Timberline Lodge: history and hiking

Timberline Lodge is a major Northwest landmark.  In the past twenty five years, it has become a national mecca in the summer as the only venue for year-round skiing and snowboarding in the U.S.  Situated on the southern flank of Oregon’s Mount Hood at tree line, the old lodge is a great place to feel nostalgic.  The craftsmanship is amazing, from the giant beams and massive stone fireplaces to the collection of Depression era art.

The lodge from above, near the PCT junction

Outside the lodge, while mountaineers target technical routes to the summit of the highest peak in Oregon, hikers can find nearby trails conducive to great hiking and backpacking, including the Timberline Trail, which circumnavigates the mountain over approximately 40 miles.  Short hikes are also possible nearby.  Just recently I discovered an almost hidden little trail to a bluff  with great views looking south and east.

A sea of clouds below makes a quick morning jaunt all the more pleasant

After climbing the paved access path above the old lodge, hikers can join the Pacific Crest Trail and head either way.  A weathered wooden sign points out distances.  Canada 500 miles, Mexico 2000 miles.   Sigh.  Perhaps someday….

Two of my favorite hikes near Timberline are out and back jaunts departing from this intersection. The first is the Timberline Trail heading counter clockwise around the mountain.  In short order, it skirts the open maw of White River Canyon, and there are many spots to meander in the area.  Backcountry skiers could have a great time in the upper reaches of the broad canyon.

Heading clockwise on the Timberline Trail is popular even after Labor Day.  The trail starts by passing beneath a few chairlifts, offering great views toward the mountain above and south along the spine of the Cascades, which sit in moody blue tiers.

Mount Jefferson in the hazy beautiful distance

Most wilderness walkers head west on the Timberline Trail towards the meadows of Paradise park, a gorgeous spot at treeline with tent sites scattered in the trees, rocks to climb on, and lovely wildflowers.   It is a 12 mile round trip, and a great day hike or back pack, but today Denise and I want to simply hike to the lip of Big Zigzag Canyon.  The trail loses gradually loses elevation, but there are small climbs out of Sand Canyon and Little Zigzag Canyon, and again when approaching Big Zigzag Canyon.

Denise with Jackie Chan working her way through the trees

The trail dips into the trees as it passes the turn off to Hidden Lake, but comes back out onto open slopes as you near the dusty edge of the big canyon.   The trail crests the ridge at an open saddle of gray ash like dirt with a big drop off beyond.   I warned Denise about the drop off, but she was still apprehensive, and glad we’d leashed the dogs.   I have heard multiple stories of dogs slipping over the scree edge and sliding way down, followed by owners trying to save them.  A paramedic friend of mine recently made it onto CNN while rescuing such a dog owner.

Family photo taken by a friendly felllow hiker

Steep as the canyon walls are, the views are great views toward the watery babble far below. The steep gray slopes are dotted with green islands of bushes.  I take a few photos and soak in the spectacular alpine atmosphere without requiring a major climb.   We seem to be the first hikers of the day, but others are close on our tail.   Because our new puppy Jackie Chan is not used to hiking, we are unsure of his reactions on steep trails or with other hikers and their dogs.  Thus we keep him leashed more than we might otherwise.

The bulk of Mount Hood above Big Zigzag Canyon

We pass many hikers on the return trip, including a local couple who are volunteers for the Forest Service.  They are taking a survey of wilderness users, and we have a pleasant chat.

The sun is glorious, our dogs behave well, and my legs are just tired enough on our return to the parking lot.  Timberline is known as a ski area and a destination for tourists, but it’s a pretty great place for hikers, too.

About Josh Baker

"The world is big and I want to have a good look at it before it gets dark.” ― John Muir

Posted on September 22, 2012, in Alpine Hiking, Family, General Hiking, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 14 Comments.

  1. I have never hiked Mt. Hood, but I do have pleasant memories. My (non-hiking) ex and I visited the area, and tried to get a room at the lodge on a whim. Amazingly, we did get one, even though it was the middle of summer.
    I see now that I should do some Mt. Hood hiking, although that probably won’t happen until next year.
    Thank you for opening my eyes!

  2. Awesome photos Josh. They & your descriptions make me wish I could be there too! 🙂

  3. As always, your photos are just gorgeous. Too bad I’m on the other side of the country. I’ll get there though.

  4. Sounds like a great day hike, Josh. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Another beautiful hike that is completely different from what I normally see! Your third picture really makes me wish I was there, but I’m afraid other destinations are ahead on the list – though Oregon is on there!

  6. Hey, Josh, this post brought back some cool memories of the PCT. I was hiking with two friends, a couple, and they got in there in the afteroon a little ahead of me. I was kinda trail-dumb and the size of the place and all the people dazzled me at first. I found my friends and we started on beer and some good food. Oh God, now that I think about it, it was great beer too. Anyway, our plan had been to camp nearby to save funds, but after that beer it didn’t take long before we elected to get a room there in that beautiful building and spend the night in comparative luxury. And the breakfast next morning…

  7. Wow all that snow!
    I’d also love to walk the Pacific Crest Trail. I walked 250 km of the Camino to Santiago de Compostela in May this year but it’s so much easier than the PCT because in Spain you’re walking through villages so you don’t have to carry water, tents or cooking utensils.

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