One of the trails on our backpacking to-do list is the 39.3 Timberline Trail around Mt. Hood. Until we get around to that trip though we settle for small sections at a time. We have managed to cover approximately 25 of those miles now with the most recent mile coming on our visit to Elk Cove and the Coe Branch.
There are a number of trails that lead to the Timberline Trail and for this hike we decided to try the Pinnacle Ridge Trail. This trail climbs just over 2000′ in 3.4 miles to the Timberline Trail between Wy’East Basin and Dollar Lake. http://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/mthood/recarea/?recid=53270
The trail passes through forest burned in the 2011 Dollar Lake Fire. Vegetation is starting to return in some areas but the first section of the trail was still pretty barren.
A pleasant surprise was a small stream with a picturesque crossing.
We noticed a possible little waterfall downstream and left the trail to see what we could find. It turned out to be a lovely pair of little falls.
The trail enters the Mt. Hood Wilderness just after passing a small rock slide and shortly after we got our glimpse of The Pinnacle, the rock formation the trail is named after.
The forest began to get greener as we passed The Pinnacle. The trees had still been burned in the fire but a series of springs and bogs created a green undergrowth.
After making our way around a particularly muddy area we started encountering some unburnt forest. Mountain heather and avalanche lilies greeted us along with some hungry mosquitoes.
The bugs were pretty bad for a short stretch but when we met the Timberline Trail they relented. We had been on this portion of the trail on our trip to Barret Spur last year. https://wanderingyuncks.wordpress.com/2013/08/15/barrett-spur-via-the-mazama-trail/ We retraced our steps from that visit passing the side trail to Dollar Lake and continuing around a ridge end to one of the more impressive views we’ve seen from the Timberline Trail. One minute the mountain is hidden and the next you are staring straight at it.
The flower display along this portion of the trail was very impressive.
Melting snow feeds several streams that help keep Elk Cove full of color. The contrast of Mt. Hood looming over the green meadows is breathtaking.
We followed a small trail along the largest creek up through the wildflower filled meadows toward the mountain. The flowers along the creek were especially colorful.
I managed to get up to the snowfield that was feeding the stream. Where the view back down at the meadow was filled with western pasque flowers and paintbrush.
We returned to the Timberline Trail and began to make our way through the rest of Elk Cove. There were several meadows, each with it’s own variety of flowers and view of Mt. Hood.
Our original plan was to continue on the Timberline crossing over the Coe Branch and continuing on to Compass Creek Falls where we would turn around. On the far side of Elk Cove we reentered the trees where there was still an impressive amount of flowers.
As we came around a ridge end we got our first glimpse of the Coe Branch as it flowed down from the Coe Glacier.
Even from up above we could tell by the sound that the Coe Branch was flowing very swiftly. When we arrived at the water we discovered it was already swollen due to the rapid snow melt caused by a very hot morning. We scanned for a good crossing point and found a couple of possibilities but in the end decided to call it good and make this our turn around point.
Since we hadn’t made it to Compass Creek we did a little exploring down the Elk Cove Trail, another possible route to the Timberline Trail. Camping is prohibited in the meadows of Elk Cove but there were several nice campsites a short distance down this trail that had views and surroundings like this:
After checking out several campsites we headed back up the Timberline Trail and out of Elk Cove. We decided to take the quick .2 mile side trip to visit Dollar Lake at the last minute as we passed by the hard to spot trail.
The return trip from Dollar Lake was pretty uneventful. The mosquitoes had apparently had enough of the heat and left us alone for the most part. We did spot a very focused swallowtail butterfly that didn’t seem to be the least bit concerned with it’s picture being taken.
When we arrived back at the parking area we got one last look at Mt. Hood.
Another day hiking on the Timberline Trail had only reenforced our desire to tackle the whole loop someday. Happy Trails!
3 replies on “Pinnacle Ridge to Elk Cove – Mt. Hood”
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