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Pets allowed
Allowed
Elevation Gain
?
Trail type
There-and-back
Distance
8.20 mi (13.20 km)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

When compared with the crowds that flock to Mount Hood's south side, the relative calm of the Gnarl Ridge area is a welcome relief. Whether you are attempting the 8.2 mile, 2,030-foot climb in one day or you are stationed at Elk Meadows, you'll find the views from Gnarl Ridge well worth the journey. Once you pass Lamberson Butte on the Timberline Trail, the craggy Newton Canyon dramatically opens up to views of Mount Hood's summit. From this ridgeline you'll also gain expansive views as far south as Mount Jefferson and the Three Sisters. To the north, look for glimpses of Mount Adams through the subalpine forest of gnarly mountain hemlocks and windblown lodgepole pines.

Return via Elk Meadows or continue southwest on the Timberline Trail (this is the best choice if you are backpacking). When you reach the Umbrella Falls Trail, head east until you return to Hood River Meadows. This is a long loop, so plan accordingly.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Summer
Fall

Congestion

Moderate

Parking Pass

NW Forest Pass

Pros

Incredible views of Mount Hood, Mount Adams and Mount Jefferson. Backcountry campsites.

Cons

Only accessible for hiking in late summer/early fall.

Trailhead Elevation

4,470.00 ft (1,362.46 m)

Net Elevation Gain

2,030.00 ft (618.74 m)

Features

Backcountry camping
Big vistas
Wildflowers
Shelters

Location

Field Guide + Map

Nearby Adventures

Nearby Lodging + Camping

Comments

10/14/2018
Overall, a nicely maintained trail that was pretty quiet on a chilly Sunday in mid-October. We started hiking at 8:30am and came off the trail around 1:00pm. In the morning the parking lot was fairly empty, and we only encountered three groups of backpackers. By the time we returned, the parking lot was full with cars parked along the road. We had a bit of trouble picking up the trail toward Elk Meadows after crossing Newton Creek. Just go right and push through the bushes to find the markers/cairns and begin switchbacking up the ridge. We chose to take the trail encircling Elk Meadows before picking up the Gnarl Ridge Trail and heading to Lamberson Butte. This section will get you breathing thanks to the altitude, but the trail itself is not particularly challenging. We were rewarded with amazing views of Mt. Adams on the way up, an up-close-and-personal view of Hood, and distant views of Mt. Jefferson and the Three Sisters at the top of the butte. It was pretty cold and windy at the top so we only stuck around for a snack and a few photos. We decided to pick up the Timberline Trail heading west in order to make our trip a loop rather than returning via Gnarl Ridge. Crossing Newton Creek again was slightly challenging, mostly because our dog is scared of water. Two-legged hikers shouldn’t have an issue in the late summer/early fall. We had to ascend a bit more before finding the turn off for Newton Creek Trail which was a nice, easy coast back to the Elk Meadows Trail and featured occasional views of the creek. We clocked around 10.5 miles, but that was with the extra side trip to Elk Meadows.

*The top of Lamberson Butte is very exposed so wear sunscreen and a hat if you plan on being there awhile!
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