This is a continuation of my Timberline Trail trip report, covering the stretch from Tilly Jane campground to Timberline Lodge in a clockwise direction. To start from the beginning, including information about the overall trail as well as river crossing conditions, please check out the report for Day 1: Timberline Lodge to Sandy River.
Timberline Trail Day 4 and 5: Tilly Jane to Timberline Lodge
Day 4: 12 miles, 3000 ft gain and 2900 ft loss (Tilly Jane to Mount Hood Meadows)
Day 5: 4.7 miles, 1600 ft gain and 1400 ft loss (Mount Hood Meadows to Timberline Lodge)
Our fourth day on the Timberline Trail ended up being my favorite. It included Cooper Spur, hiking above treeline to the high point of the trail, and several refreshing and non-intimidating stream crossings. We finished the day camped under the ski lifts of Mount Hood Meadows which was a bit of a novelty.
The trail climbing towards Cooper Spur out of Tilly Jane was well-graded and we knocked off the 1000 foot climb pretty quickly. Don’t be lazy at the junction below the Cooper Spur Shelter – the short detour to the shelter and the ridge beyond is absolutely worth it. The views of the Eliot Glacier and its giant crevasses is the best from there. I intend to go back to day hike up the Cooper Spur trail further.
From Cooper Spur, the trail stays far above treeline in an alpine environment that reminded me of the White Mountains in California. In about 1.5 miles we reached the high point of the Timberline Trail, having crossed a few small snowfields along the way.
The next mile included some of my favorite trail of the entire loop. Views down into our next river crossing (Nelson) were extensive, and we could start to see the lifts of Mount Hood Meadows in the distance.
As the trail met Gnarl Ridge, the view towards the Newton-Clark Glacier was unreal – I felt like I was looking at a painting.
The trail dropped down to the Newton crossing, and for the rest of the day we would climb and then descend smaller ridges to smaller river crossings.
The sun was beating us down again, and we found a perfect waterfall shower at the moment we needed it the most – during that mid-afternoon heat. I will remember this spot fondly whenever I’m hiking on a hot day and wanting some cold fresh water.
If we pushed, we probably could have finished the trail this day, but we had budgeted the whole week and decided to make camp under the lifts of Mount Hood Meadows ski area. Our campsite wasn’t perfect, but it felt good to stop and enjoy being in my tent for one more night.
We also had one final major river crossing ahead of us, and tackling it in the morning was far more appealing than figuring it out late afternoon when it would be at its highest.
This was a wise decision, as the White River ended up being a simple rock-hop of two small forks. We could see the high water mark from the previous day and it definitely would have been a more complex problem to solve the previous afternoon.
This means that our final day was short, and we were back at the Timberline Lodge before lunch. Not that we needed to eat – we had passed through another huckleberry patch and eaten our fill on the way down to the White River crossing!
Back at the Timberline Lodge, we dropped our packs off at the car, changed into some clean clothes, and headed up to the bar to get a celebratory drink. Sitting out on the back patio watching people ride the Magic Mile lift and ski down the Palmer Snowfield was the perfect way to end the trip.
Overall, the Timberline Trail was a challenging, sometimes-beautiful sometimes-frustrating hike. I found some favorite parts of the mountain that I want to go back to and others I’d just as soon skip in the future. I enjoyed meeting so many other hikers and the odd mix of civilization and primitiveness was striking.
On a personal note, I broke my leg the day I got home from the trip (not on the trail, I did it in my own house). This put an end to my summer hiking season, so I’m glad to have such a memorable trip to carry me through my recovery.