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Elk Cove

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Mount Hood from Elk Cove in early August (Tom Kloster)
Small-flowered paintbrush (Castilleja parviflora), Elk Cove (bobcat)


Elk Cove is a large, alpine basin on the north side of Mount Hood. The basin was formed by a lobe of the spectacular Coe Glacier that once pushed through the valley, but disappeared as the glacier retreated. Today, the Coe Glacier still dominates the north face of Mount Hood from Elk Cove, and craggy Barrett Spur rises like a wall above the meadow, framing the scene. Crystal-clear Cove Creek rambles through the west edge of the meadows, rising from snowfield that cover the slopes of Barrett Spur. Dozens of bleached tree stumps throughout the cove are mute testimony to the force of avalanches that regularly roll through the valley in winter, snapping large trees off at the 15-20 foot snow level. In 2021, an avalanche came down from Barrett Spur and took out a number of trees in the northwest part of the basin, well away from the Timberline Trail.

Elk Cove, like many other basins on Mount Hood is widely known for it's floral displays in late July and early August. Western pasque flower and avalanche lilies bloom first, right after snowmelt. The lilies dwindle quickly, but the pasque flowers are replaced by seedheads that last all summer. In mid July, the basin erupts in a colorful display of lupine, aster, paintbrush and numerous other flowers.

Camping is allowed at numerous spots in the trees at the east or north ends of the Cove along the Timberline and Elk Cove trail approaches, and not in the fragile meadows. The meadows can be reached from several trailheads, including Cloud Cap Trailhead, Pinnacle Ridge Trailhead, Elk Cove Trailhead and Vista Ridge Trailhead.

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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.