passes through more meadows and under three chairlifts before crossing the East Fork, just above Pencil Falls. The route continues a traverse through more meadows, under two more chairlifts, then around a broad crest to another stream crossing before passing under the final chairlift. Soon, the trail reaches the lip of Clark Creek Canyon at 5.3 miles. The route enters deep forest as it traverses the steep canyon walls, with occasional glimpses of Clark Creek, far below. Soon, the trail reaches beautiful Heather Creek, at the lip of the upper of three spectacular waterfalls. Cross carefully, then continue past a smaller trailside waterfall before reaching Clark Creek at 5.8 miles. Like all glacial streams, the flow here fluctuates wildly, and can make for tricky crossings on hot summer days.

After taking in the sprawling view of Mount Hood and the Newton Clark Glacier from Clark Creek, locate the continuation of the trail on the far side, somewhat downstream from the crossing point. The route now climbs the sandy slopes of an enormous moraine that is the largest on the mountain. From high on the slope, you can look back to the waterfalls of Heather Creek, before rounding the end of the moraine, and crossing into a smaller canyon.

Soon, reach the junction with the Newton Creek Trail at 6.8 miles. Turn right here, and begin a fascinating descent along a “ghost ridge” of ancient whitebark pines, some living, and some as bleached ghosts still standing against the elements. You will also have a nice view of rugged Lamberson Spur, forming the north wall of Newton Creek Canyon. After a couple of switchbacks, the trail continues through young forest at gentle grade as it follows Newton Creek downstream. Like Clark Creek, Newton Creek is formed by meltwater from the Newton Clark Glacier, but is the more unruly of the twin glacial streams. Newton Creek has been the scene of massive floods, as evidenced from periodic viewpoints of jumbled trees and boulders along the trail.

At 8.7 miles, reach the junction with the Elk Meadows trail, and turn right, following this route over a bridge across Clark Creek and pass the Elk Meadows-Sahale Falls Trail Junction. Make a couple of small stream crossings, pass the Umbrella Falls-Sahale Falls Trail East Junction, and reach the trailhead at 9.4 miles.

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Oregon Hikers Field Guide is built as a collaborative effort by its user community. While we make every effort to fact-check, information found here should be considered anecdotal. You should cross-check against other references before planning a hike. Trail routing and conditions are subject to change. Please contact us if you notice errors on this page.

Hiking is a potentially risky activity, and the entire risk for users of this field guide is assumed by the user, and in no event shall Trailkeepers of Oregon be liable for any injury or damages suffered as a result of relying on content in this field guide. All content posted on the field guide becomes the property of Trailkeepers of Oregon, and may not be used without permission.