Not doing much research on an area before going there can be fun and sometimes pretty funny. We had gone into the Mount Hood area of Oregon to get a bit closer to the iconic peak and to be honest to check out a few of the brewpubs in the vicinity. It was also a chance to see if we could find a hike or two and to spend a couple of nights camping. Well, we had done all that and were headed back along the Colombia River Gorge towards Washington State, our next destination. It was still pretty early and we noticed a ton of cars at the parking area for Multnomah Falls. Despite all the turmoil, we decided to check it out what all the fuss was about. We did the short walk up to the viewpoint and couldn't believe not only how beautiful it was but also how big. It turned out to be the second highest year round waterfall in the United States! Two million people visit it each year and we were right there with them though we probably were the least aware we would be doing it than anyone else there.
Multnomah Falls plunge down 620 feet. From the information center, you can hike 1.2 miles and climb approximately 600 feet to the top of the Falls. This trail provides great views of the falls and the Columbia River Gorge. From the top, you can continue hiking six miles to the top of Larch Mountain or make a loop with the Wahkeena Loop Trail.
We had no time for the hike a we still had quite a few hours to drive to Mount Rainer but would definitely come back to this area if in Portland again. This time a bit more prepared and knowledgeable about the area.
Some places you anticipate and they let you down. Others you hold little regard for and they make you eat your hat. Then there are the places you know nothing about that flat out bowl you over in surprise. That was Lavender Valley. I can thank my wife, Oregon brochures and beer for this discovery. Beer? Yup. If it wasn't for my going to so many brewpubs on this leg of our six month trip, I might not have been so agreeable to going to a field of flowers. But Doreen had been an angel in not only going to all these brewpubs but also driving me home from all of those not within walking distance of where we were staying. She read about Lavender Valley in a brochure and she didn't have to lobby very hard to get me to go. I might not have been super enthusiastic but I do like flowers and taking photos of them.
Nothing quite prepared me for what I saw on arrival. Acres of lavender as far as the eye could see and the cutest gazebo sitting in the middle of it. As it turns out, Hood River is on the same latitude as southern France where the stuff has been grown commercially for ages. These fields are between two active volcanoes so the winters are not too harsh and the summers are sunny, dry and warm. It's perfect for growing lavender and the oil produced here is as good as any.
There is a cute little shop that sells all things to do with lavender from the oil to soap to pillows (to douse with the oil of course). The family running it are not pushy in the least and are quite used to people coming here as an attraction in itself. They have small tables and chairs outside and you can bring your own picnic supplies. I must admit I enjoyed taking photos here as much as any field of wild flowers and got some great shots of my wife gloating in the gazebo. She never said “I told you so,” but she didn't have to, she did.
Mount Hood has year round skiing and, I believe, is the only place in the US where this is possible. Olympic teams train here and numerous competitions take place on the upper slopes of the mountain.
Summer skiing is open only at Timberline. Mount Hood Meadows and the Skibowl are only open during the winter.
The websites for all three are:
Here in Paradise Park, there used to be one of the several trail shelters that were built by the CCC during the Depression. Only a few still stand. Sadly, the one here burnt a few years ago leaving only the foundation stones behind. Several campsites exist nearby on the forested island above Lost Creek. The Park and the shelter remains lie on the Paradise Park loop trail which parallels the Pacific Crest Trail about a half mile below. For someone doing the PCT to miss and not come up here would be like committing a sin in itself ;-]
Paradise is normally reached by day hikers from Timberline Lodge in a little over five miles. The trail offers wide views to the south as it wanders around the 6000 foot level before dropping 700 feet into the awesome Zig Zag Canyon - the lava cliffs of the Mississippi Head towering high above. The day hiker will regain the lost elevation to attain Paradise - he will lose and regain the elevation, again on the way home. The Little Girl and I chose the little-used Paradise Park trail which ascends some 3000 feet in 6 miles through dense forested ridges to the southwest - fewer people to watch us huff!
There are several well-known flower-filled meadows lying alongside the base of Oregon’s highest mountain - Elk Cove, Yocum Ridge, Cairn Basin, etc. - but one of the most glorious is Paradise Park on the southwestern base of the mountain. Paradise Park lies about a half mile above the Pacific Crest Trail at timberline and during the all-to-brief wildflower season of mid-July to mid-August, the name of the park is truly apt!
There are large florally decorated meadows on the southern slopes of Mt Rainier which are also know as Paradise - those meadows are much larger than here on Hood, but everything about Rainier is larger - but to reach that Paradise, you need only find a parking space - easier said than done on the weekends when literally thousands come up. To gain Paradise on Mt Hood, you must work a little harder. No deathbed salvation here, you have to walk.
