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    Unhcharted - North Nasty

    Unhcharted - North Nasty

    Uncharted is a new challenge series from Territory Run Co for the Greater Portland area that aims to get you out exploring new areas with pre-planned routes. While each area we highlight may not be new to you, we hope it inspires you to explore some lesser known areas.


    1. Complete one of the listed routes below.

    2. Log your run here. Once reviewed, you will receive an email with a merit badge. If you complete between the dates of February 1st - February 29th, this badge of completion awards you $10 in store credit for any Territory products. 

    3. For each challenge we will also offer a grand prize package. To be entered to win, complete the route between above dates, log it here, and tag us in a photo from your run on instagram.

    4. To increase chances of winning grand prize you can also log that you visited post run locations listed below.

    We will have Uncharted routes throughout the year and you will be able to collect merit badges from each. 

    You can join the Uncharted Strava Group here.

    Forest Park Background

    For the month of February, we opted to explore to explore some trails a little closer to home.The north end of Forest Park is a true hidden gem. Seeing significantly less use than it's southern half, you can expect to encounter much better habitat with many fewer users. Elk, deer, porcupine, bobcat, bear, coyote, bald eagle, vultures, mountain lion and many more animals have been reportedly seen in this section of the park.

    Forest Park is one of the largest urban parks in the world with over 80 miles of trails and 5200 acres in size. Situated in the Tualatin Mountains west of Portland, the park serves as a vital greenway to the coast range, allowing for nearly contiguous habitat for wildlife.

    Formally dedicated in 1948, Forest Park is actually a conglomerate of some smaller parks, land donations and delinquent tax foreclosures. 

    Much of the Tualatin Mountains' base is solidified lava from a series of Grand Ronde basalt flows about 16.5 million years ago. Wind-deposited silt later covered much of what is now Forest Park, creating unstable hillsides. This instability is the reason why much of Forest Park was never further developed and spawned many of the tax foreclosures that grew the parks size. 

    Human settlement in the area known as Forest Park is believed to date back 10,000 years. Forest Park rests on traditional village sites of the Multnomah, Wasco, Cowlitz, Kathlamet, Clackamas, Bands of Chinook, Tualatin, Kalapuya, Molalla, and many other tribes who made their homes along the Columbia River, creating communities and summer encampments to harvest and use the plentiful natural resources of the area.

    The North Unit of Forest Park is a relatively new addition and boasts some of the healthiest and pristine habitat in the entirety of the park. Although this section had been an unofficial and vital part of the park for years, it wasn't until 1999 that much of the land in this section of the park was officially acquired and protected. 

    In the late 1990's it was unveiled that there were plans to develop a large portion of this area. Concerned citizens in cooperation with Metro, Portland Parks and Friends of Forest Park (Now called Forest Park Conservancy) banded together to raise money to purchase what they called the "Hole in the Park". There is a plaque commemorating this important part of the parks history at the intersection of Firelane 12 and BPA Road. 

    The Forest Park Nasties are a series of strenuous and intentionally difficult routes throughout the park. North Nasty being the best, and most popular, of them all. For a thorough background on the Forest Park Nasties we recommend checking out this great article from our friends at NW Dirt Churners.



    Nasty Jr. GPX File

    Want a taste for the North Nasty? Well, the Nasty Jr. packs a hefty punch. With about 2250 feet of gain in under 9 miles, this route is a front loaded sufferfest of the best kind. Park at the Leif Erickson Trailhead off of Germantown Road and cross to the gate reading "Firelane 9". Firelane 9 starts out gentle enough, but might be a sloppy mud pit if it's rained. Soon enough, though, it turns into a hefty descent- or more accurately, a (hopefully) controlled slide. 

    Soon enough it flattens out and after a few abrupt direction changes spits you out into a Linnton Neighborhood. You will take a left on Wilark Ave and take it all the way to its terminus. Off to the right is a staircase taking you down to a walking path situated above highway 30.

    Descend the staircase and head left towards the Linnton Trailhead. Linnton Trail is one of my favorite trails in the park. It begins beside Linnton creek in a picturesque little canyon flanked with ferns. Gradually it begins to climb, crossing the creek on a concrete bridge before pitching up ever steeper into the hillside.  

    The trail continues to switchback over rooty footing. Continue climbing until you intersect Firelane 10. Here, you will continue straight, continuing your climb, just now on the firelane. Keep climbing all the way up, intersecting Wildwood and continuing straight until you reach the Newton Parking Lot. From the base of Highway 30 you've climbed roughly 800 feet. 

    Continue through the parking lot towards the gate on the far side of the lot. This is Newton Road. It starts flat, but eventually does a short, steep little climb before beginning its long descent. You will pass through the Wildwood Trail junction and continue your descent down, working your way down to highway 30.

    Newton Road really is a great little part of the park. It's an old road bed lined with Douglas Fir, Western Hemlock, Cedar, Oregon Grape, Sword Ferns and Grand Fir. 

