via the Timberline Trail
12 miles round trip | 1,200 ft elevation gain
|Mt Hood from Paradise Park Loop trail|
|Photographers in Paradise Park - Mt. Hood|
Arguably one of the most popular hikes in Northwest Oregon, Mt. Hood’s Paradise Park combines alpine altitudes, up-close-and-personal mountain views, panoramic Cascade vistas, and a thick colorful blanket of wildflowers. The hike is only accessible for about 3-4 months of the year; the remainder of the year it is buried thick in snow. Late Summer and Autumn are really the only times of the year that you can hike this trail, with August being the most popular month due to the blossoming of the wildflowers.
There are three main sights to see along this hike: 1) a magnificent viewpoint high above the Zigzag river canyon, 2) a bridgeless crossing of that same river way down below (you’ll have to get your feet wet, nothing more), and of course 3) Paradise Park itself.
Paradise Park really does live up to its name. Four out of your five senses will get a striking stimulation up here. Your eyes will encounter some outstanding beauty- the top 4,000+ feet of Mt. Hood, the Cascade range stretched as far as the eye can see and blanketed in dark green conifers, and a variety of wildflower colors, mainly purple from the Lupine. Your nose will encounter that foresty, rocky alpine odor that I grew to love on my trips into Glacier and Yellowstone, mixed with the aromatic natural “flower garden” that surrounds you. Imagine if Portland’s International Rose Test Garden was here, on the side of Mt. Hood at 6,000 ft. That’s what it smells like up here. Your ears will encounter the chatter of birds, the quiet trickle of creaks near their glacial source, the buzz of bees, and fellow hikers “ohh and ahh-ing” at the natural beauty all around them. Finally, you’ll feel that sharp alpine breeze that seems to carry with it a bite of cold from the glaciers nearby, as well as that alpine blast of sunshine warming you at your core.
The trailhead for the Paradise Park trail is in the parking lot of the Timberline Lodge, which makes this hike even more appealing than it already is! The hike can be very strenuous and tiring- and what better place to plop down and relax after a long hike than the various lobbies and restaurants of the Timberline Lodge.
If you'd like to take a look at the inside of the Timberline Lodge click HERE
Unlike most hikes, which typically take you uphill from the get-go and downhill on the return, Paradise Park is sort of a big W. There’s good news and bad news about this. The good news is that all of the steepest parts of the hike you will first experience traveling downhill. In fact, getting to beautiful, wildflower-scented Paradise Park itself seems almost easy. You may, like me, think to yourself “that’s it? That wasn’t so bad at all!”
Which brings me to the bad news: a significant chunk of the return half of the hike is going to be uphill. The steepest part of the trail in particular, the uphill climb from the river crossing up to the viewpoint, is briefly going to be a leg-burner. The trip to Paradise Park won’t kill you but it will definitely start to wear you down. The trip fro Paradise Park will be the coup de grace on your body. My advice: do not drink all your water on the first half of the hike! Save most of it for the return!
|Dusty, sandy trail surface|
Once you’ve completed the hike, take a while to rejuvenate at the Timberline. Trust me, you’ll have earned it. Allow the feeling to return to your legs and your sweat-drenched t-shirt to dry while you have an ice cold drink, a bite to eat, or a long sit in one of their lobbies or patios.
|Ribs & an IPA at Skyway Bar & Grill|
If you can hold off for 20 more minutes you could drive down to Zigzag, Oregon and have some amazing BBQ at Skyway Bar & Grill. They not only have outstanding BBQ for surprisingly affordable prices, but they also have a great selection of beers and a vast assortment of house-infused vodkas for making superb cocktails. In my opinion, it is quite possibly the perfect place to wind-down and take a load off after a long, strenuous hike. (see below for photos of my post-hike feast at Skyway)
Here are photos from the Paradise Park Loop hike in order of appearance, starting with those closest to the trailhead and ending with Paradise Park itself:
|Trailhead near Timberline Lodge|
|View of Mt Hood and the chairlift from the trail|
|Early on in the hike - near Timberline Lodge|
|Nearing Little Zigzag Canyon|
|Little Zigzag Canyon|
|Little Zigzag Canyon|
|Nearing Zigzag Canyon Viewpoint|
|Zigzag Canyon Viewpoint|
|View of Mt Hood's Mississippi Head and beginning of Zigzag Canyon|
|Wooded trail heading down to Zigzag River crossing|
|Zigzag River crossing - no bridge - wading required|
|Here's a photo for size reference: those little specks circled are people. The ones on top are standing at the Zigzag Canyon Viewpoint. The ones on the bottom are hiking uphill to Paradise Park.|
|Horseback riders on the Timberline Trail headed to Ramona Falls|
|Oregon is so hip that even the flora here have dreadlocks!|
|This gnarly tree is a bit of a Rorschach Test. What do you see in it?|
|Mt Hood from Paradise Park|
|Paradise Park Loop trail|
|Paradise Park Loop trail|
|My trusty Philosophy Nalgene bottle purchased from Powell's Books in Portland, Oregon|
|Mt. Hood from Paradise Park Loop trail|
After this hot, dusty, draining, (but very worth it!!!) 12-mile hike, I drove down to Skyway Bar & Grill in Zigzag, Oregon to feast on a BBQ sampler (ribs, pulled pork, beef brisket, and a side, in this case, baked beans) and a side of their renowned mac-n-cheese. I washed it down with a couple local IPAs and was in no rush to get up out of my chair. Here are a few photos from the Skyway: