It was early summer with a hot, sunny day forecast for Portland – – – time to drive to the Paradise Park Trailhead at the base of Mt. Hood, several miles east of the small town of Rhododendron. Paradise Park is a series of large alpine meadows on the west shoulder of Mt. Hood around 6,000 feet in elevation. It’s one of the Pacific Northwest’s most popular hiking destinations in late July and August when the alpine meadows are covered with wildflowers.
The Trail began slowly climbing the north ridge of the Zigzag River Canyon into the Mt. Hood Wilderness. For the first five to six miles the Trail stayed under the canopy of an old-growth forest, but the trees (mainly mountain hemlocks) were smallish and well spaced. After two miles there was an opening which provided a nice view across the canyon to Tom, Dick and Harry Mountain. Along the Trail in places where the sun could break through were rhododendrons, beargrass and huckleberry bushes.
After reaching the Pacific Crest Trail it was a steep one-half mile ascent to Paradise Park. Sad to say that snow covered much of the meadows. I was several weeks too early to see the famous wildflower display. But, climbing another one-quarter mile brought me to a snow-free ridge with scattered white plumes of beargrass, red paintbrush and purple lupine in bloom. The scene was made complete by the majestic summit of snow-covered Mt. Hood towering above.
Laying back among the wildflowers, I soaked up the sun, ate a snack and reveled in the beauty. It doesn’t get much better than this, I thought to myself. All in all the hike was 13 miles in length with 3,000 feet of elevation gain.