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Difference between revisions of "Elk Cove from Vista Ridge Hike"

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

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{{TripReports|Elk Cove from Vista Ridge}}
{{TripReports|Elk Cove from Vista Ridge}}
* [https://www.oregonhikers.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=8&t=29158  Vista Ridge to Elk Cove]
* [https://www.oregonhikers.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=8&t=29076  Vista Ridge - Dollar Lake - Barrett Spur 7/14-15/2020]
* [https://www.oregonhikers.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=8&t=29076  Vista Ridge - Dollar Lake - Barrett Spur 7/14-15/2020]

Revision as of 02:52, 13 August 2020

Moon Rising over Mount Hood as viewed from Vista Ridge (Tom Kloster)
Wy'East Basin in autumn (Tom Kloster)
Elk Cove in autumn (Tom Kloster)
Avalanche lilies (Erythronium montanum), Elk Cove (bobcat)
Elk Cove Trail Map - from Vista Ridge Trailhead
  • Start point: Vista Ridge TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Elk Cove
  • Trail Log: Elk Cove from Vista Ridge Hike/Log
  • Hike Type: In and out
  • Distance: 8.8 miles round-trip
  • Elevation gain: 2000 feet
  • High Point: 5,800 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: July–November
  • Family Friendly: Yes, for older kids
  • Backpackable: Yes—follows the Timberline Trail
  • Crowded: Summer weekends
Add-On Hikes: Barrett Spur Add-on Hike , Dollar Lake Add-on Hike



If you’re looking for an easier hike to Elk Cove than from Cloud Cap Trailhead, this is a fine option. The well-graded, moderate climb to timberline is through forests scorched by the 2011 Dollar Lake Fire, and the stunning approach to Elk Cove from “99 Ridge” is one of the most spectacular mountain vistas anywhere. The route also crosses through several wildflower-filled meadows and avoids fords of glacial streams and the dusty canyon traverses that usually go with these crossings. Much of the area was burned in 2011, but post-fire wildflower displays are even more spectacular in summer.

From the Vista Ridge Trailhead, the route initially follows a rocky, overgrown roadbed before entering deep forest and finding a softer trail surface. At 0.4 miles, you'll come to the Vista Ridge Junction and a wilderness registration kiosk. This trail leading left is the original alignment of the Vista Ridge Trail which starts at a former trailhead near Perry Lake, now designated the Old Vista Ridge Trail #626A. Trailkeepers of Oregon maintains this trail as far as Owl Point.

For this hike, fill out your wilderness permit at the registration station and follow the Vista Ridge Trail to the right as it gently climbs through forest for 1.8 miles at a surprisingly easy grade. Then there's a bit of steeper climbing, but it's less than a quarter mile. The top of the steep section is marked by a junction with the Eden Park Trail and the first of many fine views of Mount Hood. Continue straight (left) here, and enjoy ever-increasing mountain views as you climb another 0.4 mile to the well-marked Timberline Trail. Turn left on the Timberline Trail, and follow the easy grade as it enters Wy'East Basin, a peaceful, green glade with Mount Hood peering over the ridgeline. There is a primitive, unmarked trail up to Barrett Spur to the right and acres of meadow to explore to the left.

Continue across the meadow at Wy'East Basin, passing a tent site on the east edge where the trail re-enters trees. From here, the route dips in and out of several lush swales filled with summer wildflowers, before starting a broader swing around the base of Barrett Spur. Pass the Pinnacle Ridge Trail (no. 630) and then the short, unmarked, half-mile side trail that leads to tiny Dollar Lake, a scenic side trip. Watch closely for this path, which disappears to the right through a thicket of mountain hemlock where the trail curves through a small draw. If you reach an open scree slope, you've passed the Dollar Lake junction by a short distance. The Dollar Lake area is detailed in the Dollar Lake Add-on Hike.

Continuing on the Timberline Trail from the Dollar Lake junction, the route turns sharply around the east shoulder of Barrett Spur to a stunning view of Mount Hood, framed by rocky cliff, ancient mountain hemlock, and steep fields of western pasque flower (known as “old man of the mountain” for its distinctive bearded seed pods in late summer). As the trail descends through steep meadows, Elk Cove is visible below, and the rugged Langille Crags form the east horizon. Mount Hood towers above, dominated by the massive Coe Glacier and Barrett Spur.

Once at Elk Cove, the trail parallels photogenic Cove Creek, and then crosses the stream before cresting a low rise and reaching the junction with the Elk Cove Trail. For backpackers, several campsites are located to the left, a few yards down this trail. The best mountain views are from the main meadows, just a few yards beyond this junction, and more campsites are located on the east edge of the meadows.


  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • Vista Ridge Trail #626 (USFS)
  • Green Trails Maps: Mt Hood, OR #462
  • Adventure Maps: Mt. Hood Area
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Zigzag Ranger District
  • Discover Your Northwest: Mt. Hood National Forest North: Trail Map & Hiking Guide
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Mt. Hood National Forest
  • National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map: Mount Hood Wilderness
  • National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map: Mount Hood
  • Discover Your Northwest: Mt. Hood National Forest North

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Self-issued wilderness permit: wilderness rules apply
  • No camping in meadows

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A


  • Hiking Oregon's Mount Hood & Badger Creek Wilderness by Fred Barstad
  • Oregon's Wilderness Areas by George Wuerthner
  • Oregon's Best Wildflower Hikes: Northwest Region by George Wuerthner
  • Portland Hikes by Art Bernstein & Andrew Jackman
  • Around Mt. Hood in Easy Stages by Sonia Buist & Emily Keller
  • Around & About Mount Hood by Sonia Buist with Emily Keller
  • 70 Hiking Trails: Northern Oregon Cascades by Don & Roberta Lowe
  • 62 Hiking Trails: Northern Oregon Cascades 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.

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.