Join the many on their way to the top! If you don't have the experience, but are in decent physical shape, there are guides available. Don't go up if you are not comfortable with glacial travel or in weather that is not settled. Too many people have died up here when they should not have.
The main route is out of the Timberline Lodge ski parking area. You need to register in the Daylodge building on the west side of the parking lot. Current weather and climbing conditions can be obtained from there. There are many other routes on the mountain of varying technicality. Remember that the rock on a volcano is not solid. It is best to start very early in the morning to avoid the constant rockfall that can be present.
Whether you go up the main route or another, you should have some company on top. The views are great, especially airy is the view off the headwall to the north where that first step down to Elliott Glacier is a looonngg one!
For a virtual climb of the mountain, see the travellogues.
The south side climb is amazing with all of the different groups that you pass, that pass you. Everyone going up the mountain, becasue it is there? The south side climb is a bit of a slog until you round the east side of Crater Rock and enter the old caldera - the south side caldera wall blew out long ago in a smaller scale of what happened to the north side of Mt St Helens. From Crater Rock, you pass above a large fumarole that will grab equipment you are careless enough to let slide into it. Next, comes the bergshrund that you pass over or around depending upon conditions, and up the 35 degree caldera wall to the top. Return is the same way.
For a virtual climb of the mountain, see the travellogues.
These whole area doesn't have a name, but what is in a name? The area is magical with glacial creeks, vast snowfields, tiny tarns, grand vistas, magnificent flower gardens. Towering above all, is the glory of the mountain, bedecked with hanging glaciers and roaring waterfalls emanting from lower snows. Plus, it is easy for the average hiker to get up into.
The main access point is the Top Spur Trail. From here you can easily gain the NW section of the Timberline Trail (#600) which encircles the mountain - 4-5 day hike to complete. Hiking up the Top Spur Trail takes you to the Pacific Crest Trail where you turn right (south) for 20 yards or south to the junction of the PCT with the Timberline. Head east of the Timberline and you will slowly ascend a long forested ridge. At about a mile and a half, you come to a grand viewpoint amidst flower gardens. Here it is easy to sit and just look at the magnificence: the mountain, glaciers, waterfalls, canyons, flowers.
From here you can continue to many different spots - some on the trail and others not. Read William Sullivan's 100 Hikes of NW Oregon for more information (www.oregonhiking.com) - see the hike entitled 'McNeil Shelter'.
This is one of the most fantastic spots in the Oregon outdoors. You sit atop a small rocky flat spot surrounded by glaciers. A cliff drops away on the east to the Coe Glacier. Above on the south, the awesome north face of Mt Hood rises. You have about 0.1 miles of easy rock scrambling at the top - this, plus the fact that the route up is not an 'official' trail, ensures some amount of privacy. You access the bootpaths off the Timberline Trail bygoing up from the Wy'East Basin - near where the Vista Ridge comes up to meet the Timberline Trail - or you can follow bootpaths that go past Dollar Lake, near Elk Cove, and ascend an obvious ridge above the little tarn.
Not as well-known as the Government Camp and Timberline Lodge area on the south side of Mt Hood, the north side is much more dramatic and wild. Here are the largest glaciers, the tallest cliffs, the best chance to experience the true beauty of the mountain. You access the area up the gravel road that ascends from the little ski area at Cooper Spur - just off Oregon route 35, about 25 miles south of the town of Hood River. There is a campground - Cloud Cap - at the end of the road. You can access the Timberline Trail and go south or west from here. Or you can wander up to the top of the Cooper Spur, overlooking the awesome north wall of Hood and the Elliott Glacier. This walk takes 2-3 hours and goes up to Tie-In Rock at 8500 feet where the Cooper Spur climbing route begins.
There is something very magical about wandering through alpine surroundings in the early summer, wildflowers of every color blazing away at you. There are several flower areas on Mt Hood. You will wander by many of them if you take the Timberline Trail around the mountain. Areas with names like Paradise Park, Elk Cove, Cairn Basin. Some of the best flowers are to be seen on little sidetrails that take you higher, above the Timberline Trail to places like McNeil Shelter. For more ideas about the hiking possibilities, get William Sullivan's hiking guide to the Northern Oregon Cascades - www.oregonhiking.com
For a nice and easy dayhike, join the dozens of cars that are pulled up on the south side of US Route 26 just as the highway turns to enter the Government Camp area from the west. It is one of the most popular trails in the Mt Hood area of only 1.2 miles. The lake is very pretty and Mt Hood is, appropriately, 'mirrored' in the lake's surface. The lake is best experienced during the week as it does get crowded on the weekend.
This is heading back down the Hogsback. Summitting is great, until you realize you still have to get down...