hike: Mount Hood – McNeil Point
Hike along the Bald Mountain ridge on Mount Hood’s northwest side, passing through wildflower-filled alpine meadows to the McNeil Point stone shelter just below the Sandy and Glisan glaciers
distance: 10.4 miles
elevation gain: 2,200 ft.
best season: summer (typically mid-July to October)
hike description: OregonHikers.org – McNeil Point
drive time from Portland: 1 hour 15 minutes
parking pass: NW Forest Pass
Starting at the Top Spur trailhead, the first several miles are in a Douglas fir and mountain hemlock cathedral forest, with an understory of huckleberries that ripen in August. In less than a quarter of a mile from the trailhead, turn right at the junction with the Pacific Crest Trail, and at a multi-trail junction a short distance later, continue straight (uphill) on the Timberline Trail. An optional loop around Bald Mountain with big views of Mount Hood adds just under half a mile to the hike. A short distance ahead, fill out a wilderness permit at the self-registration station.
Continue on the Timberline Trail to the wildflower-filled slopes of Bald Mountain Ridge. Openings in the forest provide stunning views of Mount Hood, with a high ridge of Yocum Ridge to the right, and the valley of the Muddy Fork of the Sandy River far below. Wildflowers in the alpine meadows include red paintbrush, blue lupine, avalanche lilies, western pasqueflower, beargrass, heather and pink spiraea.
After a scenic alpine area with tarns (ponds created by snow melt), stay right at all junctions, hiking through forest, past rock slides and up a ridge beside Ladd Creek.
At times, the trail is hard to distinguish, going through thick shrubbery. Just past timberline, snowfields can linger on the rocky slopes all year. Cross the snowfields and continue to the McNeil Point stone shelter, built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps.
Take in amazing views in all directions, including Mount Rainier, Mount St. Helens and Mount Adams. For a closer look at the Sandy and Glisan glaciers, continue on the trail above the shelter for a few hundred feet. After soaking in this glorious high mountain region, Return the same way.
Conditions on this high exposed area can change quickly, so be prepared with warm layers of clothing and rain gear. A good general rule is that if the mountain is completely socked in, it’s best to do this hike another day. It’s easy to get lost in high mountain terrain, and the effort to get there is better rewarded when there are views all around.