If you’re interested in visiting one of Oregon’s best gorge hikes but unfortunately the most popular hike I would recommend the Eagle Creek trail. However, it has now become the most overcrowded and over used hike in the entire gorge. Tourists and recent transplants have overtaken the entire stretch of the gorge but Eagle Creek has really seen the most traffic. It’s really not surprising since there isn’t anywhere else in the lower 48 states like it but you can no longer hike the trail in solitude. If you find yourself driving along I-84, whiling looking for a good trail, you might want to take in consideration the parking problems that come with the popularity of your favorite hiking spot. The parking lots can be full very early in the morning and if you’re driving through during the afternoon it becomes more like a parking lot at a Walmart in Oklahoma. If you’re planning a trip, I would go very early in the morning and go during off season. There are a lot more hidden and less used trails in Oregon that I would rather go to during peak season. However, that said, The Eagle Creek trail offers some of the best waterfalls in the gorge. Punchbowl Falls is the most popular but Metlako Falls holds it’s own. If you want to get a really good view or take photos, you actually have to climb over the railing and brace yourself against a tree. However, you will want to be really careful since you will be standing just centimeters from a 100 foot cliff and you will certainly die if you fall. You can still get a good view of the falls from a safe distance but you get a much better view while in harms way. I took this photo of Metlako Falls while hanging on the cliff and it’s always worth the extra effort. You will want to use a tripod so you will want to be extra careful and you also want to ensure that you are braced against the tree since you can find yourself forgetting that you are merely centimeters from sure death. The best time to take photos of the gorge is during late Spring and early Summer. This is when the vegetation is lit up like a roman candle. You haven’t seen green until you have visited during this peak season. Seriously, the Oregon gorge green will make any other green look like brown. I took this shot while using my Canon Rebel T1I and attached my Sigma 17-70-mm lens. I also used my bubble level and remote switch. I also use a Manfrotto tripod but it’s not the lightest tripod. However, when you’re concerned about movement, it’s good to use a heavier tripod to ensure that you don’t have the slightest of movement. This is especially true since I set the shutter speed at 10 seconds and there was a breeze flowing up from below.
If you’re gearing up for some great Mt. Hood hiking, this summer, I would highly recommend that you put the Gnarl Ridge hike on your list of things to do! The destination is actually just on the other side of Lamberson Butte but the Gnarl Ridge is located far below. You can also get to Cloud Cap from the same trail. The trail usually opens around late June but it really depends on how good or bad the snow season was. However, You can complete the hike if parts of the trail are still covered in snow but it can also be pretty tricky. You would also have to hike off trail and be comfortable with hiking in some steep snow covered terrain that can get pretty steep. This is on the north side of the ridge and this is the part that could be covered in snow and fairly steep towards the top. Most of the trail ascends from the southeast part of the ridge but the remaining part is on the east side and it can get pretty windy and can still have snow well into July. The photo posted in this blog post was taken from the back side of Lamberson Butte. The elevation is 6500 feet and the start of the hike is at an elevation of 4470 feet. This hike is pretty Difficult since it does have 2400 feet of elevation gain and the entire hike is 10.2 miles round trip. It’s also fairly strenuous and there are’t very many lulls along the hiking trail. However, this hike has it all…. Glacier access, views of the entire Oregon and parts of the Washington Cascades, foot bridges, river access as well as several small creeks that offer a great cooling off spot. You will also want to pack some mosquito repellent and lots of snacks and water. It can get pretty hot on the east side of the mountain but most of the trail is covered by the trees. There are also abundant wildlife and dozens of wildflowers to photograph. I took this shot with my Canon Rebel T1I.
Last week was another awesome day up on Mt. Hood, Oregon. I visited the same place that I was last week and what a difference a week makes. The previous week was a complete whiteout with nothing but snow blind conditions but last week it was nothing but blue skies and spring like conditions. We were also blessed with a good two feet of powder, which made the snow shoeing more than memorable. However, the temperatures got pretty high and I ended up finding myself in some pretty soupy conditions later in the afternoon. At first I was a little hesitant about heading towards the lower end of the White River Glacier but as I continued along I realized that it look pretty safe. The temperatures were a little cooler and the wind was pretty gusty. You can see some of the wind swept snow in this photo. Too bad a lot of the snow was blown off parts of the higher elevations but at least it provided some character. The snow did eventually start to get pretty soft but by this time I was almost at the stopping point. If you haven’t been to the White River snow park or made the trek to the top of the trail, I highly recommend that you visit. You will want to expect the unexpected since there is no place to escape the changing conditions and if you do find yourself in a whiteout or snow blind conditions, you can expect a very dangerous and stressful trip down since each side is a steep 500 foot drop off and you would surely be trapped or stuck in the creeks below. There are a couple trees about 300 yards from the top but they wouldn’t provide a lot of protection. However, they could provide a good point of reference while making your way down. You would probable just want to hunker down and wait for the weather to change if you did find yourself in dangerous conditions since I couldn’t imagine anyone surviving a fall from either side and I surely wouldn’t want to be the first. The good thing about the trek is that you can see quite a bit and you would probably be able to see any change of conditions but unfortunately you are pretty close to the mountain and aren’t able to see much on the west or north and this is where most of the nasty weather comes from. I have actually run down with my snow shoes and I think that you could get down safely if you were trying to beat out a fast moving storm. I would also recommend that you bring your best camera and lens while visiting this spot. I took this photo with my Canon Rebel T1I and my Canon 23-135mm lens. I’ve packed my tripod with me before but it can get really cumbersome and heavy so I started leaving it behind. It’s also not worth setting it up most times since I usually end up taking between 500-1000 shots at a time and I no longer have the patience with a tripod when snow shoeing.
A beautiful shot of Mt. St. Helen’s taken from the Johnson observatory. If you want a great photo opportunity I would suggest that you drive to the observatory parking lot and then make the moderate hike to the observatory. However, if you visit during the summertime you will be able to drive to the top but you won’t find the killer winter views or the solitude of the area. During the summer months, 99.9% of the visitors come during this time. The most spectacular time to visit is during winter or early spring but you will just want to check the weather and road conditions.
The best way to really enjoy all of the snow that has finally been assaulting the Cascades is to take a trip with your pet and plan on snow shoeing in waist feet deep powder. We are finally seeing some descent snow conditions and it looks like we are getting close to our normal winter weather. I actually took this action shot of my dog, Buck, while snow shoeing along the upper crest of the White River snow park last year. We were able to snow shoe near the same spot last week but we found ourselves in whiteout conditions as well as feeling the effects of becoming snow blind from the snow and winds. More snow is pounding the area at this time now and hopefully we get another few more days of heavy snow. I’m looking forward to getting up there soon and I highly recommend that all of you dog owners that have athletic dog’s allow them the opportunity to enjoy the snow just like their human owners.
I was surprised to find myself in Whiteout conditions while snow shoeing along the White River, in the Mt. Hood National forest. I had been monitoring the forecast for the past few days and thought that I would take a chance, even though the forecast was calling for a mixture of rain and snow. I was fortunate to find that it started snowing just before the Tom, Dick and Harry parking area, along the 26. It continued to snow but got much heavier as I continued past Government Camp. Good thing that I kept driving since the snow really started to get heavy as I took the Hwy 35 exit. The snow at the White River snow park was more like graupel but at least it wasn’t raining. My first mistake was that I never brought my ski goggles with me. That ended up being a huge mistake because it snowed the entire day and it only got windier and heavier as I increased in elevation. I found myself in mostly whiteout conditions as I crossed over the white river and headed towards the summit. I never got anywhere near the summit but I was intrigued by the complete whiteout conditions and I was also experiencing snow blindness. This is where my ski goggles would have come in handy since the wind was blowing the snow in my eyes and I ended up squinting for part of my journey. I could see for a few hundred feet but I couldn’t make out any of the snow directly in front of me. I literally didn’t know if I was about to step off a 100 foot cliff or a 1 foot step. I ended up looking for small trees that provided me with more depth of my surroundings and ended up having a pretty fun time exploring this phenomenon. I was concerned that our winter was over early again but this current winter weather if providing a pretty good second chance to get back some of our snow pack that we lost during our previous warm up.
