The Timberline trail is a 41-ish mile trail that goes around Mt Hood, about 90 minutes east of Portland, Oregon.
This trip was done in August with one overnight stop – we were traveling light with our new fast packs.
The trail is easy to navigate with well marked signs and re-routes (details on that below). You should of course have your own maps on you, but there wasn’t much confusing about the trail, so with that said, let’s get into the details!
Click on images above to see full resolution.
We started from the Timberline Lodge with a start time of around 8 am – we poked through the clouds just as we came up the road from Highway 26 – a good omen, it seemed!
From there, we parked in the large main lot, and made our way towards the lodge where there is a pretty good sign on the path to go to the Timberline trail (also the PCT for a bit).
Following a clockwise route, we started a descent and were quickly back in the clouds – which meant moisture.
We were prepared with garbage bags wrapped about sleeping bags and clothes in our packs (or covering the pack in Jeney’s case), but it certainly cooled us down and soaked anything outside the pack.
We continued on in the mist and eventually wound up at Ramona Falls, along with many others, before moving on and heading down the re-route due to the wind storm in 2020 that blew down a large area of trees and made the trail dangerous to cross.
The climb up towards Bald Mountain to regain the Timberline Trail was a bit of a slog, but well kept.
Once we hit the intersection with the original trail we stopped for a bite to eat, the climb up had taken longer than we thought and the sun was still not poking through. We made it through more downed trees and past some apparent viewpoints – probably pretty amazing on a clear day.
Eventually, we started to see some blue in the haze and before too long we headed into sweet sweet sunshine.
With some renewed energy we decided to take a quick detour to Dollar Lake where some hikers told us it was more like 50 cent lake – it didn’t have much water and was pretty small – the good news is that water is plentiful on the Timberline Trail and we didn’t need any water.
After some more food and sun, we headed back to the main trail and continued on.
We knew of Elk Grove and more campsites, but thought that making our way to Cloud Cap campground might be a good idea so that we would have fewer miles on day 2.
However, with the sun starting to go down and being on the eastern side of the mountain, we decided to find a site before crossing the Elliot River and found a good place a couple of miles before that crossing.
After setting up camp, refilling all of our water supplies, and having dinner, we crashed for the night.
We were up around 6 am, made a hot breakfast with coffee, and hit the trail for an early morning crossing of the Elliot River – it was about knee-deep with a couple of lines across it – pretty straightforward once you made your way down to it.
From there we climbed up from the river and came across the Cloud Cap campground right at the top – a great-looking campground with a spigot and vault toilet – hooray!
After a bathroom stop and chatting with groups of backpackers, we headed out for our next rest point – Copper Spur Shelter.
The sand slowed us down a little heading out of the campground but turned to more rock after a mile or so.
The Copper Spur shelter was just 0.1 miles off the trail and is a great place to stop for a break with some amazing views: if clear, you can see Mt Adams and Mt St Helens, of course, Mt Hood dominates the view to the west. Some nice flat rocks for stretching out or cooking a quick meal or hot drink.
From there we continued back to the Timberline trail and headed up to the high point at 7300 feet.
The descent down is beautiful – and long 🙂
Some great views and we were able to get in a good groove before heading into the ups and downs of multiple river ravines with crossings – at this point, we stopped trying to keep our feet dry and left shoes on for crossings.
We chugged along through the Mt Hood meadows and eventually made our last river crossing at White River before starting the final climb up with another long stretch of sandy climbing – a bit challenging in mental and physical terms after covering a lot of ground!
Some great views, lots of friendly backpackers, and an area we’ll definitely head back to, especially the east side – I want to run down the high point to Cloud Cap – beautiful views and some really fun trails.
Loved this trail for the abundance of water and campsites, I have new respect for people completing it in one day and dealing with all of the sand in the last 10-ish miles.