There are no doubt a lot of blog posts and stories on the Paradise Park Loop Trail on Mt Hood. So, here is one more, but with a twist, we made it a mini loop. This is a moderate 10.3-mile hike, it takes you through a few canyons ranging from small to large, and across some creeks and rivers.
This trail is best on a clear day to get views of the summit and the vast alpine meadows. The Paradise Park Loop Trail can be a busy trail during the summer months as it is easily accessible from the lodge parking lots and has minimal river crossings. PSA: Know your physical limits and be prepared. 10 Essentials for Hiking.
You’ll come across several types of outdoor enthusiasts, day hikers, backpackers, runners, bird watchers, and honestly some folks that really do not look like they want to be out there. There will also be hiking traffic for the folks doing the PCT and the Timberline Trail Loop (read all about our Timberline Trail Hike here).
Mt. Hood/Timberline Lodge is only 60 miles from Portland and 47 miles from Hood River. Turn off of US Hwy 26 onto Timberline Rd and head up to the lodge. There are a few parking lots, and the upper parking area has direct access to the trails, but there is a large parking lot if this smaller one is full.
During the peak season, these lots can get pretty full. Keep in mind, that Timberline Lodge Ski Resort is almost a year-round operation, plus the lodge itself and its restaurants, and for a period of the summer, there are also mountain biking trails. It can get busy up there.
During the summer months the parking may be free, but just in case, have your Northwest Forest Pass handy. During the winter months and ski season, a snopark permit is required.
The Hike Begins
We wanted to get a 9 am start to avoid some of the people. We grabbed our daypacks, filled our hydration reservoirs, and threw in some snacks, and layers if needed. We set out from Timberline Lodge on the Timberline to Town Trail also the Mountaineer Trail #798 below the lodge.
This trail is a little less traveled and makes its way to the Pacific Crest Trail (Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail, aka PCT) which continues onto Paradise Park Loop Trail #757 and the Paradise Park Trail #778.
After leaving the lodge the trail basically meanders across Timberline’s ski runs and the trail is pretty dusty this time of the year (mid-July). You’ll get a lot of beautiful views of Mt. Hood and a few of its glaciers.
Depending on the time of year Timberline Lodge Ski Resort may still be operating and for a small fee, you can ride the Magic Mile chairlift up the hill. There are still patches of snow obstructing the trail, but you can pretty easily see where the trails go, so there is no worry of getting lost.
Mother Nature is doing her best at snow removal, but soon enough the trail will be free of snow. There was no need for spikes, trekking poles were a good addition though.
Whether you take the trail from above the lodge or below, you’ll come to a point where you must sign in and get a wilderness permit if you are continuing down the trail, after all, you are in the Mount Hood Wilderness, plus the permit is free and the Forest Service uses the data for trail usage numbers. This is where the fun begins!
The first canyon you come to is Sand Canyon, this is a pretty small one so crossing is no issue at all. You go around a few small ridges and come up to Little Zig Zag Canyon, you traverse uphill in order to get down to the bottom of the canyon and then traverse downhill to get out. This did have a small creek crossing, again, not an issue at all.
After about 1.1-mile past Little Zigzag is Zigzag Canyon, a much larger canyon, to this point you are pretty much slowly dropping in elevation so just a stroll in the park really. But, once you are standing at the edge of Zigzag Canyon, it turns into a steep descent along a handful of switchbacks.
Once at the bottom of the Zigzag canyon you’re down to 4,767′ in elevation and need to cross the Zigzag River. In mid-July, the river is still flowing pretty well and you will either need to hop across boulders or wade across the water in order to get to the other side, sorry, no bridges here.
Climb, climb, climb about 1000′ in 1.6-miles. You are still on the PCT trail for 0.9-miles before you get to the junction for the Paradise Park Trail and start heading straight up the mountain. It can be even more if you decide to head further up Paradise Park Trail.
For us, we chose to leave the trail and head towards a ridge for lunch and some spectacular views of Mount Hood, Zigzag Glacier, White River Glacier, then over to the South for Mount Jefferson, and the tip of the South Sister is visible. There was a nice breeze to cool us down from the hike up the hill, even a little time to lay back, close our eyes and enjoy the sounds of nature.
Turn Around Point
Now it is time to finish this hike. A short distance down the hill is the trail junction for Paradise Park Loop and Paradise Park Trail, we take a left and head down the loop trail. Here we cross a small canyon just off the side of Zigzag Canyon, and with a few switchbacks to get us back down to the PCT and down to the ZigZag River.
Remember, this is the lowest part of the hike again, all uphill from here… again. At this point, there is a lot more oncoming traffic and some did not seem to be prepared for the hike since it was a warm day.
We slowly make our way back around the ridges, Little Zigzag Canyon, and are blessed with the same beautiful meadows and views from a few hours earlier. We chose to stay on the PCT to finish our hike, which goes above the lodge.
Timberline Lodge is a National Historic Landmark, so a must-see if you have the time to go in and check it out. They have public restrooms and restaurants as well. See our Timberline Lodge post. There is also a day lodge with restrooms.
The Paradise Park Loop Trails are a couple of the best hikes due to the close proximity to Timberline Lodge. You can easily make it a day hike and grab lunch or dinner afterward. Or better yet, do the hike, then grab a room and enjoy a romantic dinner with your loved one. Soothe your muscles in the lodge hot tub or maybe a nightcap or two.
If your not looking to stay at the lodge, stop in and enjoy a snack or a meal in Government Camp, They have a handful of places to eat as well, a must-stop is Volcano Cones, (double-scoop waffle cone, please!) next to Charlie’s. Here’s our post on the
- Total Miles – 10.3
- Elevation Gain – 2,451′
- Elevation Loss – 2,526′
- Moving Time – 4hr 50min
Both of these sites over great information on this hike and any others you are looking to do. Plus, you can check out the most recent trail reviews to better prepare yourself for the conditions.