Old Vista Ridge Trail: Former Trail Brought Back for an Amazing “New” View of Mount Hood

For many years, one of my favorite Mount Hood hikes has been Vista Ridge — even after much of it burned up in the 2011 Dollar Lake Fire.

Mt. Hood, and the Dollar Lake Fire area, seen from Vista Ridge. (by Michael Medina)
Mt. Hood, and the Dollar Lake Fire area, seen from Vista Ridge. (by Michael Medina)

It’s a great walk along a mountain ridge to a loop that includes several alpine meadows, front-row views of Hood, babbling brooks, smiling wildflowers … and now a chance to watch it all recover from the fire.

But for years, I wondered about a trail that wandered off to the left, early in the walk. It didn’t have a sign, and it didn’t seem to be maintained, but such a trail always inspires curiosity.

I never did go out there and check it out, but in summer 2007 a group of trail lovers who met on OregonHikers.org went to not just see it, but to “re-open” it. They cut away dozens of logs on the trail, beat back the brush, and hung flagging to show the way to a spectacular viewpoint of Mount Hood from a place they called Owl Point. They did this to reclaim to the trail and also to get hikers in there, mainly to thwart a plan by the Forest Service to allow off-road vehicles in the area.

This act was technically illegal, so I won’t say who did it. I can tell you that those dedicated volunteers decided to do more of the same, and by that fall they had formed a nonprofit organization called Trailkeepers of Oregon. TKO, as it is known, now owns and operates OregonHikers.org, from which it grew, and does trail maintenance on dozens of trails every year. In 2017 it hired its first Executive Director, Steve Kruger.

The Old Vista Ridge Trail winds through Blind Luck Meadow on the way to Owl Point (photo by Tom Kloster of Wy'East Blog.)
The Old Vista Ridge Trail winds through Blind Luck Meadow on the way to Owl Point (photo by Tom Kloster of Wy’East Blog.)

I put this “new” trail section in the two most recent editions of my guidebook, 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles of Portland, because I wanted people to experience it, and because I wanted the Forest Service to re-open it for real.

And that is now happening; the trail is coming back!

On September 10, 2017, there will be a dedication and celebration of the “new” Old Vista Ridge Trail. It will be hosted by TKO and the Mount Hood National Forest, and the event will be an opportunity to hike the trail, do some trail work, and join a celebration with the TKO Board and Staff at Owl Point. We — for I am the Board’s Vice President — will have drinks and snacks, and we will hope for good weather and views.

It’s free to attend, though we do request registration ahead of time. And, since space is somewhat limited, please do so now!

Below is the official announcement from TKO and the Forest Service. We hope you will come join us and celebrate not only a great “new” trail but also what can happen when dedicated volunteers join together, do some work, advocate, apply a little pressure to the agencies that manage our land, and stick to it.

We’ll see you at Owl Point on September 10!

We hope you can join the Trailkeepers of Oregon (TKO) board on Sunday, September 10th from 10 AM-4 PM for a special day at the Old Vista Ridge Trail on Mount Hood.

Mt. Hood form Owl Point,
Mt. Hood form Owl Point (photo by Tom Kloster of Wy’East Blog.)

We’ll be celebrating TKO’s 10-year anniversary on the trail where we formed on September 22nd, 2007. At the time, a group of folks from the old Portland Hikers forum took a day to clear brush on the long-neglected trail, opening the route for hikers, once again.

Seeing how much work a small group of dedicated volunteers could accomplish in a day inspired the formation of Trailkeepers of Oregon in Fall of 2007. In the decade since, TKO has completed hundreds of trail projects around Oregon, grown our Oregon Hikers Forum to more than 9,200 registered members and provided nearly 1,000 entries in our free, online Oregon Hikers Field Guide, all with countless hours of volunteer work.

In July of this year, we reached yet another milestone by hiring our first executive director, Steve Kruger, who will help lead us into our second decade, and a new level of impact in Oregon. TKO is on a roll!

On September 10th, TKO will celebrate our progress in full-circle fashion, as we formally re-dedicate the Old Vista Ridge Trail to once again become a recognized part of the U.S. Forest Service trail system. This re-dedication was made possible through a formal agreement with the Forest Service that has been in the works for a couple of years for TKO to officially tend to “our” trail in perpetuity.

Come and see this "new" view of Hood with us!
Come and see this “new” view of Hood with us! (photo by Tom Kloster of Wy’East Blog.)

We’ll kick the day off with an official re-posting of the trailhead sign, with Forest Service officials Janeen Tervo and Claire Fernandes on hand to help with the re-dedication. Then (because we are Trailkeepers!), we’ll spend a few hours tending to “our” trail. This will include installing the new trailhead sign, official Forest Service signs at the Owl Point junction, sawing out a few logs while learning to use crosscut saws and trimming huckleberries along a couple sections of trail.

We’ll wrap up the day with a social hour celebration of our 10th Anniversary at Owl Point, complete with a few surprises, and — weather permitting — the stunning view of Mount Hood as our backdrop, of course!

The event is open to anyone who wants to join us, including families and kids looking for a day of trail service.

Here’s the schedule of events:

  • 10:00 – Meetup at Vista Ridge Trailhead for sign-in and TKO orientation
  • 10:20 – Crews head to Old Vista Ridge TH for sign posting and trail dedication with Hood River District Ranger Janeen Tervo and Recreation Manager Claire Fernandes of Mount Hood National Forest
  • 10:45 – Following the dedication, crews split one or two crosscut saw groups and brushing groups
  • 10:45 – 2:00 — Crews hike to project areas and work independently, including a packed lunch on the trail
  • 2:00 – Work ends and crews head for Owl Point
  • 2:30 – TKO 10th Anniversary Celebration at Owl Point
  • 3:00 – Crews head back to Vista Ridge Trailhead.
  • 4:00 – Volunteers recognized and Tool cleanup & loading – and depart for home after a great day on the mountain!

What to bring: packed lunch, plenty of water and a pair of long-handled garden loppers if you plan to help with trail brushing.

What to wear: rain or shine, bring work gloves, sturdy boots and gear for any type of weather. Wear long pants and long sleeves too!