It was a late May day with a hot, sunny forecast for Portland. What better 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. 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. As expected, there were only a few scattered early wildflowers in bloom (red paintbrush and white pasqueflowers) but also very little snow remained in the meadows. In a typical year, there would still be many feet of snow covering Paradise Park.
The scene was made complete by the majestic summit of snow-covered Mt. Hood towering above.
Even though it’s a relatively tough hike, 13 miles in length with 3,000 feet of elevation gain, the vistas from Paradise Park make it all worthwhile.