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Difference between revisions of "Cooper Spur via Tilly Jane Ski Trail Hike"

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

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Latest revision as of 00:51, 27 September 2021

The Tilly Jane Ski Trail in the Gnarl Ridge Burn (Brian Eisner)
Polallie Canyon (Brian Eisner)
Eliot Glacier from Cooper Spur Trail (Tom Kloster)
Eliot Glacier Icefall (Tom Kloster)
The route up to Cooper Spur from the Tilly Jane Ski Trailhead (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo
  • Start point: Tilly Jane Sno Park TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • Ending Point: Cooper Spur
  • Hike Type: Out and Back
  • Distance: 11.6 miles round-trip
  • Elevation gain: 4600 feet
  • High point: 8,514 feet
  • Difficulty: Difficult
  • Seasons: July–October
  • Family Friendly: No
  • Backpackable: Yes—connects to Timberline Trail
  • Crowded: Upper part on summer weekends

Contents

Hike Description

Most hikers reach Cooper Spur, the highest point on the mountain reachable by trail, by starting from the Cloud Cap Inn for a moderate 6.5-mile hike. This hike takes a longer and more difficult approach, starting at the Cooper Spur Ski Area and gaining over 4500 feet in less than six miles. No two ways about it, this hike is a calf-burner, with almost as much elevation gain as Mount Defiance in a similar distance! Make sure to bring sunscreen, as there is no shade for the majority the hike.

To start, follow the Tilly Jane Ski Trail #643 from the trailhead through the mid-altitude forest. Almost immediately the trail starts to gain elevation. The trail soon crosses a small boggy area before coming to a junction with the Polallie Ridge Trail #643A. This trail offers a loop opportunity in the area but has become overgrown and unmaintained, and is only for experienced adventurers. For now, keep straight at the fork, and soon enter the Gnarl Ridge Burn zone. The trail continues roughly along a ridge through a substantial crown fire, with a few hardy trees surviving among numerous bleached snags. Occasional views of the imposing northeast face of Mount Hood present themselves over the ridges. You can try to spot Cooper Spur itself if you like. At 2.7 miles from the trailhead, the trail abruptly leaves the burn zone and enters the Cloud Cap/Tilly Jane Historic District. Several buildings are present; the A-frame is a popular cabin (reservations required) during the skiing season. Passing by several historic structures and an informational signboard, come to the junction with the Tilly Jane Trail #600A.

Make a left, and almost immediately keep right at the next fork. This is the western end of the Polallie Ridge Trail mentioned earlier; on the way back down the loop adds approximately 0.5 miles to the trip on an extremely-overgrown tread. The Tilly Jane Trail soon reaches the northern rim of the massive Polallie Creek Canyon and follows it for the next half-mile. There are numerous viewpoints to take in the view and hear the roaring creek below, and If you’re lucky you may see active rockfall on the south canyon wall. The canyon walls here serve as as stark reminder that the the mountain is still an active volcano; each distinct rock layer represents one eruption. The trail then leaves the rim and continues up through ever-shortening trees, soon reaching the Timberline-Cooper Spur-Tilly Jane Trail Junction and Timberline Trail #600. Right leads to the Cloud Cap Inn, while left eventually reaches Gnarl Ridge. To continue to Cooper Spur, keep straight on the Cooper Spur Trail #600B.

The trail soon passes by the historic Cooper Spur Shelter, one of the only surviving shelters of the many that used to exist along the Timberline Trail. After admiring the architecture, continue on the trail up Cooper Spur, switchbacking up the face of the mountain. Soon the trees disappear entirely and the vegetation is reduced to small grasses and flowers. Even these will soon cease to exist as the trail continues to climb, with nothing but rocks and snow remaining. In early summer butterflies often swarm the trail, and you will see ravens perching on the many rocky outcroppings. Views into the Eliot Glacier canyon are unrivaled, and soon, as the ridge narrows, views of the Newton-Clark Glacier to the south are also possible. If you’re lucky you may hear the glaciers creaking, a reminder of the active geomorphological processes that continue to shape the region.

Make sure to turn around occasionally to see just how far above the tree line you’ve climbed, and for stunning views to the north, east, and south. To the north it is easy to make out the peaks of Mount Saint Helens, Mount Rainier, and Mount Adams. To the south, Mount Jefferson and the Three Sisters can be seen. To the east, looking beyond the foothills of the cascades, the vast Oregon High Desert on the Columbia Plateau extends. On an exceptionally-clear day it is even possible to spot the Ochoco Mountains and Blue Mountains beyond the desert. Eventually the ridge narrows into a single moraine separating the Eliot and Newton-Clark glaciers. Several small boulder rings are present here, if shelter from the wind is necessary. At 8500 feet, this is a good spot to turn around, and marks the end of this hike.

For the adventurers in the crowd, it is possible to continue west along the moraine for around 0.5 more miles. The last quarter mile is sketchy, with crumbly rock and steep slopes characterizing the trail. Eventually you will reach a small prominence, and one final stone ring with a hiker registry inside. Sign the book if you wish. You are at almost 9000 feet at this point. Here, less than a mile away from the summit as the crow flies, is where it becomes too dangerous to continue without technical equipment. Turn around here and leave the rest of the mountain to the climbers.

Maps

  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • Tilly Jane Ski Trail #643 (USFS)
  • Cooper Spur Trail #600B (USFS)
  • Geo-Graphics: Mount Hood Wilderness Map
  • Adventure Maps: Mt. Hood Area
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Mt. Hood National Forest
  • 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.

  • A sno-park permit is required to park at the Tilly Jane Sno Park Trailhead between November and April, while parking during the summer months is free.
  • Information kiosk at trailhead

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this destination

  • Day Hiking Mount Hood: A Year-Round Guide by Eli Boschetto

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.

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.