If you have ever visited the Trillium Lake area, in winter, you’re probably aware that it can get very busy and the trek can be very congested and uninspiring. However, if you take the time and exert the energy, you can really find yourself in a very complicated and exhausting trek. I have snow-shoed the Trillium Lake snow park several times, over the years and I have taken many side trips around the lake as well as taken some of the trails that take you well away from the lake. However, last week I attempted to get off the main trail and went straight up. I ended up at a bluff that I never knew existed and realized that I truly had stumbled on an amazing viewing spot This photo was taken from the top of the bluff. Unfortunately, you can’t see Mt. Hood in the background due to the overcast skies. I was amazed by the views, as well as how easy it was to get to the top. There are hundreds of massive granite boulders that make up the bluff and the hill beneath. There is also pristine powder with huge boulders creating an awesome sledding opportunity. To understand just how cool this spot is, I recommend that you check on google maps and look for a small bluff of granite rocks standing in the middle of the forest. It’s just east of Trillium Lake. I was really lucky to find this spot since I had been asking myself if I was getting too bored with snow shoeing. This view changed my mind and made me realize that it’s worth making your own tracks. However, my story only gets more crazy from there. From this viewing spot, you can actually see highway 35 in the distance but unfortunately, you really can’t tell if it’s actually the 35 or the 26. This is where I made my first mistake. Because I ended up going around to the bottom of the bluff and skirted along the snow covered granite boulders, I really wasn’t paying attention to when I needed to change direction. The rest of the trek was pretty steep but I had fun traversing to the bottom and when I got there I noticed that there was a lot of water in the form of several creeks that were snaking between the elevations of the forest. This is where I crossed my largest and scariest snow bridge. It took me a while to find the best spot to cross but it was also over 8 feet above the creek and I ended up having to jump from one snow covered tree to another. Did I also remind you that I always snow shoe with my 5 year old Australian Cattle Dog? He always goes with me but he is also scared of having to swim or cross narrow bridges. Luckily the snow bridge was pretty wide so it was really easy to cross and my dog didn’t have any problems with navigating the bridge. Shortly after I got to the other side, I noticed that there were dozens of other creeks and brooks that I would have to navigate. I actually ended up in a huge meadow that was dotted with lots of shallow creeks. I still wasn’t sure how far I was from the Trillium snow park, so I decided to try to make my way towards the Hwy. However, just when I thought things couldn’t get any worse, I ended up breaking my snow shoe. The grommets and the plastic band that wraps around the aluminum frame completely broke off. This was my worst nightmare since I now found myself in a meadow filled with water and waist deep snow. I was especially concerned since I really didn’t know how long it would take me to find my way back and I wasn’t sure how many more creeks I would have to cross with a broken snow shoe. Once I realized that I couldn’t go any further I decided to inspect my snow shoe and realized that I could remove one of my shoe laces and wrap it around the snow shoe. Luckily it worked pretty good but I wasn’t really comfortable since I now didn’t have a shoe lace on my shoe. Nothing worse that having to snow shoe in waist deep snow and having to jump across creeks and brooks with a sloppy snow shoe. It also didn’t help that I was still pretty lost. Unfortunately, it didn’t get any better since I ended up having to pick a pretty scary part to cross the final creek of my journey. After I jumped several feet to the rocks and snow on the other side, I forgot to think about what my dog was going to do. Just as I thought, he too one look at his options and stood there and didn’t move a muscle. Without going in to detail, I spent the last 20 minutes pleading and cursing at him. I’m really glad that no one was there to see or hear me at this very low point of the day. At this point, it was starting to get a little dark and I had no intentions of spending the rest of my day trying to barter with my dog. I ended up taking off my snow shoes and crossing the creek in order to retrieve him. I finally picked him up and rather gingerly tossed him to the other side. I was exhausted at this point but I knew that I still had a rather long journey ahead. Luckily, I was in for a treat since I didn’t have to cross over any more creeks and once I noticed some rather broken up snow at the top of a small hill, I had finally reached the Hwy. I ended up paralleling the Hwy for about 2 miles until I reached the parking lot. I can now say that I had one of my most amazing snow shoe treks ever and it’s pretty crazy to think that I was questioning the joy of snow shoeing earlier in the day.
