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Pinnacle Ridge to Elk Cove Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

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Mount Hood from the Timberline Trail dropping into Elk Cove (Steve Hart)
The Pinnacle as seen from the Pinnacle Ridge Trail (bobcat)
Flower meadows on the Pinnacle Ridge Trail (Steve Hart)
Pink mountain heather (Phyllodoce empetriformis) on the Timberline Trail (bobcat)
The route of the Pinnacle Ridge and Timberline trails to Elk Cove (bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo/USFS



The Pinnacle Ridge Trail is a scenic and fairly short access route to Mount Hood’s north side, joining the Timberline Trail between Wy’East Basin and Elk Cove. It is also one of the routes most often used to access Barrett Spur and Dollar Lake, both above the Timberline Trail. Except for the unburned upper section, most of the Pinnacle Ridge Trail was scorched by the 2011 Dollar Lake Fire, so you’ll be hiking through a recovering forest dominated by standing snags with little shade. Highlights include a close passage by The Pinnacle, now more visible since the fire, and the lush mountain bogs of Pinnacle Meadows. Huckleberries are abundant at the end of August/beginning of September.

There’s an information kiosk with a large map and a wilderness permit box at the trailhead. The first short stretch of trail is through an unburned forest of Douglas-fir, hemlock, and silver fir with huckleberry and bear-grass in the understory. Then cross a decommissioned dozer line, which served as a fire break in 2011, and hike the trail, which is parallel to the old firebreak. Mount Hood is visible through the trees, and you’ll also get views east to Surveyors Ridge. Lodgepole pine and Scouler’s willow have colonized this section of the burn. The trail crosses the end of the firebreak, where you’ll get a clear view up to Mount Hood. It then passes a vacant signboard to enter the Mt. Hood Wilderness.

Now, the route heads up a ridge crest where a canopy fire killed all the mature trees. Young Douglas-firs and mountain hemlocks grow thick in the understory, though. Cross a one-log footbridge over a small creek, and pass below a rocky outcropping. At a second and larger talus field, you may hear the alarm calls of pikas. Make traverse where you’ll sight the top of Mount Hood and also The Pinnacle, and cross two small dry draws before rising and then descending to a trickling creek. Switchback up and pass a rock outcropping on the left as Mount Hood appears behind The Pinnacle again. Hike steeply up below a ridge crest through fireweed, pearly everlasting, and bear-grass in a dead forest of scorched snags. The trail comes close to The Pinnacle, the formation being a worthy off-trail ascent although you may want to attempt it from somewhat higher up.

Next you’ll hike along the edge of a boggy meadow, passing through thickets of white rhododendron, spiraea, and blueberry. After crossing a stream, you’ll arrive below the main part of Pinnacle Meadows, a lush open bog of springs, moss, and cottongrass. The main trail gets boggy as it keeps to the west side of the meadow, but there are work arounds to the right. Early in the summer, look for blooming false asphodel, grass-of-Parnassus, marsh-marigold, and shooting star. From the top of Pinnacle Meadows, there’s a great view north to Mount Adams.

The trail heads up a heather/partridge-foot/avalanche lily draw and leaves the burn area to cross another heather meadow. After you cross a trickling brook, you’ll arrive at a lovely mossy creek, a tributary of the Clear Branch, where monkey flower, arrow-leaf groundsel, subalpine daisy, paintbrush, lupine, and lovage bloom in abundance. Then the trail rises through a mountain hemlock parkland and up a glade of heather, partridge-foot, and avalanche lily.

When you reach the Timberline-Pinnacle Ridge Trail Junction, you have options to consider. If you wish, you could go right (west) 0.2 miles to scenic Wy'East Basin for excellent views north and a lovely cold stream if you need drinking water. There is an unmarked trail going up from Wy'East Basin to Barrett Spur.

For this hike, go left (east) on the Timberline Trail for about a mile to Elk Cove. The trail crosses a rocky gully and rises to alternate heather meadows and hemlock woods where avalanche lilies bloom. Look for the almost hidden junction with the Dollar Lake Trail, usually marked by cairns, where it heads up in a dense thicket of mountain hemlocks. Cross a talus slope where views extend to Vista Ridge and Katsuk Point, The Pinnacle, Laurance Lake, the Hood River Valley, and Mount Adams. Pikas chirp their alarm calls from their rocky recesses. As you traverse the northern slopes of Barrett Spur, you’ll pass through a tongue of the Dollar Lake Burn. Then cross a meadow, and enter shady woods before arriving above Elk Cove and switchbacking down. Looking back up the mountain, you can see the tumbling Coe Glacier to the left of Barrett Spur’s summit. Cove Creek splashes prettily through the lush meadow below. Spur trails lead left and right to campsites, and soon you’ll cross the creek itself and arrive at the parklands of Elk Cove.


  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • Green Trails Maps: Mt Hood, OR #462
  • Adventure Maps: Mt. Hood Area
  • Adventure Maps: Hood River, Oregon, Trail Map
  • Discover Your Northwest: Mt. Hood National Forest North: Trail Map & Hiking Guide
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Hood River Ranger District
  • National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map: Mount Hood Wilderness
  • National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map: Mount Hood

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Self-issued wilderness permit; wilderness rules apply
  • Information kiosk at trailhead

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • 100 Hikes in Northwest Oregon & Southwest Washington by William L. Sullivan
  • Oregon Favorites: Trails and Tales by William L. Sullivan
  • Day Hiking Mount Hood: A Year-Round Guide by Eli Boschetto
  • Hiking Oregon’s Mount Hood & Badger Creek Wilderness by Fred Barstad
  • 105 Virtual Hikes of the Mt. Hood National Forest by Northwest Hiker
  • 50 Hiking Trails: Portland & Northwest Oregon by Don & Roberta Lowe

More Links

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.

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