Mount Hood Meadows via White River Canyon Hike
From Portland Hikers Field Guide
- Start point: Timberline Lodge Trailhead
- Ending Point: Mt. Hood Meadows
- Trail Log: Trail Log
- Distance: 9.0 miles round-trip
- Elevation gain: 2320 feet
- High Point: 6035 feet
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Seasons: Summer and early Fall
- Family Friendly: Yes - to the White River Viewpoint
- Backpackable: Yes - follows the Timberline Trail
- Crowded: Only the first mile
You don't normally think of hiking to Mount Hood Meadows from Timberline Lodge but this is quite scenic. At the start, you get great views of the Cascades south. Then, looking back, you get some great perspectives of Timberline Lodge (remember the movie The Shining?). Then as you go down the ridge, you get great views into the White River Canyon and the buried forest. When you get up to Mount Hood Meadows the view to the east opens up.
You might want to do just the first mile or so before losing a lot of elevation. You might want to stop short of the White River Crossing, one of the most difficult around Mount Hood. This would also avoid the long slog up to Mount Hood Meadows.
Start out northeast from Timberline Lodge. There are a number of trails. Head up the steps across from the parking lot area and go right after 20 yards. At a second junction, go right again for the Timberline Trail, Mountaineer Loop Trail, and the Silcox Hut. Cross a small creek and head up on a rubbly tread among mountain hemlock, subalpine fir, and whitebark pine. In late summer the Newberry’s fleeceflower is turning red on the pumice slopes. Reach the four-way Timberline-Mountaineer Trail East Junction and go right.
Cross a gravel road and walk on open pumice slopes with expansive views. The trail drops into a small canyon with a waterfall up above. Cross a creek and enter the Richard L. Kohnstamm Wilderness. After half a mile, the trail drops down the east side of the Salmon River Canyon and reaches a viewpoint into the White River Canyon. From here, you can look down and see the exposed remains of mountain hemlocks buried under debris flows from Mt. Hood’s Old Maid eruptive period about 250 years ago. There’s a waterfall down in the canyon as well, and views to Trillium Lake and the forested Salmon River drainage. The trail continues to drop down the ridge (Boy Scout Ridge) with huckleberry and mountain ash bushes dotting the sandy slope. When you reach the Pacific Crest-Timberline South Trail Junction after 2.3 miles, go left.
The trail switchbacks down in woods with a huckleberry understory. Silver fir and noble fir are added to the conifer mix. Pass a sign warning about the dangers of crossing glacial streams. Switchback at an older wooden sign about the White River Crossing. Reach a debris bench dotted with lodgepole pines and then drop down off of it towards the White River. The river braids in this valley, so there are usually two or three separate crossings to make (See Tips for Crossing Streams). After the last one, pick up the trail heading downstream to a forested draw that extends down to the valley floor.
The Timberline Trail heads steeply up this draw, switchbacking three times and then rising steeply up where the main trail ahs been closed off because of a slide. The trail switchbacks up three more times and then heads up the ridge, exiting the Kohnstamm Wilderness. Make a traverse in a forest of mountain hemlock and silver fir carpeted with bear-grass, and then rise up a higher ridge crest. There’s a new signboard here for the new wilderness. You will reach meadows that bloom with aster and goldenrod in late summer. Seeps create lush boggy slopes waving with cottongrass. The trail drops across these meadows to the Timberline-Umbrella Falls Trail Junction just before a road and the gushing Mitchell Creek. This is the turn-around point for this hike. Go back the way you came.
- Green Trails: Mt. Hood, OR #462
- Geo-Graphics: Mount Hood Wilderness Map
- U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Mt. Hood National Forest North
- U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Hood River Ranger District
Fees, Regulations, etc.
- Search Trip Reports for Mount Hood Meadows via White River Canyon Hike
Related Discussions / Q&A
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Guidebooks that cover destination
- Hiking Mt. Hood National Forest by Marcia Sinclair
- Best Short Hikes in Northwest Oregon by Rhonda & George Ostertag
- Hiking Oregon’s Geology by Ellen Morris Bishop (Timberline Trail from Cloud Cap to Timberline Lodge)
- Best Hikes With Kids: Oregon by Bonnie Henderson (to White River Canyon Overlook)
- White River Buried Forest (WyEast Blog)
- “Prehistoric Buried Forests of Mt. Hood” (Oregon Geology)
- Richard L. Kohnstamm (Oregon Encyclopedia)
- Richard L. Kohnstamm Wilderness Map (Oregon Wild)