Lower Twin Lake is in the Mt. Hood National Forest and the hiking or snow-shoe/cross country trails are easily accessible via Hwy 26 or Hwy 35. If you plan on hiking the trail during the season when there isn’t any snow, you have plenty of time to hike to both of the twin lakes. However, if you’re planning on snow-shoeing the trail, during the winter months, you will have less time to explore due to the limited sunlight and the deep snow pack that will slow you down. The best place to start a snow-shoe trip to the lakes is by starting at the Frog Lake snow park, which is located off of Hwy 35. The snow park is well marked and you won’t have any problem following the blue diamonds that help you navigate the snow trail. Parts of the trail actually follows along the Pacific Crest Trail and when you get to a fork in the trail there is a very detailed sign that shows you exactly where you are and where you will need to go. If you decide to go straight, you will continue to follow along the PCT and end up at Hwy 35. However, if you take a right you will be led straight to the Lower Twin Lake. you can continue to follow along the edge of the lake and you will eventually end up at Upper Twin Lake. The elevation gain is pretty steep just past Lower Twin Lake and if you’re snow-shoeing, you will really feel the burn in your leg muscles but if you’re cross country skiing, you will probably need to take them off and hike most of the way to the top. Once you get to Upper Twin Lake, you will pass Bird Butte and eventually end back at the PCT at a place called the shoulder. You will either have to take a right or a left and since you will want to continue the loop back you your car, you will want to take a left and head back the way you came. The entire loop is 8 miles and you probably won’t be able to snow-shoe the trail during winter unless you leave very early in the morning and plan on using a head lamp at the end of the trek since it will probably be getting dark. If you don’t want to do the 8 mile loop, I would suggest that you just make your way around Lower Twin Lake and then head back. The views are awesome and if the weather is descent, you can get some pretty awesome photos.
A great day hike along the Mt. Hood national forest is near Ramona Falls. It’s an easy hike with rewarding views of Mt. Hood and a cool resting area right in front of the falls. You will also find yourself hiking near some of the most interesting rock formations that helped create Mt. Hood. The trail system offers you the opportunity to continue towards the Timberline trail or towards Lolo Pass. Either way, there are endless places that you can explore some of the best nature spots near Mt. Hood. This particular photo was taken along Ramona Creek and you will have several opportunities to capture some very interesting and intimate moods of the forested area. Since you will want to bring your tripod, in order to get waterfall photos, you may want to limit your hiking time at the higher elevations since the trail becomes very steep and grueling if you plan on hiking towards the mountain. The trails can also get a little tricky since the Sandy river is born from this area and there are several creeks that start from the glaciers. If it’s raining, I would recommend that you stay away from the Sandy River as well as look out for washed out bridges that may cause you to become stranded. Several people have been injured or killed over the past decade and with the area being so secluded and steep, you will want to be aware of any changes in the weather. The hike to Ramona Falls is about 7 miles round trip but the hike to Bald Mountain is a grueling 13 mile loop. It’s also 2,000 feet of elevation gain and if you go I would bring plenty of food and water. Because the trails near Ramona Falls offers some of the best hiking for nature lovers as well as plenty of hiking opportunities I would recommend it as a great summer hike. There is plenty of shade so I would also recommend it as a place to get away from the hot weather in the valley.
Spring has officially arrived in the Pacific Northwest and if you live near Portland, Oregon, you know that Forest Park offers some of the best places to take in the lush green vegetation that surrounds the Northwest. There are still some dormant plants along the edges of the trails as well as the underbrush but you can still expect to see some amazing wild trillium’s blanketing the forest. The past few weeks have brought a lot of rain to the trails and forest canopy but we are looking at a pretty sunny and warm next few days. You can expect to be hiking on a very soft trail system as well as still enjoy the coolness surrounding the park. Summer can be really bad, with the trails as hard as a rock, stagnant air and lifeless vegetation. However, Spring offers the exact opposite, with the best hiking opportunities that the Pacific Northwest could ever create. The weekend’s can get pretty busy, so I would recommend that you go on a weekday. Early morning or later in the day can be the best time to go if you can’t get the time off, during the afternoon. If you plan on taking some photos, I would recommend that you attach your wide angle lens and plan on getting some great shots of the towering and lush trees overhead, like the photo that I just posted, You can also get some great shots of the trails, winding through the green canopy. You will also have the opportunity to get some shots of the creek since the previous rains have swollen the brooks and small creeks that wind throughout the park. However, you may want to bring a tripod in order to get the best shots. You will also have some great opportunities to see some of the woodpeckers that call Forest Park home.