Gnarl Ridge and Elk Meadows Trail Loop

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Mount Hood Wilderness

Gnarl Ridge and Elk Meadows Trail Loop is a 9.1 mile moderately trafficked loop trail located near Mount Hood Parkdale, Oregon that features beautiful wild flowers and is only recommended for very experienced adventurers. The trail is primarily used for hiking and nature trips and is best used from June until October. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

Length9.1 miElevation gain1,925 ftRoute typeLoop
Dogs on leashHikingNature tripsForestViewswild-flowersWildlife
Description
Waypoints (0)

FIRE CLOSURE: From Sep 25, 2020 - May 15, 2021 there are closures in this park or area due to wildfire. For more information, please visit https://www.fs.usda.gov/alerts/mthood/alerts-notices/?aid=62187 This trail has epic views of Mount Hood.

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Reviews (91)
Photos (381)
Recordings (78)
Completed (256)
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Chris Hodge
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Hiking

Fantastic hike. No snow. The trail was washed out at the last river crossing, leading to some scrambling up the bank. The off trail section at the end to the top of the ridge is very steep and higher than it looks but worth the view. We ate lunch at the Meadows.

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Scott H
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarOctober 28, 2020
Rocky

Absolutely amazing Trail. it's rated as hard, and I think I agree. I visited during cold weather but without snow. had there been any snow or ice it would have been difficult, very difficult.

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Matthew Kimball
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Hiking

Dope

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Stephanie Smith
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Hiking
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james haman
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Hiking
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Carrie Noble
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Hiking

Great trail. Took Elk Meadows to Gnarl Ridge and came down the Newton Creek trail. At the first river crossing before you do the switch backs heading to Elk Meadows, found a crossing slightly to the right of where the path lets out next to the river, then on the other side immediately went left to the (very small) cairn which had me scramble up a big boulder but the trail was right on the other side of that. Crossing to get onto NC trail was MUCH sketchier. Wouldn’t have done it alone. Crossed that about 1pm. Beautiful views up on the ridge, parking lot was packed but saw less than 20 people total and most were wearing masks.

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Ivory Morgan
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Hiking

only good views are in the meadows but super nice gradual hike. started my recording super late into the hike. lots of people until you start getting to the gradual climb up.

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Rachel Sweger
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Hiking

Took elk meadows/Gnarl ridge up and came down via newton creek trail. Strava both clocked about 11 miles total with 2700ft of elevation gain. Ran into a few other hikers but for the most part I had the trail to myself. A few trees down on gnarl ridge and newton creek but nothing impassable. The river crossing heading up to elk meadows is confusing at best - even following the cairns didn’t do much to help me find it and I spent an extra 30 minutes wandering around in the river bed searching for the trail connection before finally finding it. There’s a large tree down up the river that will take you to the other side without getting your feet wet! Like others have said, you’ll need a pre-issued pass to park here. Despite what some websites say, the trailhead currently does not have self issued day passes.

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K H
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJuly 22, 2020
Hiking

Did not turn around or take Newton Creek to return. Took Timberline Trail to Meadows then returned to parking lot via Umbrella Falls. Shrubs have obscured most water crossings - difficult to locate the trail on the other side. GPS or trail map recommended. Look for cairns and arrow made of sticks. Few bugs. TT is hot sand - too hot for dog paws despite temps in low 70s. Gorgeous wild flowers. Requires parking pass.

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Max Fortune
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HikingBlowdownOver grown

Took the Newton Creek Trail on the way down. Beautiful views.

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Linke Rejholec
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Hiking

I would rather do a loop with Newton Trail than a back-and-out.

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Mackinnon Hart
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Hiking

I actually only went down this trail from doing a different loop, but the views were great! There’s quite a few trees down near the top, but nothing unmanageable. If you go really early, from the top you can see an awesome view of the sunrise over Mt Jefferson and the Sisters off in the distance.

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Zach Lough
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BlowdownMuddy

You need a pass for this one, heads up. The hike itself wasn't bad, not too many payoffs besides possibly the most beautiful meadow I've seen with an incredible view of Mt Hood. After that the only other serious attraction was a little rock canyon near the end, and the turn around point is just when two trails merge shortly after. I'd just end it at the canyon and save yourself a pointless half mile

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Kara Freeman
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HikingSnow

My group and I did the Gnarl Ridge and looped back on Newton Creek trail, but not the Meadows since they were snowed over (hiding the wildflowers). There are some great spots to go off-trail a bit past the ridge. It was much easier than we anticipated, and beautiful. Yes there is snow but it’s only in patches and easy to follow along the trail so long as you’re paying attention.

