A hidden gem lies in Mt Hood National Forest, a large lush meadow, at Aprox 5,000 ft elevation. A short but mighty hike sitting at only 2.5 miles one way including a steep climb to arrive in this alpine dream with glistening streams running through and a dense forest lining. Although a difficult hike the ambiance you arrive at is as peaceful as a person could hope for with a backdrop of mount hood there’s only thing to worry about : lots of bugs!
Park at the Hood River Meadows trailhead / Elk Meadow Trailhead there is a port-a-potty, a picnic table and a fee pay area with some notes on the surrounding area and a trail map. Either pay to park or use your Northwest Wilderness pass and head in. you’ll start on the Sahaile Falls trail 667c for the first 3/4 mile where you’ll see a sign for Elk Meadow Trail 645 keep straight to head towards Elk Meadows the trail is well marked you shouldn’t have any trouble navigating. Another 1/4 mile and you should cross Clark Creek, make sure you fill out a Wilderness permit here before you cross into the Mt.Hood Wilderness.
You will cross a couple other creeks, including Newton Creek which is the last crossing before the switchbacks up the mountain start. Navigating across Newton Creek can be tricky its a fast flowing body of water there are several log bridges to choose from and once you reach the other side follow the cairns to relocate where the trail restarts. Remember to try to leave the cairns built by other hikers undisturbed (unspoken trail rule #1).
Head up Gnarl Ridge trail it’s about 1200 ft in elevation gain to the top where the trail splits again head straight ahead towards Elk Mountain trail. You will follow the trail a bit further to the split of the Elk Meadow Perimeter trail watch your feet as there are several fallen trees across the trail before you arrive at the split.
Once at the Perimeter trail head right and find a nice spot to set up camp anywhere in the forrest lining the meadow. *Camping in the meadow is not permitted. There are quite a few streams running through the meadow, plenty of fresh water to filter, but as you can imagine would also make a very unpleasant place to set up camp.We found a great spot fully covered by trees but with a quick push through a branch or two we were in the meadow only a few feet away from a glistening stream.