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.
Beautiful photo of Oneonta Falls and bridge in the Columbia River Gorge, Oregon. This particular trail will take you to four spectacular waterfalls and provide you some of the most awesome views of the Columbia River as well as views of the thick forest and lava cut gorge. One of the best hiking destinations is above Triple Falls and if you continue past the falls, you can expect to hike alongside the creek that feeds the waterfalls. There are thousands of photo opportunities and if you’re up to a really long and strenuous hike, you can continue for another 7.7 mile to reach Multnomah Falls. On this particular hike, to Triple Falls, I was sadly turned away due to the fact that there was a mud slide that took out a portion of the trail just a few hundred feet from the waterfall. The forest service was working on the trail but it was a mud soaked mess and I wasn’t interested in slogging through three feet of mud. The trail was still open and passable but it was pretty muddy and you can expect to endure a very muddy mess for at least another month before it dries out. I decided to turn back and head towards Oneonta Falls to see if I could get some descent shots. The switchback that continues past the bridge was also damaged, so you can expect to get pretty muddy as well. However, if you park on the other side of Horsetail Falls parking lot, you can come in from the west and avoid the muddy part of the trail. Because the snow in the mountains are melting and with all of the rain that we have received lately, you can expect the waterfalls to be at their peak. The water is thundering through the gorge and you will find yourself immersed in fresh water chaos. The vegetation is at it’s peak and the rivers, streams and creeks are swollen to their brim. Now is the absolute best time to visit the gorge, if you want to see the gorge at its best as well as having the best opportunities to get some great shots. To get this shot, I made sure to use my tripod, bubble level and remote switch. I was using my Sigma 17-70mm lens and attached my CIR-PL and warming filter. I set the camera mode to shutter priority and set it at 2.5 seconds in order to get the flowing motion of the waterfall. The water was moving so fast that I never set the shutter priority past four seconds all day. The waterfalls were literally moving at light speed and anything over four seconds washed out the water. I set the ISO at 100, white balance at -1.3 and the aperture was at F-4. The skies were completely overcast and it was sprinkling all day. However, since the water was moving so fast, it caused the pictures to become too bright, so I had to reduce the white balance to offset the highlights. If you have a descent telephoto lens you can get some great opportunities to get some shots of the raptors flying around the gorge. While hiking near the main trail I saw two juvenile bald eagles jump from their perch and start hovering just above where I was standing. I also saw several bald eagles and osprey flying near the Columbia River gorge. The gorge is a raptor gold mine due to all of the fish in the river. If you have the patience, you can expect to get some great photos of them.
One of the most epic places to visit when visiting Portland, Oregon is Forest Park. There are over 5,100 acres of forested trails with over 70 miles of hiking terrain. Most of the trees are second growth with a few patches of old growth. However, compared to other city’s forests’s, you may as well call Forest Park the largest forest in America. There are over 100 species of birds and over 60 mammals that call Forest Park home. If you really want to take advantage of the incredible vegetation I would recommend that you visit between May and June. May is great since you’re able to see wild flowers, such as iris and trillium but June is the best month to witness the park in a complete canopy of neon green vegetation. It almost takes on the effect of a tropical forest. There are millions of ferns and several creeks that cut through the forest as well as several small wooden bridges that carry hikers over the sometimes muddy creeks. Most of the trails are fairly easy to hike but if you’re interested in getting a good workout, you can easily find parts of the trail that have steeper inclines and cover more elevation gain. If you’re interested in mt. biking, you will be glad to find out that there are over 30 miles dedicated to bikers. Most of the trails are pretty steep, so you will have to be in pretty good shape if you expect to climb some of the challenging and sometimes muddy trails. However, a good part of the biking trails are on the old road that traverses the park but the city has done a good job of doing some maintenance work in order to make it more of a wilderness trail. There are several areas where you can start from and if you’re driving to the trail there are several parking areas where you can find the best trail. Since the trail is just seconds from several Portland neighborhoods, most people just step out of there front door and make a quick trip to the nearest trails. There are several viewing spots that will give you a glimpse of the Portland skyline, views of Mt. Hood, Adams, St. Helens and Rainier. You can also get a glimpse of the st. John’s bridge as well as the train bridge and the Willamette river. However, the best views are from nearby Pittock mansion.
