In late June/early July, the hiking trails around Mt. Hood Meadows get extremely busy. One trip through the area and it’s easy to see why. Two to three weeks after the snowmelt, the fields are dotted with white, purple, blue, red, yellow, and orange from the native wildflowers. Expect the signature beargrass, lupine, and Indian paintbrush, as well as balsamroot, camas, and more. On a clear day, the dynamic views of Mt. Hood are an added bonus. More than eight miles of trails will be added to the Mt. Hood Meadows area on June 25, 2021.
To get a fun 12.75-mile trail run through the area, start at Elk Meadows and Sahalie Falls Trailhead. Make sure to arrive early as the large parking lot will be full before Noon on a summer weekend. Head NE on Elk Meadows trail. Cross Clark and Newton Creek on Elk Meadows Trail to Gnarl Ridge Trail.
At this intersection is the Elk Meadow, a grassy area full of wildflowers. Continue on the trail to Elk Meadow. Several trails go through it as it’s a great place to take a break and enjoy Mt. Hood overlooking the bees getting their pollen fill. Take a left around the meadow at Cold Spring Creek to head back to Gnarl Ridge Trail.
The Gnarl Ridge Trail is a short climb through the trees to the Timberline Trail. Turn left on Timberline. In one mile is Newton Creek, the first of several steep ravines to creeks on the Timberline Trail. The crossings are technical but offer fantastic views of Mt. Hood.
Stay on Timberline Trail for five miles to the Umbrella Falls Trail #667. Besides crossing creeks, this section runs under several Mt. Hood Meadows ski lifts. Beargrass and other wildflowers bloom in the meadows between the creeks. Heather Canyon around Heather Creek is where Indian paintbrush surrounds the trails. Look up the creek for several waterfalls from the Newton-Clark Glacier.
Turn left at the Umbrella Falls trail to head back toward the trailhead. The trail will pass Umbrella Falls and Mt. Hood Meadows Road to Sahale Falls Trail. This trail is generally crowded with day hikers, so don’t expect to bomb down the hill. There is a short extension of the trail to view Sahale Falls a half mile before reaching the parking lot at the finish.