hike: Elk Meadows + Elk Mountain
Located on the east side of Mount Hood, this trail begins at the Mount Hood Meadows ski area and features a former lookout at Elk Mountain and spacious meadows with a view of the mountain.
distance: 8 miles
elevation gain: 1,386 ft.
hike description: OregonHikers.org – Elk Meadows – Elk Mountain loop
drive time from Portland: 1 hour 20 minutes
parking pass: NW Forest Pass
I had a chance to reconnect with some hiking friends over Labor Day weekend so five of us headed to the east side of Mount Hood for a hike together. Starting at the Elk Meadows trailhead, the trail travels through forest and soon reaches a large bridge over Clark Creek.
We continued to the unbridged crossing of Newton Creek. I’d seen a post that showed two logs for crossing this fast running glacial creek, and even though I really don’t like log crossings, I decided to give it a try with the help of one of my friends. One of the logs was lower than the other, so she suggested we sit and scoot sideways to get across. It was much easier than I thought it would be. Sometimes my anxiety gets the best of me… but not today!
After the creek crossing, the trail heads up via switchbacks on the most significant section of elevation gain for this hike.
There was smoke in the sky, making the sun glow red. We couldn’t smell the smoke and it didn’t last very long, but while it was there, it gave the forest an ethereal feel with an amber glow.
At a trail junction, we turned right to take the side trail to Elk Mountain. Less traveled, this section of trail was starting to get a bit overgrown but wasn’t hard to follow.
On the way, we passed a tree that looked like an old gnome, then went through an open meadow before reaching the summit of Elk Mountain.
Instead of taking the Bluegrass Ridge Trail to head down to Elk Meadows, we turned around and went back the same way. I’d heard that there were hundreds of blow downs on the Bluegrass trail and we didn’t feel the need for an obstacle course on our hike.
At the former lookout, we took a long break for lunch and enjoyed the partial views around us.
The top of Mount Hood is visible in the burn area section.
Back on the Elk Meadows trail, we turned right for the loop around the meadows.
A short side trail leads to this view of the meadows and Mount Hood.
After a short break here, we continued the loop to the shelter at the north end of the meadows.
After crossing the logs on Newton Creek again, we were treated to one last look at Mount Hood.