tomb wrote:Right now my plan is to still drive up to Timberline Lodge 10/21/17 (will I be able to do this with a rental sedan, no chains?). Then the thought is to do an out and back along the trail, but to avoid any river crossings (due to possible high water and cold temperatures). I downloaded a pretty good trail map to my GPS and I'm decent with a map and compass so I am not too worried about route finding (though this thought may be naive). Is this idea even feasible at current water levels, or do I need to abandon the Timberline trail all together? I've backpacked in the snow before and I have some basic gear like a snow shovel and gaiters, but I wouldn't want to need snow shoes or much more technical equipment. Thanks again for all the help!
A. The Road: Chains may
be required legally, if conditions warrant. The driving could be great the day you drove up, and completely wintry when you plan on driving down, stranding you up at the Lodge. So, it's a gamble to count on multiple days of clear roads. It is a windy, narrow, fairly steep road that I avoid in winter (but of course hundreds go up each week, many with AWD or 4WD, and most with traction tires and chains). It's been snowed on twice already.
B. The Trail: it should be possible to hike over to the ZigZag viewpoint, where you could certainly camp (it's a few miles and relatively easy to follow). The problem with doing a longer trip that direction would have to be getting down into ZigZag Canyon on snow: steep, sometimes exposed sidehilling. So Paradise Park is almost never visited in the winter (it would be easier to come up the Paradise Park trail if you wanted to see that area, but that wouldn't really be a hike on the T'line Trail).
Alternatively, hiking counterclockwise on the trail would allow you to visit the White River Canyon (a great destination any time of year, and a popular skiing, snowshoeing, and winter camping spot). I understand that there is an avalanche slope or two between the Lodge and White River. That may or may not be a concern, depending on the snow conditions. You could check the NWAC forecast before you go, in order to better inform your decision (http://www.nwac.us/avalanche-forecast/current/mt-hood/
). I often ford the White River in the winter time (take off the skis and walk over), but it's hard to say what it'd be like any given day- multiple times it has gone big and washed away the highway bridge. After crossing the White River, you could, I suppose hike up to the Mt Hood Meadows ski area- not so wild, but I think you'd avoid significant stream crossings for a little while longer.
Our weather is quite variable: in some years, I've climbed snow-free mountains at Mt Rainier National Park in November, but, this year, my first ski of the winter was October 11. And, from week to week, it can vary from sunny and 50's, to sheets of blowing rain for three days with temps never leaving the 40's. So, if cold rain ruins my hiking or skiing plans in the fall, I head east to the Deschutes country (Bend, or down by the Columbia). Here's a link to a great year-round 40 mile long trail with more dependable weather: https://www.oregonhikers.org/field_guid ... River_Hike