    As you get closer to highway 30, the road makes a sharp turn left and works its way around the hillside towards Newton Creek. Newton Creek can have a healthy flow in the winter time, but is generally a pretty simple rock hop across. Cross the creek and then follow it downstream before veering further left. As the trees overhead begin to open up to let more light in, be sure to stay on trail. This area has been slowly having more and more poison oak appear each year. In the winter time, it can be hard to recognize, so keep your guard up.  

    Soon enough you will connect with BPA Road, a power line easement owned by the Bonneville Power Administration. This is one of the burliest climbs in forest park. The lower part of BPA is loose gravel often rutted out by heavy winter rains. The road can be very steep in parts and then relent to a more gentle grade. There are a few spur roads here, but stay on the main road. At the top is the intersection with Firelane 13. Some people prefer to briefly head up here to the picnic tables at the highest point of the hill.

    On a clear day, the views of the Willamette River, Columbia River, Sauvie Island, Mt St Helens and Mt Adams are stunning. Continue left on the gently rolling BPA road.

    For the Nasty Jr. we are going to stay on BPA all the way until Wildwood Trail. Take a left on Wildwood heading south. This section of Wildwood is quiet with lots of beautiful vine maple creating little tunnels over the trail. Continue as it gently climbs up to the junction with Newton Road. 

    You will stay on Wildwood trail here and Wildwood will meander aimlessly through the forest. There will be tight switchbacks around a few drainages and finally you will reach Firelane 10. Take a left here and begin descending down Firelane 10.

    Be certain to follow Firelane 10 as it curves to the right and not to accidentally continue downward onto Linnton Trail. Firelane 10 descends to a creek that has become increasingly flooded over the years as the culverts have failed. Cross the flooded creek and begin a moderate climb back up to Germantown road.  

    Once you've arrived at Germantown, take a left and head back down to your car. 

    North Nasty GPX File

    The North Nasty is an absolutely iconic route for Portland trail runners. Regardless of the weather, you can count on Portland's hardy runners climbing and descending these steep and sloppy trails. Just like the Nasty Jr, begin at the Leif Erickson Trailhead on Germantown Road.  

    Descend the sloppy Firelane 9, turning into the neighborhood and finding the hidden stairwell at the end of Wilark Ave. Take a left on the pedestrian path and get to the Linnton Trailhead.

    Climb the 800 feet all the way up Linnton and Firelane 10 until you're at the Newton parking lot, continuing to the far side to begin the Newton Road descent. Climb another 800 feet or so on BPA Road to the high point and continue on BPA until you reach Firelane 12 on your right.

    At Firelane 12 you will see a plaque commemorating the dedication of "Hole in the Park", the section of Forest Park you are currently running that was almost lost to development in the 1990's. This is where the North Nasty diverges from the Nasty Jr. Firelane 12 is another very quiet section of the park. It's a gentle descent through deep woods. As it descends, you will see another road below you to your left. This is Firelane 15, our next segment.

    When you reach the junction with Firelane 15, take a left, beginning to climb alongside a creek. The firelane quickly switches back and begins to climb more steeply. This is one of the few areas of the route where you will not have cellular service. Soon enough you will reach Wildwood Trail. Continue straight ahead on Firelane 15 as it pitches up even steeper than before. Don't worry though, this relents after a short climb. As it plateaus, the road turns right towards the power line corridor.

    Keilhorn Meadows is a dead end trail to your left. Continue to the opening beneath the power pylons and enjoy the sweeping views of the converging Willamette and Columbia as well as Sauvie Island. From here Firelane 15 descends, then climbs, then descends then climbs until it spits you out on Skyline Boulevard.

    Here we will be running briefly on the road. Those with dogs should be careful here as the shoulder is narrow and although line of sight is mostly good, there is one semi-blind corner. I actually really hate this section of the North Nasty. It's a slight uphill grade and feels deceptively hard. You will keep running on Skyline looking for the top of BPA road to your left.

    Forest Park recently installed trailhead signs along the road that will help indicate your turn with a big arrow saying "Forest Park" on the opposite side of the road. Pass through the gate at the top of BPA and run the short distance until you reach Wildwood Trail. Be mindful that Wildwood doesn't perfectly intersect BPA here. We want to head South on Wildwood, heading to our right, which is a bit further down BPA than the Northbound Wildwood Trail. 

    At this point we are back to the route the Nasty Jr. utilizes. Run Wildwood all the way to Newton Road and continue on it until Firelane 10 where you will take a left. Descend Firelane 10, following it as it curves to the right and then climb back up to Germantown Road to finish the route. 

    The North Nastier is my own little twist on the classic North Nasty route. I've always hated the section of the North Nasty that runs on Skyline Blvd and Wildwood Trail. It feels antithetical to the spirit of the North Nasty.

    The North Nastier is simple (in concept). Start the route just as you would the North Nasty. We will get all of the hilly goodness the North Nasty promises, and then some. Down Firelane 9, up Linnton and Firelane 10, down Newton Road, up BPA, down Firelane 12, up Firelane 15 to Skyline. Tag the gate and then we're going to turn right around and go back the way we came.

