Timberline National Historic Trail
Hiking and Backpacking the Mount Hood Loop
Current Conditions for 2023
Welcome to 2023! With winter ongoing and good continuous snow on Mount Hood, the trail is buried under many feet of snow and the mountain is now the realm for winter sports and recreation. Lots of high wind events this fall have certainly added to the blowdown around the fall, and once spring arrives and the snow recedes check back in for updates and new info and pictures of trail conditions.
In the meantime, check out some of the details on conditions and river crossings from last summer to get an idea if how they can be, knowing that winters on Mt. Hood can dramatically reshape the crossings.
Check out my gallery of Timberline Trail photos and explorations blog posts to get excited for hiking and exploring around the mountain, and if you want lots of tips on planning, to learn more about the historical and geologic nature of the trail and utilize the most modern, up to date map covering the trail (including campsites) considering grabbing one of my Timberline Trail Field Maps, available in my Map Store. Map (and sticker) purchases support my continued efforts to keep this website running and up to date, and to produce more maps and collect more field data. If you are interested in getting a map, purchasing early greatly helps me stay afloat, and due to the nature of our changing environment and wanting to keep my maps as up to date as possible, (always the potential for forest fires to reshape the landscape), map production runs can't happen during the summer if my stock runs out.
Details from 2022
The section of trail on the north side of the Yocum Ridge above the Muddy Fork has seen monumental efforts done in clearing the way, especially by PCTA volunteers. While much work has progressed, it is expected that potential for new landslides in some of the unstable stretches and continued blowdown may create new challenges on stretches already worked, so be sure to check in with the USFS rangers station and await an inspection/ trail opening announcement to give crews the time and space they need to safely open the section. The detour is a lovely and safe option, more details below.
The ascent/descent on the west side of the Eliot Branch Canyon is still a challenge, but very much improved by the steady traffic. All the backpackers coming before have done great work to dislodge the unconsolidated material, focused on a route on the west side of the Eliot where cairns mark the way. Having poles to test rocks to see if they are firmly lodged in place for footing or not at all is still useful. As for crossing the creek, there are two boulders close that can be utilized in a jump, or still practice safe fording of the creek.
The Timberline Trail washed out to a cliff face on the south side of Newton Creek. There is a short reroute starting just back in the camping area, near the creek. Look north of the trail for some green flagging heading past one of the camp spots. There is a short section of corridor cleared that takes you to a small chute that is a slight scramble down to the creek. Coming from Newton Creek, look for a large red boulder against and break in the cliffs.
Early Season Trip Planning and Snow
When will the trail be free from snow and open for safe backpacking? June? July?
It depends, and will vary every year
Unfortunately, planning early season trips can be complicated by the potential for lingering snow pack that creates situations where otherwise uncomplicated, easy sections of trail become very dangerous slopes of steep packed snow with disastrous consequences for slips and long stretches of the trail obscured complicating navigation.
The amount of snowpack received on the mountain and the temperatures and sun in May and June combine to create different snowpack conditions for every year. Do not rely on dates of trip reports from previous years to indicate when the trail will be open specifically. Know that extensive snowpack can linger late into July, or be nearly melted away in June, based on the unique conditions of each year. If you are planning a trip in early July, consider having a backup plan or route (such as in the Badger Creek Wilderness) in case snow levels remain at high levels across the Timberline Trail. Check in with this site for snow updates and imagery as summer draws near.
The imagery sliders below are good examples of the variance in snow levels year to year, first satellite imagery of early July and then a trail photo of the same spot separated by a year and a day.
Logs in place near to where the trail enters the flat going CW, look for cairns to lead indicate the exit amongst the brushy west side.
Rock hopping or a ford, and has been quite full and fast late in the day when higher temps. Photo is a cooler morning. Scouting up the creek may provide less better boulder stepping or hopping options, and the exits on either side are brushy, so check for cairns.
Eliot Branch crossing.
Rock hopping or a potentially thigh deep ford. Note the cairns highlighted in the image below that indicate the most traveled route currently in/out, although there are potentially other exits up stream.
Large collection of logs with some rock stepping at a primary crossing is available.
Timberline Trail washout at Newton Creek
old trail on left, new route up chute behind large redish boulder on the right:
reroute location coming up from Newton Creek, and heading past camps site (between boulders in forest)
Two channels, rock hops or minor fords depending on flow levels. Noticed some flagging that may have been leading them travelers further north enter/exit the western branch, but there is a solid approachable entrance/exit easy to pinpoint from afar, its just right against where the high cliff rises along the river.
Detour around the Yocum Ridge Closure
The section of trail on the north side of the Yocum Ridge above the Muddy Fork has seen monumental efforts done in clearing the way, especially by PCTA volunteers. While much work has progressed, it is expected that potential for new landslides in some of the unstable stretches and continued blowdown may create new challenges on stretches already worked, so be sure to check in with the USFS rangers station and await an inspection/ trail opening announcement to give crews the time and space they need to safely open the section. The detour is a lovely and safe option.
While many hikers reported using the section later in the season after trail work efforts subsided for the year, due to ongoing safety concerns and the likelihood of new winter damage, the Forest Service still has the section as closed, and backpackers should plan on the reroute till work ceases and the trail formally reopened.
The trail has been closed for clearing and reconstruction while trail crews undertake the immense work of restoring the trail, relying on their skills with crosscut saws and hand tools to remove hundreds of logs and rebuild tread as the entire length of the closure is within the Wilderness Area. Most of this work is being accomplished with volunteers organized by the Pacific Crest Trail Association- PCTA, which oversees the trail here due to the historical nature of the route as a former section of the PCT. So far nearly 1000 trees have been removed from the trail corridor, and hundreds of feet of destroyed tread reconstructed, but there is still an immense amount of work left. Consider donating or volunteering with the organization.
Timberline Trail Reroute Map
I highly recommend that everyone completing the loop, regardless of heading in a clockwise or counter-clockwise direction, utilize the Bald Mountain Cutoff Trail and take the Timberline Trail along the south side of Bald Mountain to enjoy the spectacular viewpoints along the trail there.