Muddy Fork Hike
From Oregon Hikers Field Guide
- Start point: Top Spur Trailhead
- End point: Muddy Fork Crossing on Timberline Trail
- Trail Log: Trail Log
- Distance: 6.2 miles round-trip
- Elevation gain: 800 feet
- High Point: 4,400 feet
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Seasons: July - November
- Family Friendly: Yes
- Backpackable: Yes - follows the Timberline Trail
- Crowded: Only to Bald Mountain
This hike begins at one of the more crowded trailheads, but quickly moves to some of the loneliest terrain on the mountain. Along the way, the scenery is dominated by evidence of the forces of nature at work that provide a terrific living laboratory for children and adults: the Muddy Fork canyon is literally coming apart at the seams, with several recent mudflows dramatically changing the landscape before you. The gleaming pyramid of Mount Hood towers above the entire route.
From the Top Spur Trailhead climb through handsome, old-growth noble fir forest for one half mile before joining the Pacific Crest Trail (no. 2000). Turn right, and immediately arrive at a confusing junction of four trails. The trail to the right is the continuation of the Pacific Crest Trail, and the routes to the left and straight ahead are the Timberline Trail (no. 600).
Continue straight on the Timberline Trail and pass the wilderness registration sign. Pass through dense forest until you abruptly reach the steep meadows of Bald Mountain. The Muddy Fork of the Sandy River rushes more than 2,000 feet below. Look closely, and you can see the ghost forests on the valley floor, where recent mudflows buried whole forests along this volatile stream.
Traverse around Bald Mountain, and more stunning views until you enter a wooded area. Pass a log stile, then traverse steep slopes through deep forest, crossing several small streams as you approach the valley floor. Some of these side canyons experienced recent washouts, so take care where narrow trail sections still exist.
At the 2.7 mile mark, reach an awesome display of the mountain’s force as you approach the valley floor, where a 2002 debris flow knocked over hundreds of large conifers, stacking them like cord wood. Here, the trail navigates the final stretch toward the northern branch of the Muddy Fork. Watch for trail markers to stay on course here. Crossing the Muddy Fork may be difficult on warm summer afternoons, in which case the high bank above the first crossing is a nice stopping point. A large twin falls on the northern branch of the Muddy Fork can also be seen from this area.
If water levels permit, carefully cross the northern branch, pass through a rocky debris fan, then through a low alder forest to the southern branch of the Muddy Fork, where spectacular views of Mount Hood and 400-foot waterfalls drifting down the sheer face of Yocum Ridge dominate the view. There are plenty of inviting boulders that make for a fine lunch spots. To complete the hike, simply follow the same route back to the trailhead.
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