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.

Mount Hood – Elk Meadows hike Mount Hood – Elk Meadows hikeMount Hood – Elk Meadows hike

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!

Mount Hood – Elk Meadows hike

Mount Hood – Elk Meadows hike

photo credit: Trish Diaz

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.

Mount Hood – Elk Meadows hike

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.

Mount Hood – Elk Meadows hike Mount Hood – Elk Meadows hike

Mount Hood – Elk Meadows hike

photo credit: Maria Rodriguez

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.

Mount Hood – Elk Meadows hike Mount Hood – Elk Meadows hike

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.

Mount Hood – Elk Meadows hike

At the former lookout, we took a long break for lunch and enjoyed the partial views around us.

Mount Hood – Elk Meadows hike  Mount Hood – Elk Meadows hike

The top of Mount Hood is visible in the burn area section.

Mount Hood – Elk Meadows hike

Back on the Elk Meadows trail, we turned right for the loop around the meadows.

Mount Hood – Elk Meadows hike Mount Hood – Elk Meadows hike

A short side trail leads to this view of the meadows and Mount Hood.

Mount Hood – Elk Meadows hike

After a short break here, we continued the loop to the shelter at the north end of the meadows.

Mount Hood – Elk Meadows hike

photo credit: Maria Rodriguez

Mount Hood – Elk Meadows hike Mount Hood – Elk Meadows hike

After crossing the logs on Newton Creek again, we were treated to one last look at Mount Hood.

Mount Hood – Elk Meadows hike