The trail that leads to triple falls is one of the most scenic and spectacular trails in the Gorge. The trail leads you past four beautiful and very photogenic waterfalls, unbelievable views of the gorge and the Columbia River, old growth forest and parallels the creek that feeds the waterfalls. The best time to visit is between May and early July. This is the best time to catch the creeks at their highest level and the foliage is usually in full bloom. The wildflowers are also spectacular and some of the most widespread in the Pacific Northwest. However, since the weather can be unpredictable, sometimes the foliage can stay dormant well into June depending on the temperatures during spring. The photo that I posted is the most popular viewing area of the waterfall and you can really see just how awesome this part of the gorge really is. The creek climbs several miles past Triple Falls and the trail parallels the creek and offers millions of photo opportunities. I may sound bias but this part of the Pacific Northwest makes any other parts of the world look like a desert. To get this shot I made sure to use my tripod, bubble level and remote switch. The viewing area is a very uneven and steep cliff so setting up your tripod can be tricky and only one person at a time can take this photo since it’s so narrow. I set the camera mode at shutter priority and set the shutter speed at 4 seconds. The aperture was at F-18, the ISO was at 100 and I adjusted the white balance to -0.7. I was using my Sigma 17-70mm lens and set the focal length at 17mm in order to get the most panoramic view as possible, without having any vignetting. The day was mostly overcast and the sun was directly behind the waterfall. It was about 12:22pm but since the clouds were moving so fast I just waited for the best opportunity. If you plan on visiting and expect to get a photo of triple falls, without having dozens of people sitting along the waterfall, you may want to come during a weekday and a very overcast or rainy day since hikers like to sit just above the waterfall and take pictures. I was pretty fortunate to only have to wait for two hikers to eventually move away from the area before I could get to work. the elevation gain to triple falls is only about 600 feet but you could continue all the way to larch mountain if you’re up to the 6.5 mile hike. This is one hike that you will truly be glad you took and you can expect some of the most fantastic views of your life.
Unless you plan on wading out in a foot of frigid water to get this type of shot, I wouldn’t plan on making the trek until the water level starts to drop. The water level is so high that the rocky beach is almost completely underwater. I have never seen the water level in the gorge this high since I started hiking the gorge over 20 years ago. As you can see from this photo, Punchbowl Falls is beyond swelled. In order for me to get this shot I had to take off my socks and shoes and wade out in about a foot of water before I could get a clear shot. The water is moving pretty fast so you need to steady your tripod as firmly as possible and hope that it doesn’t move. In case I did lose my footing and found myself swimming in the frigid creek I made sure to leave my photography bag, with all of my other lenses, at the safety of the creeks edge. The creek was so cold that after about 30 minutes I completely lost feeling in both of my legs from the knees down. The pebbles and rocks that you are forced to stand on are pretty jagged and hard but once my feet became numb I lost all feeling and was forced to rely on my tripod to steady myself as I scrambled back to the edge. Next time I will bring my Teva’s so I don’t have this problem again. Though the vegetation is starting to spring there are still several plants that still haven’t bloomed as well as several of the old growth trees that have only just begun to show their buds. This created a challenge since I wanted to take advantage of the swelling creeks and waterfalls but not include any of the shots with the bare vegetation. The harsh winter and cool and rainy spring has really made it tough on the gorge this year. The wildflowers are even somewhat confused. Several of the flowers are growing along the high cliffs but most of the wildflowers that grow along the creeks are barely out. I chose this shot in order to show just how much water was thundering over the falls as well as ensure there were no bare branches. I was using my Canon T1i along with my Sigma 17-70mm lens. I made sure to use my tripod, bubble level and remote switch in order to avoid any camera shake. This was especially difficult since the tripod was in the middle of the fast moving creek. I attached my ND8, warming filter and CIR-PL so I could have the camera in Shutter Priority mode. The focal length was at 21mm and I had the shutter open for 5 seconds. The aperture was at F-13 and I set the ISO to 100 and the white balance at -0.7. I spent about 45 minutes in the creek so I had plenty of time to adjust the focal length and the shutter speed and white balance but I was forced to basically just adjust and shoot as quickly as possible. The morning and afternoon was overcast so the sky was perfectly covered and it never even tried to rain. The trees should start blooming within the next week so I hope that my next trip here will offer more color but still plenty of water.
