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Eliot Moraine Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Mount Hood from Tilly Jane Canyon (Tom Kloster)
Cooper Spur climbers shelter (Tom Kloster)
Eliot Moraine - whitebark pine krumholz (Tom Kloster)
Eliot Glacier from moraine viewpoint (Tom Kloster)
Eliot Moraine Hike (Tom Kloster)
  • Trailhead: Cloud Cap Trailhead
  • Trail Log: Trail Log
  • Distance: 2.5 miles round-trip
  • Elevation gain: 1052 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: July - November
  • Family Friendly: Kids 12 or older
  • Backpackable: Yes - connects to Timberline Trail
  • Crowded: On summer weekends


Hike Description

This spectacular hike begins at Cloud Cap Trailhead, and quickly climbs to a soaring viewpoint above the spectacular Eliot Glacier, Mount Hood’s largest and most rugged river of ice. The route also passes one of the surviving rustic stone shelters that once dotted the Timberline Trail. Historic Cloud Cap Inn is closed to the public, but the grounds of inn are worth a stop before or after your hike. Cloud Cap Trailhead is crowded on summer weekends, so try this one on a weekday, if possible.

From the trailhead, follow the Timberline Trail left and uphill for a short distance to a junction, where a sign identified a spur trail to the Eliot East Moraine. You will return on this trail, but to continue the loop, stay left on the Timberline Trail, following the sign pointing to Gnarl Ridge. The trail continues climbing through a handsome old growth forest of huge mountain hemlock. While the route is well-graded, it also travels across soft volcanic ash for the remainder of the trip. This will make the 1.2 mile climb to the Cooper Spur shelter seem like twice that, but as you round a bend into Tilly Jane canyon, and views of Mount Hood loom ahead, you’ll forget the soft sand below your feet. In this section, the trail switchbacks up Tilly Jane canyon amid boulders and scattered alpine wildflowers. If you’re hiking early in the season, expect lingering snow and watch for distinct cairns with wooden posts to guide your way.

Next, the trail enters a windswept forest of mountain hemlock and whitebark pine, then exits near a junction with the Tilly Jane Trail. Turn right (uphill) here, following the sign to Cooper Spur. The spur is the rocky, hulking ridge straight ahead, but your route will only take you 100 yards on this trail, before the Cooper Spur Shelter suddenly appears on the right. Walk to the shelter on one of many informal paths, and take a moment to appreciate the architecture and construction. This rustic stone building has existed on the site for more than sixty years, somehow surviving the avalanches that have gradually destroyed most of the other shelters along the Timberline Trail.

After pausing to enjoy the shelter, continue north past the building, following an excellent use path that heads north toward the Eliot Glacier moraine. This informal route dips in to a tiny draw, then follows it uphill for 200 feet, before doubling back and traversing to the crest of the moraine. A climbers trail drops to the Eliot Glacier from here but you should stop at the large rock climbers cairn located at the crest of the moraine, as the route beyond is dangerous to all but experienced climbers. The view from here is truly awesome, with the Eliot Glacier tumbling down the north face of the mountain, and the occasional sound of ice creaking and weakened rock walls collapsing. When the wind is right, you can even smell the sulfur in the air from Mount Hood’s smoking crater. Below, you can often pick out climbers scaling the ice pinnacles known as seracs in the lower icefall.

After enjoying the view, turn right and follow the climber’s path down the moraine, being careful to stay at the crest of the moraine when periodic side paths appear. From this section of the hike, you have a birds-eye view of the business end of a glacier, to your left,: The break between white ice and the lower portion of the glacier, which is covered in rock debris, marks the point where snowfall is outpaced by glacial melt. Farther along the ridge, you will see the unusual appearance of a river emerging in full force from a glacier. Below, and to the right, you can pick out the earlier part of your hike, as the Timberline Trail snakes down Tilly Jane Canyon.

After 0.5 miles of following the moraine, the route suddenly reaches the Timberline Trail detour route. For an impressive view of the muddy Eliot Fork, go left for 0.1 mile to the new creek crossing. Otherwise, go right onto the detour route, which quickly descends to the original trail route and your car.


Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Northwest Forest Pass (or America the Beautiful Pass) required

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Page 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.