Bucket List of Alpine Hikes in the Pacific Northwest #1: Paradise Park


Alpine meadows are typically found in the higher mountains at about 6,000 feet of elevation, and are usually free of snow beginning in mid-July.

From then to late September is the prime time to visit these areas in the Pacific Northwest. Given the short window of time, it’s important to plan ahead for the “best” Alpine hikes.

My favorite are Paradise Park in the Mt. Hood Wilderness, Ingalls Lake in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, Mt. Aix in the William O. Douglas Wilderness (Tumac Mountain is a close second), Warm Lake in the Goat Rocks Wilderness, Killen Meadows/High Camp in the Mt. Adams Wilderness, Jefferson Park in the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness, Second Burroughs Mountain in Mt. Rainier National Park, and McNeil Point in the Mt. Hood Wilderness.

If I’m lucky, I get to do most of my “bucket” list of Alpine hikes every year. In mid-July I bagged my first one.

On a cool, overcast, somewhat drizzly morning I drove 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. 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. 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, over 3,000 feet above the trailhead. The wildflowers were spectacular along the way, especially the brilliant white plumes of beargrass. Climbing another one-quarter mile brought me to the large open meadows.

I was about two weeks too soon for the delightful and colorful wildflower display above 6,000 feet. But, the scene was made complete by the majestic summit of snow-covered Mt. Hood drifting in and out of view due to the cloud cover.

Laying back on the upper ridge above the Zigzag River Canyon, I soaked up the scenery and ate a snack.

It doesn’t get much better than this, I thought to myself.

A young hiker at the entrance to Paradise Park (sandals?)

A young hiker at the entrance to Paradise Park

Beargrass along the upper trail

Beargrass along the upper trail

Hikers heading into Paradise Park

Hikers heading into Paradise Park

Blue Butterfly

Anna’s Blue Butterfly (thanks Caitlin for the ID)

Beargrass (Wild Lily)

Beargrass Plume (Wild Lily)

Merten's Coral Root Orchid

Mertens’ Coral Root Orchid

Soon the meadows will be covered with colorful wildflowers

Soon the meadows will be covered with colorful wildflowers

Jacob's Ladder

Jacob’s Ladder

Mountain Heliotrope and a Bistort

Mountain Heliotrope and a Bistort

Pacific Crest Trail

A famous spot along the Pacific Crest Trail

Mt. Hood

Mt. Hood

Categories: Bucket List of Apine Hikes, Oregon Cascades Hikes, Personal ReflectionsTags: , ,

4 comments

  1. Wow! How beautiful! Love the photo of the blue butterfly. That’s a keeper, for sure. Sandy

    Sent from my iPhone

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  2. Great list John, saving this post. I might put Elk Cove on and maybe Green Lakes – not as busy in the fall. And Indian Heaven has to be on the list for the huckleberries !. Of course just about anywhere in the Eagle Cap wilderness.

    This labor day, my son and I are going to do a 60 mile hike in the Eagle Cap wilderness – Saturday to Thursday. I turn 60 on Sept 3rd and Ryan challenged me to do a 60 for 60 hike. I created a 54 mile loop and when you throw in side hikes up Eagle Cap and the Matterhorn, figure we should easily get 60. I attached a map of our route – the route in black,.

    Thanks again for sharing – always enjoy your posts

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    • All good choices Tom.

      I thought about the Enchantments in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness too but it’s an extremely tough day hike, although I’ve done it a few times in my younger days.

      I don’t know the Eagle Cap Wilderness as well as many of the other wilderness areas in the PNW. This time of the year it ought to be spectacular though. I envy you 60 for 60 hike!

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