    Every climb you just did is now a descent and every descent now a climb. Firelane 15 rolls through the forest with a few descents and a few climbs before it descends steeply to the junction with Firelane 12. We will climb up Firelane 12 and hang a left on BPA. At the junction with BPA and Firelane 13, stay right to begin the BPA descent.  

    This descent is a quad-buster. It's steep and sustained, growing steeper as you get closer to its end. Stay right at the bottom to connect with Newton Road. It's always interesting how much longer Newton Road feels when you have to climb up it. Take Newton all the way back up to the Newton parking lot and cross the parking lot to Firelane 10. Take Firelane 10 all the way down. Unlike the other routes, we will stay straight as the Firelane curves right and head onto Linnton trail to get even more nasty descending.  

    At the trailhead, take a right onto the pedestrian path. In a few hundred feet we will take the staircase on our right and head up to Wilark Ave. Take Wilark past Hoge Ave and then take the sharp right to head back to Firelane 9. Firelane 9, you will remember, is fairly mild at its base, but pitches up quite steeply. The good news is that this steep of a grade tends to shed water fast, so it's never too muddy at it's steepest section. After a 100 or so feet it briefly flattens and then begins to climb a bit more at a lower grade. This section has a higher tendency to be a slop fest. Finally Firelane 9 flattens as you are nearing the gate and the end of your run.

    Post Run

    No adventure is complete without some celebratory food and drink. We've included a few of our favorite spots in the area to check out post-run.

    Cathedral Coffee (St. Johns) Skyline Restaurant (Skyline Blvd.) Urban German/Occidental (St. Johns)


    Uncharted - Beacon Rock

    Uncharted - Beacon Rock

    Uncharted is a new challenge series from Territory Run Co for the Greater Portland area that aims to get you out exploring new areas with pre-planned routes. While each area we highlight may not be new to you, we hope it inspires you to explore some lesser known areas.


    1. Complete one of the listed routes below.

    2. Log your run here. Once reviewed, you will receive an email with a merit badge. If you complete between the dates of Jan 1st -Jan 31st, this badge of completion awards you $10 in store credit for any Territory products.

    3. For each challenge we will also offer a grand prize package. To be entered to win, complete the route between above dates, log it here, and tag us in a photo from your run on instagram.

    4. To increase chances of winning grand prize you can also log that you visited post run locations listed below.

    We will have Uncharted routes throughout the year and you will be able to collect merit badges from each.

    You can join the Uncharted Strava Group here.


    Beacon Rock, named by the Lewis and Clark expedition, is a 850 foot tall volcanic plug (the core of an ancient volcano) marking the eastern-most tidal influence in the Columbia river.

    Beacon Rock was purchased for $1 in 1915 and an impressive trail of switchbacks, handrails and bridges was constructed to the summit of the rock over the next 3 years. A state park including this landmark was established in 1935.

    At one point, the Army Corp of Engineers had plans to destroy Beacon Rock to use as material to construct the jetty at the mouth of the Columbia. The results are some ominous looking caves at the base of the south side of the rock.

    The park is 4,464 acres in size. Within its boundaries sits Hamilton Mountain at an elevation of 2,445 feet.

    We love Beacon Rock State Park. It's close proximity to Portland, year-round access, stunning waterfalls, beautiful views and variety of terrain make it a wonderful winter training ground. Keep in mind that winter weather is always possible here. Icy and snowy conditions can occur up higher so traction devices such as Kahtoola Microspikes or YakTrax are recommended.

    Although we will have views of Beacon Rock on each of our routes, we will be staying on the North side of SR-14. However, I recommend adding a jaunt up Beacon Rock as a rewarding cool-down or warm-up. The construction of the trail to it's summit is certainly something to behold.

    We will be starting all 3 of our routes from the Hamilton Mountain Trailhead. The gates to the parking lot are supposed to open at 8am. If you decide to start earlier or if the gates are for some reason not open, you can always park at Beacon Rock's parking lot along SR-14 and it's just a short jog up the road to our trailhead. Because it is a Washington state park, a Discover Pass is required.


    7.5 Mile Route GPX File

    Starting from the Hamilton Mountain Trailhead, the first mile is grindy, but runnable. You will pass a junction on your left beneath some powerlines about half a mile in. We will continue straight. The front half of this route packs a punch, but you will be rewarded with some truly excellent views (unless you're socked in...).

    About a mile in we will reach the waterfalls. Technically there are three waterfalls here at Hardy Creek. The lower tier is called Hardy Falls and a viewpoint for it can be accessed via a short spur trail to your right.

    As you continue on the trail you will see the middle tier which is called Rodney Falls and you can stay left to climb up another spur trail to the top of the falls to what is known as Pool of the Winds. All are short detours and worth seeing.

