Thanks to everyone who contributed to the first annual Timberline Trail survey. It will take some time to analyze the results – especially a more detailed analysis based on starting date.
Overall 155 people answered the survey. This initial summary is from the raw results. I’ll split it into three parts. Here are the results from the first part of the Timberline Trail survey.
Basic Hike Information
Timberline Lodge remains by far the most common starting location, with 145 people starting from there. 2 people started at Top Spur and 5 from Cloud Cap. 5 people also started from other locations. Of those 3 started from Mount Hood Meadows, 1 from Vista Ridge, and one from Zigzag.
All of these starting points are on the Timberline Trail except for Zigzag – if you assume this is the Zigzag Trail Head, then the additional distance from the Zigzag Trail Head to the Paradise Park intersection of the Timberline trail is about 13 miles or an additional 26 miles round trip. This would make the total hike around 70 miles!
Which Direction Did you Hike?
Historically the thought was that clockwise was the predominant direction. Although there is no real solid reason for this and many say that the slog out of the White Canyon at the end of the last day is a downside of the clockwise approach. The survey results show that even thou clockwise is still the most common direction it is a little more even than might have been expected.
89 people started out in a clockwise direction, whereas 67 started in a counter-clockwise direction.
How many nights did you spend on the trail?
10 people ran the trail in a day. You are Gods! In all fairness, the number might be less than this. Several people left the trail early and this number may drop after those are figured out.
3 nights is the most popular duration to hike the trail. This makes each day a comfortable 10 or so miles. 61 people opted for this pace. 44 completed the hike in 3 days / 2 nights and 18 in 2 days / 1 night.
For those who have a little more time, 23 completed the trail in 5 days / 4 nights or more.
How many times have you hiked the Timberline Trail?
Just around 1/2 the people, 79, had this as their first attempt at the Timberline Trail. Definitely a popular year to be out on the trail!
35 people had completed the trail one time before and 9 were on their third attempt.
15 people are regulars on the trail and have completed it 4 or more times! There are definitely some experts out there in our group who have had a lot of experience on the trail.
Did you use a tent or hammock?
Tents remain by far the most common form of shelter. Only 3 people reported using hammocks. There are plenty of trees on the trail, maybe with some exceptions around the top of Gnarl Ridge towards Tilly Jane.
Even so, you were very lucky if you saw anyone with only a hammock! from the comments of the Timberline Trail survey – one hiker cowboy camped.
What was your heaviest pack weight in pounds?
The heaviest pack weight was reported to be just a little over 27lbs. It’s probably a good assumption that this was the starting pack weight as there is no need to resupply on the Timberline Trail.
The distribution of pack weights spread between 5lbs, which is presumably for trail runners all the way up to 56lbs. The overall peak distribution of pack weight is in the 25-35lb range.
Pack weight can be a good indicator of success on the trail. In a more detailed analysis, we’ll look at pack weight as a predictor of either injury or a correlation between pack weight and having to leave the trail early.
2022 had quite a late start to the season. Snow lingered well into July and this is reflected in, except for a few hardy souls, the season not starting until after July 15th.
August and early September were the most popular months, with the season continuing until October. There were even a few thru-hikes in the second half of October, as the season wrapped up.
Start dates will become very important in some of the later analyses, especially with respect to when hikers found mosquitoes annoying and the difficulty in some of the stream crossings.
How many People hiked with you?
On average we like to hike with friends. Although many folks hike the trail alone, traveling with one companion was a common partnership.
As the number of people increased, so do the organizational challenges, but that didn’t stop folks from tackling the trail in groups of 3 or more.
Did you hike with a dog?
Out of all the results, this one surprised me. Maybe it’s because I’m always hiking with Hunter, or maybe when I hike the Timberline Trail there seem to be many dogs on the trail – maybe many of them are day-hiking dogs. However, out of 156 respondents, only 6 said they were hiking with fido. Admittedly it can be a tough trail for a dog – the stream crossings can be aggressive (I have had to carry Hunter on occasion across some of them, and even turned back once at the old Muddy crossing) and there are a couple of areas that are potentially tough in their paws.
In spite of the snow lingering for quite a while – this year was not too bad.
Probably the most feared part of the Timberline Trail is the stream crossings. Depending on the time of year, the rate of snow melt, and the temperature – these can be anything from a simple rock hock to a scary wade. There have been plenty of times when you can complete the trail without getting your feet wet and at others, you can be thigh-deep in fast, glacial run-off.
As you would probably expect overall the Eliot was considered the hardest crossing, followed by the Coe. This is pretty much in keeping with what people report from their trail reports. With the Eliot, there is the added challenge of getting down to the water!
At the other end of the spectrum, not many problems crossing the Zigzag River. The Muddy has had a large tree trunk across it for a couple of years which helps in its crossing
There is a lot of data wrapped up in these questions and I’ll be breaking it down a lot more over time, for example, the difficulty of the crossing versus when hikers started.
For the initial results let’s end with the most common way to cross the water. A lot of wading through the Eliot and Coe – which probably is related to why these were rated the most difficult.
The Zigzag, Clark, and White look to have been pretty easy to cross with rock hopping. Possibly the surprise here is that despite the Muddy having a rather large log to cross on – the results show that many hikers found a rock hop way across.
To see more of the results – read on to Part Two of the Timberline Trail survey results.