Vista Ridge Trail to Cairn Basin

HARD 20 reviews
#34 of 143 trails in

Vista Ridge Trail to Cairn Basin is a 7.6 mile lightly trafficked loop trail located near Rhododendron, Oregon that features beautiful wild flowers and is rated as difficult. The trail is primarily used for hiking, walking, nature trips, and birding and is best used from July until October. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

7.6 miles
1,781 feet

dogs on leash



nature trips




wild flowers


Directions from Hood River: Travel south on Highway 281 for approximately 13 miles. Turn right at the sign for Dee/Lost Lake. Immediately bear left, following signs for Lost Lake. After eight miles, turn left onto Road 18 (Lolo Pass) and continue for an additional three miles. Turn left again on road 16. After 5.5 miles, turn right onto Road 1650 and follow to the trailhead. Caution: the last 0.5 mile of road is very rough.

20 days ago

Beautiful and unique hike with great views of the mountain! The avalanche lilies are in full bloom through the burned area right now (6/29) and are absolutely gorgeous. A few portions of Lolo Pass road are very rough with deep holes across the entire width of the road and large rocks, so I wouldn't recommend driving up in a vehicle with low clearance. As of 6/29 the upper portion of the trail is still covered in snow in places and can be challenging to follow without a gps, but it looks like it should be melted in a few more weeks. We did have phone service on most of the trail, so we were able to use the gps on our phones to follow the trail. If you choose to continue onward, be prepared to trek over sloped snow fields, which can be a bit slippery. We were able to cross them without any special gear, but it was challenging in places. Make sure you wear good waterproof boots for the snow, and trekking poles might not be a bad idea either. If you are able, I would recommend taking a little extra time to continue onto the Timberline trail and make the short trek to Dollar Lake. The cutoff to the lake was hard to find in the snow, even with a gps, but well worth it.

1 month ago

Road is clear to the trailhead as of 5/27. Made it about 2.4 miles in before relinquishing to the snow. You can hike off trail along the ridge to get a bit further but we just kept encountering snow so we turned back and followed the trail back near owl point where we continued again, until we lost the trail to snow. Excited to do it again!

2 months ago

Tried to get to it yesterday. Stopped by snow at 3600 ft. Did not have 4WD

10 months ago

Beautiful hike! We hiked Vista Ridge to Elk Cove, and the flowers are amazing right now. This is a very easy, mild hike. We saw several families with young kids headed out for overnight trips. Road conditions: We drove from Zig Zag up Lolo Pass to the trailhead, and there are several large potholes/ditches on Lolo Pass (they span the width of the road so you can't go around them). A high-clearance vehicle is necessary! I have an SUV but do not have 4WD and almost got stuck in one of the ditches. A friend in a sedan could not make it over. If you don't have a vehicle to get you through these areas, maybe try coming from Hood River.

11 months ago

Wonderful hike! Weather was perfect.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

This trail isn't quite ready yet due to snow, but should be clear in August. Still beautiful though. I wouldn't consider it difficult unless you decide to trek through the snow pack, like I did.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

We hiked this path last year and absolutely loved it. We thought we would escape the heatwave and come up to see the early summer wildflowers. We did see some Avalanche Lilies, but that was it.

We got about halfway to up the ridge to the loop and started to lose the trail because of the snow coverage. We made it to the live tree line, bit there was a good 5' of snow on the ground.

It was still a great hike, in a very different way. We want to come back in a week or two to see how much snow melts after the heatwave.

This might just have to be a later in the season hike. Or bring your spikes and poles!

Saturday, July 25, 2015

We did this yesterday. Overall a great day hike with excellent views. Not sure how long ago it burned but the first couple miles are through the burned area. It certainly opened up the views though. We went up the ridge to the Cairn trail junction then via that trail to the Cairn cabin. I don't know the name of the creek but you have to cross it twice on this route. It was rushing pretty good but not too serious a crossing. That could change of course according to temps, snow etc. I would give this more of a moderate rating rather than difficult.. well depending on the crossings I suppose.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

This will always and forever be a favorite hike. Solitude (although can be crowded on the weekends), varying landscapes and a great place to camp for the night. The views are breathtaking, and it's a fairly easy hike with some steep climbs and descents.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Started at Vista Ridge to Cairn Basin. Climbed a steep snowy hill to he base of Mount Hood...Maybe got a little off the trail? or its not very prominent. Beautiful views, crowded parking lot but not the trail. Bring the dog!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Nice trail once the snow is gone. First hike was July 28th ran into snow fields and followed the pink ribbons up to the trail junction with Carin Basin which was clear until we hit too much snow again and turned around. Continued up Vista Ridge to the next trail junction which was the Timberline Trail, first went west and hit snow (some of which was still there on our second trip in September). Turned around and headed East on the TT and hit large snowfields in the draws which were just too hazardous for us to continue. Second trip September 15th went much better with the flowers still in bloom but not at their peak. The parking lot is very small!!! for the number of people who find the trailhead. In July we ended up parking the pickup back down the hill. When we arrived at the parking lot there wasn't even a spot to turn around and the road is too narrow therefore we backed down the hill for about half a mile.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Hiked Vista Ridge today. It was fantastic. 7 mile round trip with amazing views of MT Hood and Adams. Saw about 10 people total. Fantastic day. Took a while to get to trail head from Portland and the roads had a lot of washboards. But great hike.

9 days ago

22 days ago

11 months ago

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Monday, July 10, 2017

Tuesday, March 18, 2014