Compared to the hoards of visitors who explore Mount Hood Meadows during the winter months, the mountain's east side is remarkably quiet during the summer. The resort's base is a great launching off point for numerous hikes and backpacking opportunities, and the relatively short hike up to Elk Meadows is one of the best options.
Starting though a forest of mixed firs, hemlocks and black huckleberries, you'll quickly reach Clark Creek and Newton Creek. From there it's a roughly 780-foot gain up Newton Canyon's north slope to Elk Meadows. Thick with high grasses and dotted with the violet hue of explorer's gentian, the meadow opens up to spectacular views of Mount Hood's eastern slope. Wander around the eastern and northern edges to find the best picnic spot, one of the numerous backcountry campsites or the classic warming shelter.
From Elk Meadows it is only a short walk back to find the viewpoint at Elk Mountain, or climb an additional 1,300 feet on the Timberline Trail up to Gnarl Ridge and Lamberson Butte. Hikers can also head roughly 6 miles north along Cold Spring Creek to Tamanawas Falls, which is a great vehicle shuttle backpacking trip.