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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

Contents

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 the 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 identifies a spur trail to the Eliot East Moraine. You will return on this trail, but to continue the clockwise loop, stay left on the Timberline Trail, following the sign pointing toward 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 much of the trip, which may 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, surviving the avalanches that have gradually destroyed many of the other shelters along the Timberline Trail.

After pausing to enjoy the shelter, continue north (right, if looking toward the mountain) past the building, following an excellent use path that leads toward the Eliot Glacier moraine. This informal route dips in to a tiny draw and then crests the moraine at an enormous cairn. A climbers trail drops to the Eliot Glacier from here, but this route is dangerous to all but experienced mountaineers. 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 steaming crater. Below, you can often pick out climbers scaling the ice blocks known as seracs in the lower icefall.

After enjoying the view, turn right and follow the climber’s path downhill along the top of the moraine, being careful to stay on the crest 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 can see a stream emerging in full force from the terminus of the 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 former alignment of the Timberline Trail. For an impressive view of the muddy Eliot Branch, go left for 0.1 mile to the top of the old creek crossing. Otherwise, turn right on the trail that heads down the sandy slopes of the moraine and quickly brings you back to Cloud Cap.

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Fees, Regulations, etc.

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

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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.