    You will soon pass another trail on your left, this is how we will return down from Hamilton Mountain. For now, stay straight. As you continue to climb, the trail slowly, but surely becomes steeper and more technical. Climb the steep switchbacks and soon you will be at a spectacular viewpoint known has Little Hamilton. Ironically, this lookout boasts much better views than the actual summit of Hamilton.

    Continue to climb about another mile, popping in and out of forested trail with some technical rocky sections as well. You will pass by a stunning view of the craggy cliff walls of Hamilton Mountain and then eventually you will hit a nondescript "T" in the trail. To the right is the summit of Hamilton. To be honest, the summit itself is underwhelming. So much so that I don't even bother tagging the summit anymore. If you decide to check it out, it's a short little spur to obstructed views.

    We are going to continue on our trail along the ridge heading downhill to Hamilton Saddle. On a clear day, Hamilton Saddle boasts views of Mt. Hood, Mt. Adams, Mt. St. Helens, the Bonneville Dam, the Columbia River and Table Mountain.

    As we cross the saddle, we will reach a couple of junctions. The first, to the far right, is a dead end on an old forest road. The next is part of our Long route option, we will keep left past these first two options and then take a right onto Don's Cutoff. Don's Cutoff might just be one of the best trails in the gorge. It's deep in a grove of Douglas fir trees. The trail is spongey from the needles and it's flanked by endless fields of sword fern and moss. It has that quintessential lush, damp feel of an idyllic PNW trail. It's short, but it's just so good we had to include it.

    Don's Cutoff sadly comes to an end and spits you out onto the Upper Hardy Creek Trail. We'll take a left here on a semi-technical roadbed. Soon we will pass a junction to our left. Stay straight briefly and then take the next left to continue on the Hardy Creek Trail. This trail is going to take us along Hardy Creek all the way back to the waterfalls we saw at the beginning of the run.

    Take a right when Hardy Creek intersects with Hamilton Mountain Trail and it is a little over a mile back to the trailhead.

    10.5 Mile Route GPX File

    Our middle distance route option has us sharing much of the same route as the 7.5 mile option. Beginning from Hamilton Mountain Trailhead, we will run up past the waterfalls, climbing the switchbacks to Little Hamilton and Hamilton Mountain. We will continue onto Hamilton Ridge and descend Don's Cutoff. However, when we get to the bottom of Don's Cutoff, we are going to head right on Upper Hardy Creek Trail.

    After a short jog up the road bed that is Hardy Creek Trail we will hang a sharp right onto Bridge Trail. Here we will cross Hardy Creek and slowly climb towards E Hardy Ridge Trail. For this route, we will not be going up to Hardy Ridge, but that would be a great way to modify this route to get some extra miles. Instead we will stay left and descend down to Equestrian Trail, which like many of the trails in the lower portion of the park, is more of a wide road bed.

    Take a left on Equestrian Trail and head back to Hardy Creek Trail where we will take a right turn.

    It is about a mile to the junction with Hamilton Mountain Trail. You will be meandering through forest with relatively gentle elevation gain and loss until you are back to the junction. Take a right and you will soon be back at the waterfalls.

    Once you pass the waterfall you will go about another half mile until you're back in the powerline section near the beginning of the run. Here, we will take the trail to our right called Hadley Trail. This little loop is short, but it takes us to a lesser known gem of Beacon Rock State Park, Little Beacon Rock. Continue on Hadley Trail until you come to a trail on your left. This is a short spur trail that will take you out to Little Beacon.

    In addition to Little Beacon, this trail also offers some great views of Beacon Rock. Once you've had your fill of Little Beacon, head back to the Hadley Trail and take a left to finish out our loop. The Hadley trail will ultimately spit you out at the campground and its a short run on the pavement back to the Hamilton Mountain Trailhead.

    Looking to go longer this January? This route is sure to give you your fill of climbing, technical terrain, fun descents, beautiful views and everything in-between. Be prepared for wintery, cold, wet and windy weather. Some of the high points here can be quite punishing in January.

    Like our first two routes, we will begin at Hamilton Mountain Trailhead. Run past the gushing waterfalls and powerhike out your way up to Little Hamilton. Catch your breath, then climb some more to the top of Hamilton Mountain. Pick your way along the ridgeline and you will soon enough be to Hamilton Saddle.

    As you make your way towards the far end of the saddle you will be met with a couple of options. To your right is a spooky looking old road bed with an ominous "Dead End" sign marking its entrance. To it's left is another, somehow less inviting old road bed. This is ours.

    This road bed is actually quite beautiful. There is a serene eeriness to it. I have done it alone, but couldn't help but feel a little spooked. You are unlikely to encounter another trail user on this short section of the route.

    Take this road all the way out. It will sharply turn back on itself. When it does there will be a trail that goes to your left and one that continues to descend to the right. Take the right fork and we will descend Upper Hardy Creek Trail. As we descend we will have our eyes out for Don's Cutoff on our left. Unlike our other two routes, this route will be going up Don's Cutoff. It's just such a beautiful section of trail we wanted to make sure it was included.

