Cooper Spur Hike
From Portland Hikers Field Guide
- Start point: Cloud Cap Trailhead
- Ending Point: Cooper Spur
- Trail Log: Trail Log
- Hike Type: Out and Back
- Distance: 6.4 miles round-trip
- Elevation gain: 2800 feet
- Difficulty: Difficult
- Seasons: July - November
- Family Friendly: No
- Backpackable: Yes - connects to Timberline Trail
- Crowded: On summer weekends
This spectacular hike begins at Cloud Cap Trailhead, and quickly climbs to several soaring viewpoints above the spectacular Eliot Glacier en route to the rocky crest of Cooper Spur, the highest point on the mountain that can be reached by trail. The route also passes one of the surviving rustic stone shelters that once dotted the Timberline Trail. Historic Cloud Cap Inn is closed to the public, but the grounds of inn are worth a stop before or after your hike. Cloud Cap Trailhead is crowded on summer weekends, so try this one on a weekday, if possible.
From the trailhead, follow the Timberline Trail left and uphill for a short distance to a junction, where a detour trail now takes hikers around a washed out portion of the trail. Stay left, passing through a handsome old growth forest of huge mountain hemlock. While the route is well-graded, it also travels across soft volcanic ash for the first mile. But as you round a bend into Tilly Jane canyon, and views of Mount Hood loom ahead, you’ll forget the soft sand below your feet. In this section, the trail switchbacks up Tilly Jane canyon amid boulders and scattered alpine wildflowers. If you’re hiking early in the season, expect lingering snow and watch for distinctive cairns with wooden posts to guide your way.
Next, the trail enters a windswept forest of mountain hemlock and whitebark pine, then exits near a junction with the Tilly Jane Trail. Turn right (uphill) here, following the sign to Cooper Spur. The spur is the rocky, hulking ridge straight ahead, but after 100 yards on this trail, watch on the right for Cooper Spur shelter at the 1.2 mile mark. Walk to the shelter on one of many informal paths, and take a moment to appreciate the architecture and construction. This rustic stone building has existed on the site for more than sixty years, somehow surviving the avalanches that have gradually destroyed most of the other shelters along the Timberline Trail.
The shelter has an open door, a roof that drips when it rains, and a fireplace with chimney. There isn't room for more than a couple people. This could be very useful in a storm. There are also a number of places to pitch a tent nearby. The closest drinking water is on the way up in the Tilly Jane canyon.
After pausing to enjoy the shelter, return to the main trail and continue the remaining 0.8 mile climb toward the looming crest of Cooper Spur. Though the trail quickly gains elevation, the grade is always good as the route climbs high into the stark tundra zone of the mountain. Soon the trail begins a series of broad switchbacks on the increasingly steep shoulder of the spur, passing stunning viewpoints of the awesome north face of Mount Hood and the rugged icefalls of the Eliot Glacier.
As you near the crest, a final set of switchbacks bring you to views south of the Newton Clark Glacier, before suddenly reaching several stone climbers windbreaks at the top of the spur. From here, the view extends from Mount Jefferson to Mount Rainier, and includes a good portion of the Columbia Plateau, to the east. Look for an inscription from an early 1900s Japanese climbing party on a boulder near the trail. This makes a good stopping point to relax and admire the view. Though many hikers choose to explore beyond the summit of Cooper Spur, the trail from this point forward can be dangerous, especially when snow is still lingering, and in late summer, when rockfalls from the summit are common.
Retrace your route for the 4 mile return to the trailhead.
Fees, Regulations, etc.
- Northwest Forest Pass required at Cloud Cap Trailhead
- Search Trip Reports for Cooper Spur
Related Discussions / Q&A
- Search Trail Q&A for Cooper Spur
Guidebooks that cover this destination
- Hiking Oregon's Geology, by Ellen Morris Bishop
- 60 Hikes within 60 Miles of Portland, by Paul Gerald
- Splintercat (Tom Kloster) (primary)