A beautiful picture of Mt. Jefferson at Jefferson Park, Oregon. This photo was taken on October 3rd and you can see all of the Salmon berries in the foreground. They are in abundance throughout the entire Jefferson Park area and if you’re lucky you might stumble on a black bear foraging. I never got a chance to see one but I did notice several bear tracks and scat throughout the park and I did hear some rustling in some brush but I never took the time to find out what it was. September and early October is the best time to visit the park if you want to take advantage of getting the opportunity to see some wildlife like bear, elk or deer. However, the days are much shorter and the snow covered peak of Mt. Jefferson is at it’s lowest point of the year. You will have the opportunity to forage around the salmon berry drenched canvas as well as still have the opportunity to swim in one of the many lakes in the park. The weather can actually be warmer and sunnier during the months of September and October as well as maybe even getting a little of dusting of snow in the early mornings. The crowds are also much smaller then the summer months and this can be critical if you’re planning on back packing or hiking on the weekend. However, the summer months offer longer days and more snow at the higher elevations. Summer also brings out the ever so brilliant alpine flowers that canvas the park. You can literally feel like you could get lost in all of the wildflowers throughout the park. Even the lakes and smaller ponds will be at their highest levels and you can also follow some of the small creeks travelling through the lakes and fusing them into one giant water system. The biggest drawbacks about visiting during the summer months is that if you are planning on visiting during the weekend, you can expect to see hundreds of other hikers and back packers. This can really ruin the alpine experience. However, if you visit during the mid week, you are less likely to see as many people. Another drawback is that sometimes the trail will be covered in snow until August and that can really cause a problem unless you come prepared. The last time I visited was in early July and I couldn’t hike past the 1/2 mile mark without having to put on my snow shoe gear and I eventually ended up just finding a ledge and taking photos from there. I basically ended up losing out on a great hiking trip but at least I brought some snow shoe gear to get me about 3 miles up the trail. You also really want to check the weather and even contact to ranger station to see if the forest road is open. Sometimes it doesn’t open until later in the summer or there may have been a washout or fallen trees blocking the road. This can really ruin your day if you make the 100 plus mile drive and then only find out that the road is closed. You will need to purchase a Northwest Forest pass in order to park at the trail head and I would also recommend that you store your dinner in your car for your return since you will be pretty hungry, thirsty and very tired and dirty once you get back to your car. The hike to the park is 5.1 miles one way and it’s very steep. The elevation gain is 2400 feet and that’s only to the park. There is another 1000 feet of elevation gain available if you decide to continue past the park. That also doesn’t include the 3 or 4 miles of trails that winds it’s way around the area. If you plan on doing a day hike I would plan on hiking over 15 miles round trip since you won’t want to just hike to the park and then sit around. There is way too much to do and see once you get to the park. In fact, the real views and fun doesn’t even start until you get to the entrance of Jefferson Park and believe me you will know when you get there. About a few years ago, I was taking some photos of Mt. Jefferson when all of a sudden a snow owl leaped from a tree branch and quickly flew away. I never had a chance to even take my camera off the tripod to get a shot. There are even some waterfalls that you can take photos of as well as several snow bridges along the higher elevations that you may be able to cross.
The other day, someone asked me to tell them which was my favorite hike near or on Mt. Hood. It took me a second but then it soon dawned on me that there is only only hike that towers over all the rest. This hike offers everything that you wold expect from a Volcanic mountain should. I immediately explained to them that it was the Elk Meadows hike. I then explained to them that you also need to hike past the Elk Meadows trail and head straight up towards Mt. Hood, which becomes the Gnarl Ridge trail. This epic hiking trail offers everything that a wilderness hiker would love. You hike among an ancient and pristine forest, cross over several creeks and rivers. You even have the chance to cross along a wooden bridge that spans over a recently melted glacier. You can walk along an alpine meadow with millions of flowers dotting the bogged grassland. Once you leave the Elk Meadow trail, you then get the chance to explore the Gnarl Ridge trail and it’s impressive. You will immediately notice the elevation gain within just seconds. The trail shoots straight up as you hike through the tall trees. Your ultimate goal is to get to the summit of Lamberson Butte. The photo that I provided was taken from the Lamberson Butte viewpoint. With it’s elevation at 6,500 feet, you will realize that you have hiked over 2,030 feet of elevation gain. Before you can get to the top of the butte, you may have to traverse along a very steep and difficult part of the butte if it’s still covered in snow. However, if there isn’t any snow, you won’t have to worry about anything. The trail is just below an overhang and below the trail it’s a pretty steep drop, so if there is still snow, the trail may be buried and you may have to slowly navigate your way around this sketchy part of the trail. Once you get to Lamberson Butte, you will find yourself with a pretty spectacular view. You can see Mt. Jefferson and the Three Sisters in the south and Mt. Adams and Mt. St. Helen’s towards the