    At the top of Don's Cutoff you will be right next to Hamilton Saddle again, but rather than returning there, you'll take an immediate right and descend the Equestrian Trail. This will spit you out on Hardy Creek Trail where you will take a left. In just a moment you will have another junction. Stay right here to continue onto the Equestrian Trail.

    In about half a mile you will hit yet another junction. Here you will take another right. We will skirt the ridge until another junction appears. We will stay left and begin working our way up to Hardy Ridge via E Hardy Ridge Trail.

    From Hardy Ridge we will take the 1.5 mile roundtrip detour to visit Phlox Point standing at 2900 feet in elevation. This could be an easy spot to shave off some milage if you're feeling in the mood for a couple less miles. Continue back to Hardy Ridge and begin your descent on W Hardy Ridge Trail.

    We will eventually intersect the Equestrian Trail. We will continue straight here to begin the Loop Trail. This eventually reconnects up hight with the Equestrian Trail (this is a junction we passed before doing Hardy Ridge). Take a right on the Equestrian Trail and then in half a mile another right on Hardy Creek Trail.

    In just about another mile you will be dropped out onto the Hamilton Mountain Trail. Take a right here to head back towards the waterfalls and towards your car. From the waterfalls its roughly a mile back to the trailhead.

    Uncharted - Silver Star

    Uncharted - Silver Star

    Uncharted is a new challenge series from Territory Run Co for the Greater Portland area that aims to get you out exploring new areas with pre-planned routes. While each area we highlight may not be new to you, we hope it inspires you to explore some lesser known areas.


    1. Complete one of the listed routes below.

    2. Log your run here. Once reviewed, you will receive an email with a merit badge. If you complete between the dates of October 12th - Dec 1st, this badge of completion awards you $10 in store credit for any Territory products. 

    3. For each challenge we will also offer a grand prize package. To be entered to win, complete the route between above dates, log it here, and tag us in a photo from your run on instagram.

    4. To increase chances of winning grand prize you can also log that you visited post run locations listed below.

    We will have Uncharted routes throughout the year and you will be able to collect merit badges from each. 

    You can join the Uncharted Strava Group here.


    Topping out at just over 4300 ft, Silver Star mountain is a striking geological feature in SW Washington. A landscape seemingly more fit for the mountain ranges much further north in the North Cascades. The treeless ridge lines and steep cliffs make for a truly alpine feeling experience.

    In 1902, the entire area was severely burned during a fire known as the Yacolt Burn. Over 239,000 acres burned and several smaller fires occurred in the ensuing decades. In 1952, a fire lookout was installed on the summit of Silver Star Mountain, but it was removed in 1969.

    The area can hold snow very late into spring, but it offers stunning wildflowers in late June. I generally consider the area to be reliably accessible by summer solstice.

    With sweeping mountain views of 5 cascade volcanos, diversity of trails, and just an hour from Portland, this area really has it all. So it was an easy choice to make this the first stop in our Uncharted series. All three routes start from the Grouse Vista Trailhead. Make sure to grab a Discover Pass for parking here. We've included a few post-run food and drink spots to enjoy after your adventure at the bottom of the route descriptions.  



    8 Mile Route GPX File

    Starting from the Grouse Vista Trailhead, you will begin with a steep climb up a rocky road bed towards the summit of Silver Star Mountain. From the Grouse Vista trail there are a couple of trails to your right. The first is an alternate way that takes you along the other side of Pyramid Rock. While a beautiful trail, it tends to be a little overgrown.

    This trail meets back up with Grouse Vista less than a mile later. It is at this junction that it becomes the Silver Star Trail. You will continue your climb from here for another half mile until the next junction.

    The next trail to your right is the Indian Pits Trail. This is a one mile trail that takes you to three to five foot deep pits created in the talus. It is believed these structures were made by indigenous peoples of the area. The trail is surrounded by fields of huckleberry that turn a deep red color in autumn. If you have the time, it is worth the visit, but expect to add about two miles to your day's total distance.

    From here, continue upwards, staying right on the Silver Star Summit Trail. The trail will come to a "T" at the ridge of the summit. Take a left here for the true summit. Here there is a rock outcropping with the remains of an old fire lookout.

    You will continue back the way you came until just past the Indian Pits Trail junction. Here you will take a right and be immediately met with another junction. Both trails take you to Sturgeon Rock. I have you staying right here, as in my experience, this trail has had less downed trees. There is also an occasional spring here, but I wouldn't depend on it.

    In another tenth of a mile, the trail comes to a "T" and you will go left to continue onto the Sturgeon Rock Trail. Sturgeon Rock will be on your right and is a fairly easy scramble. I like to add this on when I have the time. The route up to the summit is steepest the sooner you try and get to it. The further down the trail you go, the easier it is to gain the ridge line, but the more backtracking you will have to do to the main summit.

    Continue descending the Sturgeon Rock Trail until it intersects the Tarbell Trail and head left. The Tarbell trail is a nice, forested trail that connects much of this trail system. You will pass Rock Creek Falls and continue on the Tarbell all the way back to your car.


