It‘s amazing what a difference 8 hours can make. After a night of really gusty winds and rain, the morning arrived with a clear blue sky and the sun filtering through the trees. The wind had dropped to zero. The dramatic change in weather set the mood for what would be a stunning day. Elk Cove is about the halfway point around Mount Hood, and Elk Cove to Ramona falls would be about 10 miles.
Elk Cove to Cairn Basin
After breakfast, we were back on the trail, with a quick stop at Elk Creek to filter some more water. The good news with going counterclockwise is all the difficult river crossings had already been done. Today should be a gentle, relatively downhill day towards the low point of the Timberline Trail at the Sandy River.
The meadows around Elk Cove are superb! Miles of flowers in bloom, with reds, yellow, and violet flowers disappearing into the distance. The Coe Glacier could be clearly seen hanging from the top of Mount Hood, feeding the Coe River.
We weaved in and out of burn areas and meadows. The expanse of the Dollar Fire opening up to the north. Just before the Dollar Lake Trail, the vista to the north opened up to show a stunning view of Mount St. Helens, Mount Rainier and Mount Adams.
As we descended into Cairn Basin, we had one more easy river crossing, the Ladd. This was another short log crossing that wasn’t a challenge. This section of the Timberline Trail is truly magnificent, with beautiful meadows and stunning wildflowers, intertwined with clear streams. All complemented by the continuous change in and out of burn areas.
Cairn Basin to Top Spur
The trail from Cairn Basin to the Top Spur interchange got pretty busy, with a lot more day hikers heading towards McNeil Point. As we passed the McNeil trail turnoff we could hear gunshots from McNeil Point, probably something like 7-10 shots. I’m not sure there is really anything to shoot at that is meaningful from McNeil point so it seems like a bit of waste and disturbing to the wilderness way.
We quickly arrived at the intersection of the Timberline Trail, PCT, and Top Spur. This was possibly the busiest point on the trail, outside of Timberline Lodge. We’d temporarily leave the official Timberline Trail and complete the next section on the PCT southbound. The main reason I like this is the crossing over the Muddy is much easier and there are some great camp spots down by the PCT / Muddy crossing and up the trail back towards Ramona Falls.
You may have noticed that I use ViewRanger for primary navigation, see how I plan for my trips here.
Top Spur to Ramona Falls
As we headed down the PCT there was a dramatic drop-off in hikers. We met one who overtook us and then doubled back having taken a wrong turn. It was refreshing being back in a more wilderness world. The trail descended slowly. We stopped for a quick lunch break and then continued down towards the Muddy River. The trail was surrounded by Huckleberries, so there was the occasional break to taste the berries; some sweet and some tart.
The trail was well protected, soft underfoot and we made good time. Indeed it would be possible that we could push further than Ramona Falls and possibly on to the Sandy River or just a little more.
We quickly came to the Muddy River and, as last year, there were two huge tree trunks crossing the river. This made for a super easy crossing.
Just across from the Muddy River, up the bank, are a large set of very nice campsites, spread out through the trees. We just settled into a particularly nice site, when a group of about 15 Boy Scouts appeared. As they were both struggling to find all the space they needed and to find a little more space for ourselves, we decided to push on a little up towards Ramona Falls.
The trail up towards Ramona Falls is another beauty. Following the creek, we came across a site accessible by some fallen logs on the other side of the water. We crossed and set up camp for the night there. With the remaining hours of daylight, we’d have plenty of hikers passing down the trail from Ramona Falls.
Elk Cove to Ramona Falls was about 14 miles. The stats for the day were:
Day 3 – Summary Day 3 – Elevation