north. Mt. Hood stares you straight in the face as you gaze due west. Alpine flowers grow in some of the most precarious spots along the volcanic covered earth. Huge boulders are spread out across the volcanic landscape and you can hear and see some of the boulders crashing down all around you. Gnarl Ridge is an unforgiving and massive cairn just below from where you will be sitting and the glaciers high above created the cairn that created Newton Creek. This is the creek that flows under the wooden bridge that you will be crossing during the early part of your hike. There are several glaciers on the eastern slopes and many mt. climbers start from the base of Lamberson Butte. It’s a very windy area but you can find some pretty descent cover and more flat stretches just north of the butte. This is a great spot to take a break and have lunch. The views are awesome and you can plan on spending several hours taking photos. Again, if you study the photo, you will notice the many areas that I’ve mentioned. If you want to continue up, you will be able to follow the trail until it disappears under the snow. The snow lingers well into August or September so you will want to plan on bringing your snow shoe poles and maybe even some grip soles or traction cleats for your shoes. You won’t necessarily need crampons since you will be going from snow to rock several times. I pretty much kept on hiking towards the summit until I began to cramp up and trust me, you will. If you look at the photo, you will see that you will be hiking on the right hand side of the summit. You can see that it’s mostly snow and bare rock and the elevation gain is pretty steep. You could pretty much hike until you get to the summit but you will soon find yourself exhausted and starting to realize just how difficult it would be. You could easily cover over 5,000 feet of elevation gain before you even realize it. I would recommend that you bring your dinner with you and plan on eating at your car as well as rest for a while before heading home since you will be very tired, hungry and dirty. There are two places where you can start your hike. They are only a few hundred feet apart and they are both off highway 35. The first parking spot is just a few yards from the Mt. Hood Nordic Center and the other is the Clark Creek Snow Park. Just remember to purchase your parking pass or your annual Northwest Forest Pass.
[/caption] Mid summer view of beautiful Mt. Hood and it’s alpine wilderness! Another cool shot of Mt. Hood with a great view of it’s western alpine flanks. The Mazama and Cairn Basin trail travels through the left part of the photo with several great views of Mt. Hood. There are endless amounts of wildflowers growing in the lush green alpine wilderness that spans below the higher elevations and if you decide to hike on Mt. Hood’s western side you will be immersed in several picture perfect spots. Having a tripod will allow you to take the additional effort to get the best shot but you will also find yourself taking a lot less photos and reducing your travel distance by as much as 85%. On hikes like this, I like to ensure that I have the proper settings on my camera and leave the tripod in my car in order to take more photos and hike as far as possible without being bogged down by a tripod. If you have good light, and a steady hand, you can eliminate the chance of ending up with blurry photos or camera shake. I still attach my CIR-PL but I just make sure that I’m always using the histogram and making adjustments as needed.
[/caption] Massive storm clouds hovering over the Three Sisters! This photo was taken from Smith Rock State Park in Central Oregon and there was a massive and impressive storm system that had been hovering over the Oregon Cascades for several day’s. Usually, the storm are held back by the Cascade mountains but this storm was no match for the mountains. This massive storm was worming it’s way through the snow capped mountains as well as around them and above them. To get this shot I hiked near the highest elevation in the Smith Rock Park and zoomed in to a focal length of 135mm in order to frame the entire storm clouds and mountains but still keep a descent field of view. I didn’t use a tripod and had the CIR-PL attached as well. I just made sure to change the white balance to 0 in order to avoid any camera shake or blur. I also set the ISO at 100 and the shutter speed was at 1/250 seconds. Normally I make sure to use a tripod whenever I max out the focal length of the lens I’m using but since I had hiked over 8.5 miles and was pretty well set with good light and plenty of sunshine, I decided to take a chance.
[/caption] Beautiful view of Broken Top from crater meadow in the Three Sisters Wilderness area. If you’re looking for a great area to get in some great hiking and have an opportunity to get some great photos and take in some great views, you won’t want to pass up the chance to hike near Broken Top mountain. However, if you’re going for only a day hike and you want to avoid the killer up hill elevation gain that you must endure via the Green Lakes trailhead, you may want to cheat a little by driving to the Broken Top trailhead. However, you will need to endure over 4 miles of a rugged dirt road that calls for a high clearance vehicle and lots of patience. Once you get to the parking lot you will find yourself with having to deal with only about 500 to 1,000 feet of elevation gain, depending on what you want to do. You are pretty much smack dab in the middle of Broken Top and you can continue along the trailhead or span out in several different directions once you get to a well marked intersection of trails. This photo was taken along the crater meadow with two lava cones in the foreground and on both the right and left of Broken Top. There are plenty of wildlife in the area as well as dozens of alpine flowers dotting the landscape. You will also walk across several small to medium sized creeks as well as see several waterfalls. Even during mid Fall, you will find yourself hiking through snow as well as several snow bridges.