    14 Mile Route GPX File

    Our 14 mile route option has you starting the same as the short route, including the optional variations mentioned above. The main difference is that once you've hit the summit of Silver Star, you are going to take your second right to get onto Ed's Trail.  

    Ed's trail may just be the most iconic section of the Silver Star network. It's crown jewel is the rock arch, but in general, views abound on this trail. It has a truly alpine feel despite being relatively low in elevation and isolated from nearby volcanoes. 

    You will take this trail to where it begins descending and take a sharp left, switching back on the other side of the ridge from which you came. There's a lot of little intersections here, so I'd recommend checking the accompanying .GPX file. Take a right and begin descending down the Chinook trail. The Chinook Trail weaves back and forth along an old Jeep road. You could shave off a little distance here by stay on the road for a bit.

    The Chinook Trail eventually spits you out onto a logging road that very quickly connects you to the Tarbell Trail. You are going to take the Tarbell Trail from here back to the trail head.  

    23 Mile Route GPX File

    Once again this route starts the same as the Short and Medium options. You will climb and tag the summit of Silver Star to kick off your adventure, but this isn't where the climbing ends for the day.

    As you descend you will take an immediate right to head onto the Bluff Mountain Trail. This is a gorgeous ridge line that you no doubt had admired from the summit of Silver Star. It's flanked with fields of huckleberry and bear grass.

    You will continue on this ridge line until the trail eventually becomes an old gravel road. Follow the .GPX track here to make sure you don't miss your turn. It's a sharp left onto another, more forested, road bed. This is taking you down to Copper Creek. Which, unfortunately, you will likely have to ford. It's an easy crossing, but plan on getting your feet wet.

    The whole reason for taking you out to this much more secluded part of the network is to first give you a reason to experience the Bluff Mountain Trail, but second, to put you through the rewarding and tortuous climb that is the Starway Trail. The Starway trail is my favorite trail in the whole network. It's stupidly steep. It appears to be an old road bed, but there's no way anything was going to make it up that grade. My best assumption is that it was a way to lower timber from the logging that used to take place on this hillside. 

    Eventually the Starway Trail begins to relent as you come across some more newly constructed switch backs. The forest here is quite beautiful and is a stark contrast to the sweeping vistas you've had during much of the route.  

    At this point, you're back at the junction with Ed's Trail, Sturgeon Rock Trail and the Silver Star Summit Trail. After that Starway debacle, you may have had enough. If so, you can cruise down the Sturgeon Rock trail back to the Tarbell Trail to shave off a few miles. However, I fully believe it is worth it to tack on Ed's Trail to make this a truly iconic day. 

    This add-on of Ed's Trail is technically a loop and can be completed in either direction. The .GPX file has you taking Ed's Trail back and then looping back on the Silver Star Trail #180 which is an old road bed. Doing the reverse might actually give you better views, but I will let you decide your preference.

    After completing this Ed's Trail loop, you will take the Sturgeon Rock Trail back down to the Tarbell Trail and hang a left to return to your car.

    Post Run

    No adventure is complete without some celebratory food and drink. We've included a few of our favorite spots in the area to check out post-run.

     Grains of Wrath (Camas)  Trap Door Brewing (Washougal)  Ashwood Taps & Trucks (Washougal)



    Timberline Trail

    Timberline Trail

    By Mack Robertson

    Click to Download the GPX File

    Distance: ~42 Miles

    Elevation Gain: ~10,000 ft

    Best Time of Year: Late June - October

    Permits: NW Forest Pass

    Photos by Nick Boswell and Mack Robertson

    For trail runners in the Northwest, the Timberline Trail is a rite of passage. Circumnavigating Mt Hood makes for a big day with about 10,000 feet of climbing over 42 miles. There are many trailheads that you could choose to start your adventure, but my preference continues to be traveling counterclockwise around the volcano starting at Timberline Lodge. Starting here leaves you with some big climbs at the end, but it also gets you through some other challenging parts sooner.  

    Starting from the lodge, the first step is actually getting up to the Timberline trail. I prefer to park in the overflow lot at Timberline Lodge which is called the “Salmon River Lot”. From there you can start up a utility road near the entrance of the lot or a trail at the end of the lot. Continue until you reach the Pacific Crest Trail which is also the Timberline Trail at this section and turn right.  

    Continue on this section being careful to stay left as the PCT separates from the Timberline Trail. You will dip briefly into the forest before descending into White River Canyon. While not usually the swiftest crossing you will encounter on the loop, White River can feel a little tricky to navigate. Typically it involves the crossing of two channels.  Look for cairns as you cross. It’s generally possible to rock hop across, but often it is easier to just commit to getting wet and walking through the water rather than risk a fall on a slick rock. Once you cross the last channel of the river you will want to head downstream a little to pick up the trail again. The trail climbs steeply out of the canyon and into the forest on the other side. 

