Actually a few hikes in one, the Paradise Park Loop from Timberline Lodge offers exquisite mountain scenery from start to finish, whether you're going a few hundred yards or 14 miles.
It’s not really possible to name the best hike at Mount Hood, but certainly the loop from Timberline Lodge to Paradise Park has to be on the short list.
For one thing, it’s not just one hike. You can just go wandering around above the lodge and hardly put in any effort at all, but still enjoy great views and wildflowers and trees and little canyons. If you go 2.4 miles you can stand at the top of a massive gash in the side of Mt. Hood with a lovely stream hundreds feet below you. You can climb down there and see the creek and a waterfall.
And then you can go for the whole thing, which is what I did in the first week of September.
Paradise Park Loop from Timberline Lodge
This is a 13.9-mile loop with 2,800 feet of ascent that took up nearly eight hours and most of my energy.
Starting from Timberline Lodge, which is worth a stop on its own, simply walk up the hill until you cross the Pacific Crest Trail, which stretches some 2,600 miles from Mexico to Canada. The mileages (left) are a bit humbling, and if it’s August or September you’ll probably meet some northbound “through-hikers” doing the whole thing. Turn left, and off you go.
After crossing under a few chairlifts and past a tower of cell phone antennas, you finally leave the ski area and enter Mount Hood Wilderness. It’s gradually downhill for 2,4 miles to the Zigzag overlook, where I shot this video:
A nice enough turn-around, but I kept going, down to the stream crossing and then back up the other side. This is the first hard part. The second, and real hard part is going back up from the creek to the viewpoint, then 2.4 miles back up to the lodge, at the end of the day when you already have about 9.5 miles under your belt. In the middle of the afternoon.
60 Hikes Within 60 Miles of Portland
Beyond the canyon, you climb to the intersection with the Paradise Park Loop Trail (turn right) and then the Paradise Park Trail. Confusing, I know. At the second one, in a beautiful meadow where I took the photo at the top of this post, go up a little farther. I went 0.4 miles up to some rocks, where I had a nice break and shot this video:
The main trail — here a combination of the PCT and the Timberline Trail around Mount Hood — continues over to the site of the old Paradise Park Shelter, a great lunch spot, then wanders through Paradise Park on a nearly three-mile loop, passing meadows and views and forests and flowers and waterfalls. It’s really pretty magical.
Then you come back to the Zigzag Canyon, go down it, cross the creek again, and then you pay your dues. The last 3.5 miles gain 1,400 feet of elevation, half of it in the first mile or so. Good times.
But it is some kind of worth it, if you’re up for the effort. Paradise Park is a beautiful spot indeed, and Timberline Lodge is a terrific place to wind up a hike. I mean, pizza and beer anyone?
Here is my Gaia track from the day:
You can get more details in my guidebook, 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles of Portland, which is for sale (signed as you like) right here.
And here is a photo gallery with some more details from the day:
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