Pets allowed
Elevation Gain
1,200.00 ft (365.76 m)
Trail type
5.00 mi (8.05 km)
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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.


Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)




Parking Pass

NW Forest Pass


Serene subalpine meadow. Numerous backcountry campsites. Options for extending your hike.


Only accessible for hiking in summer and early fall.

Trailhead Elevation

4,470.00 ft (1,362.46 m)


Backcountry camping
Big vistas

Typically multi-day



Nearby Lodging + Camping

Mt. Hood + Clackamas River Area, Oregon
Mt. Hood + Clackamas River Area, Oregon
Mt. Hood + Clackamas River Area, Oregon


It was the perfect time of year to go. The weather was just warm enough to wear a sweater and take it off in the meadow in the sunshine. Didn’t see and elk only footprints. But a bird flew over to my hand and sat on it for a bit.
The hike was about 2 hours to get to the meadow with a steep climb up.
We really enjoyed this short hike up to Elk Meadows. Getting across the second creek — the one without an actual bridge — was a little challenging, especially in the afternoon with some snowmelt, but easy enough to ford. The switchbacks up the ridge are nicely graded and you get them over with quickly. The views from the Meadow are just stunning! It would be a great place to backpack in, since the hike in is just a few miles. In late October, the larches were changing color, and there were still some nice red leaves on the huckleberries.
Stayed two nights there recently. View was slightly hazy due to smoke from the wildfires. Beautiful wildflowers. Not too many mosquitos. Friday night most campsites were empty. Saturday night all campsites were full. The 9 switchbacks to get up Gnarl Ridge were a killer for my 11 year old son and I with full backpacking gear. Great view. Did not disapoint.
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