    As the climb begins to relent, you will be entering the boundaries of Mount Hood Meadows Ski Resort. You will have several streams for water and pass through beautiful fields of wildflowers depending on the season. There are lots of trail intersections here so just be careful to stay on the TImberline trail.

    As you reach the edge of the resort, you will pass over Heather Canyon Falls and then descend into a canyon to cross Clark Creek. The other side of this crossing is a trail carved into the sandy bank. Climb up into the forest once again and then descend to Newton Creek, being careful to stay on the Timberline Trail at its intersection with the Newton Creek Trail. From Newton Creek look up and across the drainage at the stunning walls of Lamberson Butte. You are about to wrap around this massive rock feature as you make your way to the exposed, eastern side of the mountain. 

    As you meander through the forest, you will slowly but surely make your way above treeline. The dense forest begins to relent and only a few intrepid trees, gnarled by years of harsh winters, remain. Suddenly, the mountain appears before you in all its glory. To your left is Newton Canyon, which you’ve just climbed out of, albeit in a roundabout way. Continue up this ridgeline above Newton Canyon, heading directly towards the mountain.

    This next section is the most exposed and dry section of the mountain. You will be glad to be getting it done early. It offers other-worldly terrain, the path periodically marked with large wooden posts. This is also the highest point on the Timberline Trail, sitting at around 7300 ft.

    You will descend from the Timberline Trail’s highpoint, eventually reaching the junctions with the Cooper Spur Trail and the Tilly Jane Trail. Continue straight on the Timberline Trail here as it continues down into the forest, below the Eliot Moraine. The Timberline trail continues to descend through here, almost all the way to the Cloud Cap Trailhead. You are going to continue on the Timberline Trail and descend to the Eliot Branch.  

    The Eliot is one of my least favorite water crossings on the whole trail. The water is fed directly from the Eliot Glacier and can be intimidating and swift.  Its banks are incredibly loose and filled with large rocks that will move.  It’s important to move cautiously through this section, and if you are with other people, be mindful of your fall zone, as not to kick rocks onto others. As of 2023, the crossing can be made on a log slightly upstream from where the trail spits you out, but conditions change rapidly and are certainly not the same year to year. I will generally sacrifice a few extra moments at this crossing to be cautious. 

    The opposite bank of this crossing is just as loose as what you descended and requires a light touch. I find traveling perpendicularly to the bank in a sort of “Z” pattern makes the climb out of the drainage feel a little safer.  

    Once you’ve safely crossed the Eliot, you are about to embark on an intermittently burned section that is notorious for blowdown. The severity of blowdown will vary from season to season, but be prepared for a slower section here.  Any time you made on the last descent will likely be lost here. It is but a small price to pay for the beauty you are about to behold. 

    You will be passing plenty of water sources here and a few more water crossings. The Coe branch can be similar to the Eliot in terms of flow, but its embankments are solid and do not pose nearly the same risk in my opinion. The navigation on the far side of the creek, however, can be a little confusing. You will have to go upstream a bit to safely cross, but then go back downstream on the far side.  This will have your path feeling overgrown by slide alder and you will question whether you are going the right way. I’ve done this crossing several times and yet I seem to always get a little confused here. If you have the GPX track on your phone, now would be the time to use it.

    As you exit the Coe drainage, you will meander through a little more burn area before coming upon the oasis that is Elk Cove. Elk Cove is a popular camp spot for backpackers due to its abundant streams and beautiful scenery. Wildflowers and views abound.  

    You will have a slight climb out of the Elk Cove area back into more forested areas.  You will pass by Pinnacle Ridge and Vista Ridge trails on your right as you cross the Wy’east basin. Eventually you will come to Cairn Basin. Cairn Basin is a deeply forested section with a stone shelter. From this point forward you will begin to encounter more and more day-hikers as you near McNeil point and the popular Top Spur Trailhead.

    As you head sharply away from the mountain on the ridge, make sure to look back at the incredible view of Wy’east behind you. As you continue descending towards Top Spur, you will have a decision to make.  During the Labor Day Storms in 2020 much of the Timberline trail was obliterated at the junction with the PCT.  For that reason, most people doing the loop have opted to take the PCT around this section as the difference in elevation and distance is nominal.  It is a short detour that reconnects to the standard route back at Ramona Falls. I have heard this section of the Timberline Trail has been greatly improved this past season.  In short, take the Timberline here at your own risk. 

    I highly recommend taking a moment to enjoy Ramona falls.  It’s generally a busy spot, but the falls are a wall of cascading streams and definitely worth seeing if you haven’t before.  Depending on which trail you took at the junction with the PCT, you will either pass right by the falls or be a short detour from it when the PCT intersects with the Timberline Trail again. 

    The next section of the route may just be your least favorite. You are about to cross the Sandy River. The crossing can be variable depending on water flow. It’s often possible to find a log to cross on.  Sometimes I prefer to just get wet in order to not waste time searching for a crossing, but that’s up to your preferences. On the other side of the Sandy you will begin the long and persistent climb out of Sandy Canyon.  It’s not unreasonably steep, but it’s not particularly fun towards the end of your circumnav. 

