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Umbrella Falls trail in winter

Posted: January 21st, 2019, 5:58 pm
by huckleberries
Having been down the Newton Creek trail to Newton Creek and beyond many times, we thought the Umbrella Falls trail sounded interesting.

We parked at the HRM nordic center lot this morning and headed up the Umbrella Falls trail on a good solid base of at least 20 inches of snow, the top few being recent powder and then an icy crust. The air was chilly but not too bad at 28 degrees. The sun was out and the sky mostly blue, unlike the Gov. Camp side. The first section of the trail was pretty pleasant -- fresh snow on all the trees, and the quiet of the forest.

Soon the trail crosses a ski run and heads up a ridge. I was following the trail shown on my GPS so I feel reasonably certain it was the actual Umbrella Falls Trail. Some nice views opened up -- see photo.
Got to a second ski run and looked for where the snowshoe trail continues slightly uphill from the intersection but could not see it. With vast numbers of people snowboarding by, and many going up the embankment above where one might logically walk along the edge of the ski run up to the continuation of the trail, it seemed unwise take the chance of getting run over. We backed up some and snowshoed cross-country up the ridge trying to connect with the next zig-zag of the Umbrella Falls trail. I burned a lot of energy breaking a new trail on the side of the steep ridge. After a couple dead ends where trees and logs blocked the route, my GPS showed that I had reached where the trail zags back northward but there was no sign of any recent tracks. Even with the extenders on my MSR snowshoes, I found myself starting to slide sideways on the buried frozen crust as the sun started melting the snow a bit. That and the continued steepness made it seem less than safe, especially for the downhill trip. After lunch, we decided to give up on Umbrella Falls. And returning on the Umbrella Falls trail between the two ski runs, a couple snowboarders came zooming down pretty fast. Really you only have what seems like milliseconds to jump out of their way. So I can't say I'd recommend this outing in the winter.

We added some mileage exploring around Clark Creek. There's a tree down on top of the bridge over the creek and with the shutdown, no rangers are probably going to clean it up anytime soon. See photo. It doesn't prevent you from crossing, just slows things down a bit.
I was looking at the topo map to see if there was any point revisiting trying to get the Umbrella Falls in winter, but even with better snow conditions and going cross-country at the first ski run crossing, I think there are too many really steep pitches.

Re: Umbrella Falls trail in winter

Posted: January 21st, 2019, 6:34 pm
by johnspeth
I'm surprised the MHM Nazis didn't chase you out of there. They have a restrictive 'no unpaid visitors allowed' policy that seems to have the support of the forest service, who manages the ski area's permit. To the best of my knowledge, the policy has never been challenged in a court. Read the uphill policy here: ... operations. You were in violation according to MHM. About 10 years ago, they chased me down in a snow cat as I was skinning up the Heather Canyon run-out at 6 AM. The driver was running full speed, caught me, gave me a scolding, and turned around and left. I wasn't even past the "No hiking" sign yet. It was war from that moment on for me.

Like you, I believe that public land is indeed public. There is a statement in the MHM 1993 Permit document that says "the lands and waters covered by this permit shall remain open to the public for all lawful purposes". There are a slew of qualifications on that statement but they boil down to this: As long as the permitted ski area business is not negatively affected and as long as safety is not degraded, any citizen is allowed access.

It's too bad you decided to abandon your trip. Unfortunately hiking through a ski area while it's open is really unsafe as you discovered. It also destroys the solitude experience we all seek.

Re: Umbrella Falls trail in winter

Posted: January 21st, 2019, 7:38 pm
by huckleberries
Since this was our alternate destination for the day (and largely seemed possible because a sign on the Newton Creek trail fork said Umbrella Falls 1.3 or 1.5 miles, along with a lot of snowshoe tracks), I didn't research it thoroughly. I had no idea it was going to traverse so much of Hood Meadows. We saw no signs about restrictions either.

Re: Umbrella Falls trail in winter

Posted: January 26th, 2019, 11:58 am
by romann
You had a nice hike, even though it was shorter than planned. It's similar to my experience trying to hike at ski area (west of Timberline Lodge), I haven't seen officials but had a few close calls with snowboarders and they were not very happy ;) . I prefer waiting till May-June for snow to really harden (may be earlier this year) and use crampons, to go in any direction - no trail needed.

Re: Umbrella Falls trail in winter

Posted: January 27th, 2019, 8:01 pm
by huckleberries
Yes, we had a good outing. The sunshine was delightful.

Out of curiosity, I looked over ten maps of Mt Hood that depict trails in that area. The trail to Umbrella Falls is not noted as out of bounds due to Hood River Meadows restrictions during winter. Maybe those are listed in fine print somewhere. The consensus view is the trail passes under one ski lift -- none showed ski runs. The other interesting finding was how divergent the maps were regarding the location of parts of the Umbrella Falls trail; there seem to be two camps (i.e. groupings of maps) about the location. I'm guessing the trail may have been rerouted at some point, and/or some maps are just wildly off (a quick measurement shows the two camp's trail depictions as far as 605 feet apart).

Re: Umbrella Falls trail in winter

Posted: January 28th, 2019, 5:34 am
by retired jerry
can you hike on the PCT through Timberline ski area?

I've done it in spring when there were still a few skiers, I had to look carefully and cross the ski run when no skier was coming

Re: Umbrella Falls trail in winter

Posted: January 29th, 2019, 7:19 pm
by huckleberries
My one experience trying to snowshoe in the winter around Timberline Lodge was not very good. If you head south on the PCT, you immediately are faced with a treacherous canyon -- at least if the snow is anything beyond minimal. Heading the other way towards Paradise Park, you have to cross several ski runs and the number of close calls did not seem worth it.

Re: Umbrella Falls trail in winter

Posted: January 30th, 2019, 5:49 am
by retired jerry

Okay, maybe falling in a treacherous canyon or being run over by skiers is a worse risk than being yelled at by the authorities :)