One of the Truly Exceptional Alpine Hikes in the Pacific Northwest: McNeil Point on Mt. Hood

Mt. Hood Wilderness

The Tarns

Pacific Northwest hikers wait with great anticipation for a warm summer day to visit a beautiful alpine area in the Mt. Hood Wilderness.

One of our favorite destinations is the McNeil Point area on Mt. Hood via Bald Mountain. Wildflowers of almost every color decorate the open meadows drawing dancing butterflies to their petals.

On many sunny summer days we have enjoyed the 3 1/2-mile hike with 1,700-feet of elevation gain to the tarns (small ponds) below McNeil Point. If we’re lucky, Mt. Hood will be reflected in the upper lake.

My Favorite Model and Your Humble Scribe

Tarn below McNeil Point

Summit of Mt. Hood from Bald Mountain

Summit of Mt. Hood above a tarn below McNeil Point

McNeil Point Shelter

After a stop at the tarns it’s time to begin hiking to a high point above Cairn Basin. The well-maintained Timberline Trail is now left behind. I always enjoy the rest of the ascent on an old climbers’ trail. After one mile and about 600-feet of elevation gain, a rock shelter on McNeil Point at 6,100 feet is reached. Usually, the wildflowers in the alpine meadows at this elevation are splendid.

McNeil Point Shelter

Yokum Ridge from rock shelter area

Mt. Rainier and Mt. Adams from rock shelter

Trail leading to rock shelter

Mt. Adams from area near rock shelter

Looking down at tarns from area near rock shelter

Summit of Mt. Hood

Top of McNeil Spur

Now the fun begins. The climbers’ trail ascends another one mile to the top of the spur at 7,000 feet. This is where climbers tie-in if they are continuing on to the summit. If the sky is clear, you are provided some of the most spectacular alpine views imaginable. To the left and below are the Glisan Glacier, straight ahead and above is Mt. Hood’s summit at 11,200 feet, and to the right is the Sandy Glacier. The latter’s large crevasses are clearly visible below. If the wind is too cold and gusty, there is a climbers bivouac with stones rising several feet.

On the way back to the trailhead, I am always sad to leave. But, I always remind myself that it has been another grand day in the Pacific Northwest!

Whirebark Pine

Alpine meadow on McNeil Spur

Hiking up McNeil Spur from rock shelter


My daypack near top of McNeil Spur

Climbers bivouac used before the final ascent to the summit of Mt. Hood

Heather, a common site on the upper mountain




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