    When you begin to crest the top of the climb you will have some stunning views of the mountain and its deep canyons below. At this point, I prefer to take the Paradise Park Trail instead of the Timberline.  It gets you above treeline and is truly a special section of trail.  It doesn’t have much effect on your total elevation or distance either. 

    As you reach the end of the Paradise Park Trail, you will descend a bit back down to the Timberline trail, which, in turn, descends deeper into Zigzag Canyon. That descent means you get another climb! The Sandy and Zigzag Canyons really are a 1-2 punch that will make you question how much longer until you’re done with this loop. 

    Once again, the trail offers more stunning views as you near the top of the climb.  You are getting close now! Keep going and you will reach Little Zigzag. By comparison, this climb is nothing to what you’ve already done.  

    At this point, you’re just looking for the first signs of ski lifts. It always feels like this section drags on a little longer than you want it to, but it’s not much longer now. The best sight you could ask for will come when you get that first glimpse of Timberline Lodge.  

    Loowit Trail

    Loowit Trail

    Click to Download GPX File

    Distance: ~31 miles

    Elevation Gain: ~7,000 ft

    Best Time of Year: Late June - October

    Permits: NW Forest Pass

    The Loowit Trail around Mt St. Helens has many compounding factors that make it more difficult than it appears on paper. Although it’s more than 10 miles shorter than its neighbor to the south, the Timberline Trail, I would argue that it’s just as difficult of an undertaking. Technical terrain, constant sun exposure and limited water sources make this route a physical and logistical challenge. 

    Despite its difficulty this is an incredible and rewarding route. It offers other-worldly terrain and a surprising diversity of landscapes. Be prepared for a long day and start early to ensure success.

    Choosing your time of year can be an important factor for this route- primarily because of the sun exposure. As long as the snow has melted out, late June to early July can be an excellent time to do the trail with beautiful wildflower blooms and reliable water sources. Late July through early September can be very hot and may not be a wise timeframe for those who do not handle heat well.  All the photos from this guide were taken in early October.  Fall colors are absolutely stunning in late September and early October on the trail. 

    There are multiple potential start points for the route, but I prefer going clockwise starting at the June Lake TH as it allows you to knock out the majority of the boulder fields on fresh legs. From the trailhead you will travel about 1.4 miles to June Lake and the intersection with the Loowit Trail.  

    After you break out of the trees you are beginning the technical and tricky-to-navigate boulder fields. This section of the route is marked by wood posts to help you find your way. The lava beds slowly relent and you find yourself on smoother trail surrounded by bear grass.

    As you continue along the route you will alternate between forest and exposed sections. Eventually you will reach the Blue Lake Wash, a massive washout with steep dropoffs. Follow the new trail that detours lower on the mountain and descend the fixed rope into the gully, ascending a similar rope on the opposite side. 

    Continue your run through sometimes-forested, sometimes-exposed trail until you reach the South Fork of the Toutle River. This is a similar canyon to that of Blue Lake Wash, but offers a reliable water source (waypoint: 46.21024, -122.25495). Many water crossings on this route are too silty and could clog your filter. In my experience, the water on the South Fork has worked fine with my water filter. Fill up well here, you are about to begin an exposed stretch until your next opportunity for water.

    This next section offers little in the way of sun protection. You will likely cross a few flowing water sources, but they are rich with silt appearing like chocolate milk flowing from the mountain. Enjoy this section as it offers sweeping views of the moon-like terrain. It is common to see elk herds roaming in this area.

    As you continue on this exposed section you will begin to believe there could not possibly be a water source. However there is a reliable spring that flows and forms an incredible oasis in this barren landscape (waypoint: 46.22738, -122.16639).  

    Be sure to take proper time to recover here and hydrate and cool off. If you thought the last section was a slog, the next will feel two-fold. You will continue to wrap around the mountain in the heart of the northside blast zone which was obliterated in the mountain’s eruption. Far to your left you will see Spirit Lake riddled with logs that were knocked over in the blast. 

    Be careful to stay on the Loowit trail here as you will soon come to a junction with Windy Trail on your left. I have made the mistake of taking this trail by accident and it makes your difficult day a little bit harder. You will begin to climb aiming for a notch in the hills called Windy Pass. Just as the name suggests, this pass can indeed be very windy. Depending on how hot it is, it may be a welcomed respite from the oppressive heat you’ve endured in the last section.  You will descend the backside of Windy Pass on loose rocks, being careful to stay upright.

    After some meandering you will make your way into the Plains of Abraham. This section of trail is relatively smooth, but exposed as you continue to the junction with Ape Canyon Trail to your left. Again, be sure to stay on the Loowit Trail here. 

    You will get back onto some more technical lava fields here. It is possible to find water in this area, but it is not reliable and is very likely filled with silt. Continue on this section until you hit a short section of boulder field that eventually takes you back to the junction with the June Lake Trail. You can refill at June Lake if needed or continue the 1.4 miles downhill back to your car.