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Ramona Falls Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Ramona Falls with bridge at base of falls (Jerry Adams)
Looking down the Sandy River, Sandy River Trail (bobcat)
Mt. Hood from the Sandy River crossing, Sandy River Trail (bobcat)
Ramona Creek below the falls (bobcat)
Andesite cliffs above Ramona Creek (bobcat)
Large pyrola (Pyrola asarifolia), Sandy River Trail (bobcat)
The lollipop loop to Ramona Falls (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo
  • Start point: Ramona Falls TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Ramona Falls
  • Trail Log: Ramona Falls Hike/Log
  • Distance: 7.1 miles round trip
  • Hike Type: Loop
  • Elevation gain: 1035 feet
  • High point: 3,470 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: Late spring to early fall
  • Family Friendly: No
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: Yes

Contents

Hike Description

The Ramona Falls Hike is a favorite summer destination for outdoor enthusiasts due to the gradual elevation gain, relative proximity to Portland, and its beautiful climax at the wondrous Ramona Falls. What used to be a popular family hike is no longer a walk in the park, however. A road washout in the mid-1990s caused the trailhead to be located 1.4 miles farther away at the Old Maid Sand Pit. The permanent bridge at the Sandy River Crossing was destroyed a few years later and, in 2014, a hiker was swept off the seasonal bridge and drowned by rapidly rising waters after a sudden storm. The Forest Service has decided not to replace the bridge, so the crossing of the river, which you have to do going and coming, is now a ford or a careful balancing act on logs that change their position annually. Also, Ramona Falls became part of the Mt. Hood Wilderness in 2009, so consider this a hike into the backcountry with all the attendant precautions. Wear proper footwear, carry emergency essentials in your pack, and turn back if there is a heavy rain. Do NOT attempt a crossing of the Sandy if the river is running fast, deep, and furiously.

Two longer hikes that include Ramona Falls are the Muddy Fork Loop Hike and the Yocum Ridge Hike. This loop is also done in the winter on snowshoes or skis, but remember that the access road is gated further down from December 1st to April 1st.

Take the wide, sandy trail leading up from the southeast corner of the parking area. You will be hiking among stunted mountain hemlock, Douglas-fir, and lodgepole pine on a carpet of moss, pinemat manzanita, and reindeer lichen. Beginning in about 1780, pyroclastic flows from Mount Hood buried the Sandy River, which continues to change its course as it carves through the soft strata. Pass the first of at least three glacial river crossing signs warning about safe passage when waters are high (There has been more than one drowning death in the area). Come to the Sandy River-Ramona Falls Trailhead Trail Junction, and proceed past a large boulder to a Stop sign, where you’ll need to fill out a wilderness permit.

Hike onward to the steep eroding bank of the Sandy River. The trail joins an alder-lined old road bed. Reach the bank of the river again, and then descend to the Sandy River Crossing. A bridge is no longer provided here, so you’ll need to pick one of the logs strewn across the spate or attempt a ford (See Tips for Crossing Streams). This crossing is easiest from mid-summer to early fall. The trail picks up on the opposite bank and winds through an alder-colonized debris fan. Drop in and out of a gully, and head up parallel to the river in shady woods. Come to the Pacific Crest-Sandy River Trail Junction, and go left. The trail soon reaches a footbridge over Ramona Creek and heads up the bank of the creek. At the well-signed Ramona Falls-Pacific Crest Trail Junction, keep right.

Pass through a stile (No horses are permitted on the Ramona Falls Trail). Sign in at a wilderness permit box, and head up through the shady woodland that had revegetated the pyroclastic flows. Cross a log footbridge, and hike up along lovely, burbling Ramona Creek, which flows through the duff carpet and mossy stones. Look left to note the wonderful pink and sandy andesite cliffs across the creek. Leave the stream to pass above a gully, and keep rising through mountain hemlock, western hemlock, Douglas-fir, western red-cedar, lodgepole pine, rhododendron, and Sitka alder. Reach the junction with the Timberline Trail, and stay right to admire Ramona Falls' splashing veil from the footbridge that spans the creek here. There are plenty of places to sit and contemplate a while under the shady canopy although on a summer weekend, there may be throngs that have the same idea.

Continue on the Timberline Trail, and pass through a stock fence near a horse hitch. The trail drops among stunted mountain hemlocks and lodgepole pines to the Pacific Crest-Timberline Middle Trail Junction. Keep left as the trail cuts into a pyroclastic slope. The forest, with a salal understory, becomes shadier, and you get views down to the Sandy’s wide debris channel. Pass out of shady old growth to the stunted Old Maid Flat forest. The trail drops off the bench again and wends down among rhododendrons to the Pacific Crest-Sandy River Trail Junction. Keep left here to make the Sandy River Crossing and return to the trailhead.


Maps

  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • Sandy River Trail #770 (USFS)
  • Ramona Falls Trail #797 (USFS)
  • Green Trails Maps: Government Camp, OR #461
  • Adventure Maps: Mt. Hood Area
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Zigzag Ranger District
  • Discover Your Northwest: Mt. Hood National Forest North: Trail Map & Hiking Guide
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Mt. Hood National Forest
  • National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map: Mount Hood
  • Discover Your Northwest: Mt. Hood National Forest North

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Northwest Forest Pass required
  • Self-issued wilderness permit
  • Exercise caution at the Sandy River Crossing

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Portland by Paul Gerald
  • Afoot & Afield: Portland/Vancouver by Douglas Lorain
  • I Heart Oregon (& Washington) by Lisa D. Holmes
  • Best Hikes Near Portland by Fred Barstad
  • Best Short Hikes in Northwest Oregon by Rhonda & George Ostertag
  • 100 Hikes in Northwest Oregon & Southwest Washington by William L. Sullivan
  • Trips & Trails: Oregon by William L. Sullivan
  • 105 Virtual Hikes of the Mt. Hood National Forest by Northwest Hiker
  • 50 Hikes in Oregon by David L. Anderson
  • Take a Hike: Portland by Barbara I. Bond
  • Portland Hikes by Art Bernstein & Andrew Jackman
  • Hiking Mount Hood National Forest by Marcia Sinclair
  • Hiking Oregon's Geology by Ellen Morris Bishop
  • Hiking Waterfalls in Oregon by Adam Sawyer
  • Best Hikes With Kids: Oregon by Bonnie Henderson
  • Oregon's Wilderness Areas by George Wuerthner
  • Around & About Mount Hood by Sonia Buist with Emily Keller
  • 62 Hiking Trails: Northern Oregon Cascades by Don & Roberta Lowe
  • 70 Hiking Trails: Northern Oregon Cascades by Don & Roberta Lowe
  • Oregon Hiking by Sean Patrick Hill
  • Pacific Northwest Hiking by Scott Leonard & Sean Patrick Hill
  • Best Hikes With Dogs: Oregon by Ellen Morris Bishop

More Links


Contributors

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.