Mt Hood Meadows Loop

Summer is a great time to enjoy wildflowers in the Pacific Northwest. Mt Hood Meadows area offers wonderful opportunities to hike through colorful meadows. Among Mt Hood hikes we did, Mt Hood Meadows Loop Trail was one of the highlights. We grazed on huckleberries; slogged up mountain-side; wandered through blooming meadows; and crossed streams — all while enjoying the view of Mt Hood. I love summer in the Pacific Northwest.

Mt Hood Meadows Loop

Mt Hood Meadows Loop

I’ve been using Northwest Hiker website as my primary source for researching hiking trails around Mt Hood. It’s a great resource. Mt Hood Meadows Loop, for example, was one of many hikes that requires detailed trail description with an overview layout of the trail since it’s a combination of several trails strung together to form a loop trail. Without a site like this, it’s almost impossible to come up with this kind of hikes without heven from locals. The author did a great job at describing the trail, so you should check it out here.

The Elk Meadows trailhead is a starting point of this hike. We did the hike in counter-clockwise, heading toward Newton Creek. The first mile was relatively level and not much view to see. However, there were lots of huckleberries for us to keep our attention away from the lack of view. Our hiking pace was very slow theight this first mile. It took us more than 40 minutes to complete the first mile. In return, we had all huckleberries we wanted to eat without cancelling the hike. 😅

We did the hike at the end of July. There were still a bunch of berries that were not ripened. I suspect that August is also a good time for berries on Mt Hood Meadows Loop.

Mt Hood Meadows Trail starts from Elk Meadows trailhead.

Mt Hood Meadows Trail starts from Elk Meadows trailhead.

A bridge crossing Clark Creek near the trailhead

A bridge crossing Clark Creek near the trailhead

There were lots of huckleberries the first and last few miles.

There were lots of huckleberries the first and last few miles.

The Newton Creek Trail is after the first mile. This is where the trail starts to climb up. We walked along Newton Creek, which has forcefully carved the creek into a mini-canyon. The evidence of eroded trail still existed. We took our time grinding up the hill. Soon we were at an area with many dead trees (picture below). The way the trees reflected sunlight made them strangely pretty. Once at this point the hardest part was almost done.

These dead trees near the junction of Newton Creek Trail and Timberline Trail were beautiful.

These dead trees near the junction of Newton Creek Trail and Timberline Trail were beautiful.

Next we came to a junction of Newton Creek Trail and Timberline Trail. We took Timberline Trail toward Timberline Lodge (left at the junction). Very soon we entered lupine meadows. I couldn’t stop taking photos through this section.

Lupines were in full bloom.

Lupines were in full bloom.

Colorful lupines with Mt Hood around the corner

Colorful lupines with Mt Hood around the corner

After we made our way around a ridge and started descending into Clark Creek, the view of Mt Hood with waterfalls and creeks below was quite overwhelming. It was what made this hike worthwhile for me.

Descending to Clark Creek

Descending to Clark Creek

Clark Creek and Mt Hood on a clear day. The picture couldn't capture the amazing view that we saw.

Clark Creek and Mt Hood on a clear day. The picture couldn’t capture the amazing view that we saw.

Once we got close to the creek, the trail turned into loose rocks. There were some unstable places that had recent rock slides. We found what looked like a trail to get to the creek. Crossing Clark Creek was a bit challenging. The stream was neither wide nor deep but we had to look for a sage spot to cross then find the trail on the other side. Since it was pretty much a rock field in this area, it wasn’t obvious where the trail continued. Having Gaia App with off-line map was reassuring that we weren’t lost.

The first creek crossing after taking Timberline Trail is at Clark Creek. It's a little challenging to cross and to find the trail on the other side.

The first creek crossing after taking Timberline Trail is at Clark Creek. It’s a little challenging to cross and to find the trail on the other side.

The tricky slide section above Clark Creek that we just hiked down.

The tricky slide section above Clark Creek that we just hiked down.

David walking toward the waterfalls. After crossing the waterfalls, the trail goes up again.

David walking toward the waterfalls. After crossing the waterfalls, the trail goes up again.

We then hiked through Mt Hood Meadows ski area. Wildflowers were in full bloom. Thankfully they didn’t seem to worsen my allergy. Again, I took more photos of flowers than necessary.

Pretty meadows around the ski area

Pretty meadows around the ski area

Another meadows section during coming down the mountain

Another meadows section during coming down the mountain

The trail descends to Umbrella Falls and continued to Sahalie Falls. Approaching Sahalie Falls from this trail, we didn’t get a good view of the falls. I wasn’t sure if there’s a different access, but didn’t explore. Shortly we were back at the parking lot at the trailhead. There were only a couple of cars left at the trailhead.

We had Umbrella Falls all by ourselves.

We had Umbrella Falls all by ourselves.

View of Mt Hood near trailhead

View of Mt Hood near trailhead

Note: Northwest Hiker website listed this hike as having 1400 ft elevation gain. Based on our experience having done it and re-looked at a topo-map we believe that the elevation gain was at least 1800 ft and might be closer to 2000 ft. There were quite a few ups and downs on this hike. This may not seem like much difference. But it’s always a good idea to research from different sources, especially, for long, strenuous, or complicated trails.

  • Date hiked: July 31, 2016
  • Hiking time: 5h 48m
  • Distance: Approx. 10.7 mi round-trip (loop)
  • Elevation change: Approx. 1800 ft (at least)
  • Northwest Forest Pass is required to park at the trailhead

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