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Max Forstag
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HikingOff trailRockyScramble

We skipped the Meadows loop due to snow and time limitations and went off trail for a bit up to a ridge overlooking Newton Creek. Excellent views of the mountain! Crossing the creek was easy enough, we found a few downed logs to cross over. Once we reached Gnarly Ridge we looped back on the Newton Creek Trail instead of doubling back the way we came. Hiked 8.5 miles in total, took us about 6 hours including a few meal breaks. Only saw 2 people the entire time. More moderate than difficult.

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Marsha Taylor
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Hiking

It’s a beautiful hike. The only draw back was the log to cross the river was very high and a little scary to cross.

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Melissa Sivaram
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HikingBugs

This trail was better than I expected. We followed it up all the way to cloud cap and had a perfect day with perfect views. The only reason it doesn’t get 5 stars is because I got attacked by yellow jackets several times. Between me, my boyfriend, and the couple hiking behind us, 3/4 people got stung on this trail. Ouch!

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Mikhaela Bryden
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HikingBugsOver grown

I would suggest not taking elk meadows and just go straight to gnarl ridge. Elk meadows was extremely overgrown and there were so many bugs you constantly heard a buzz. Also once you come to the very last fork in the road make sure you take a RIGHT that looks like it goes further upward instead of a left that goes down. The lookout for gnarl ridge is up there, but for some reason this map leads you to the left which gets a good view of mount hood but is very rocky.

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Dane Teegardin
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Hiking

The road to trailhead is still blocked off but the parking lot was full anyway. The creek crossing is very manageable with poles or someone confident in their balance. The best mountain viewing was at the meadows.

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britt eckerstrom
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Hiking

Cool hike. Good trail signage at junctions. Plenty of water. Fun Newton Creek crossing. Easy gain in elevation. Opted to take the right/northeastern Timberline Tr 600 around Lamberson Butte (towards cloud cap). After getting around the other side of butte, trail skirts along exposed ridge and opens up to incredible view of southeast side of Hood and Newton Clark glacier, and a peek of Elliot glacier. Glad I packed layers even on the hot day. Took Gnarl Ridge Tr going up and did the outer Perimeter 645a loop on the way down just to check it out. Wouldn't necessarily recommend taking the loop unless interested in camping or linking up with other trails. Also - road to TH was closed turning off mt hood highway. Parked at TH for Teacup across the highway and walked up the road. Lots of cars disregarded road closed sign and just parked at Elk Meadows TH anyways. Couldn't tell reason for closure (related to highway construction with the one lane work?)

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Carla Schaffer
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Hiking

The trail is gorgeous, but we didn’t make it the whole way. Newton Creek was too high in late August to cross with our scaredy-cat of a dog.

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Pierre Dubois
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All trails is off on distance and has the wrong tracks as usual make sure you read online hiking directions if you follow the All trails tracks you'll be really disappointed in the hike and the final view at the end of the tracks is at a junction with no view of Hood you want to take the top trail to Lamberson Butte for the epic View and it's around 11 to 13 miles depends if you take the dumb loop with no views thanx All trails ...

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Sarah Colby
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Easy to get to, incredible views multiple times along the way. Never too difficult to climb.

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Kelly C.
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSeptember 4, 2018
Backpacking

Spent one night at elk meadow. Plenty of water to filter. No trouble with Newton Creek, as there was a log across. Gnarl ridge was worth the hike up. Great view of Mt Hood. No issue with bugs. The camp robber birds were especially aggressive/fearless when we had any food out at camp in the meadow. Days were gorgeous with clear skies and great visibility. Night was cold, down to 31 degrees! Also went to visit umbrella falls which was beautiful but a lot of work getting to it as we lugged our packs with us.

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Krista Lawrence
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great hike. trail was a bit dusty right now. weather was magnificent. the Hemlocks at the top are amazing and ancient. The meadow was done with its heavy bloom period. the gnarl ridge lupine are just finishing. The trail was easy to read. There are lots if shady spots to take breaks. Take plenty of water because its dry as you ascend.

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