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Tri-County Ridge Snowshoe

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Mount Hood from Tri-County Ridge (Tom Kloster)
Tri-County Ridge as it appears from Highway 26 at Snow Bunny (Tom Kloster)
PCT sign along the main trail (Tom Kloster)
Mount Jefferson and the Three Sisters from Tri-County Ridge (Tom Kloster)
  • Start point: Barlow Pass Sno-ParkRoad.JPG
  • End Point: Tri-County Ridge
  • Hike Type: Out and Back
  • Distance: 3.2 miles round-trip
  • Elevation gain: 768 feet
  • High Point: 4,925 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: Late November through March or early April
  • Family Friendly: No
  • Backpackable: Yes (snow camping)
  • Crowded: On weekends



This popular trip involves an easy 1.2 mile hike along the Pacific Crest Trail, then an 0.4 mile cross-country climb to a fine viewpoint atop Tri-County Ridge. Save this hike for a clear day, both to enjoy the manificent views from Tri-County Ridge, and because foggy conditions can make the cross-country segment confusing

(Special note: in several printed guides, this destination is identified as "Ghost Ridge". However, because this name is already formally given to a ridge on the north side of Mount Hood, this guide uses "Tri-County Ridge", which draws from the junction of Clackamas, Wasco and Hood River counties near the summit of the ridge. This informal name was selected in a Portland Hikers.org user poll in February 2010).

Begin the trip at the east corner of the Sno-Park, immediately encountering a forest of trail signs marking this very busy trailhead. Look for the large, faded wood relief map, and follow the trail to the right of the sign, almost immediately seeing a familiar Pacific Crest Trail marker on a tree a few feet up the trail. Blue diamonds also mark this as a cross-country ski trail, so to the extent possible, snowshoe to the side of well-defined ski tracks. The trail meanders along the broad crest of the divide that forms Barlow Pass, heading in a southwest direction. Because of the popularity of the trail, it's unlikely that you will have trouble finding the route, but watch for blazes and ski diamonds, as needed.

After a mile of gentle climbing along the ridge crest, you will have pocket views into the Barlow Creek canyon and across to rugged Barlow Butte. Soon, you will reach a critical navigational point: the trail begins to noticeably traverse along the east face of the ridge, then begins a gradual descent. At this point, watch closely for ribbons marking the cross-country portion of the hike, on the right (uphill) side of the trail -- with luck, you'll see snowshoe prints marking the route, too. If you find yourself heading downhill for any significant distance, simply backtrack to locate the jumping-off point.

Once on the cross-country section, the best plan is to follow snowshoe tracks to the top, keeping in mind that after periods of fair weather, there are a LOT of tracks, weaving in and out of the general route. In that case, just follow what look to be the most used tracks. The route heads through a lightly forested area at a gentle grade for a few dozen yards, then reaches an open slope, where the path marches right up the north end of the slope, usually in a switchback or two. If there aren't any tracks to follow, head for the north end of the open slope -- then stop for the first excellent view of Mount Hood, to the north. This is a perfectly good turn-around point if you're having any questions about route-finding. Sit back and enjoy the scenery!

From the top of the first open slope, the route follows a more densely forested section of ridge top at a moderate grade. Continue south, and begin traversing around the east slope of Tri-County Ridge. Here, the trail reaches another open slope, and again vaults right up the side of it, also along the north edge. At the top of this slope, enter a dense patch of forest for a short distance before reaching another open area, and then the summit block of the ridge. Circle around the left side of the summit, as the best views are from a wide, open area a few yards beyond the actual summit. Here, you can usually stretch out on rocks that often poke through the snow, and take in a magnificent view of Mount Hood, to the north, Mount Jefferson and the Three Sisters to the south, and Barlow Ridge to the east. Tom Dick and Harry Mountain forms the cluster of peaks to the northwest, and the bit of Highway 26 that you can see far below is the section near Snow Bunny and the Trillium Lake trailhead,

After enjoying the fine view, carefully retrace your steps the junction with the Pacific Crest Trail, then follow the formal trail back to the main trailhead. Seasoned snowshoers can extend this hike by traveling another 2.0 miles along the Pacific Crest Trail to Upper Twin Lake (route shown in green on the map, below). This option adds four miles to the hike, and another 200 feet of elevation gain on the return trip from Upper Twin Lake.


Tri-County Ridge Snowshoe Map

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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.