With hardly a soul in sight and only the path leading me forward, I savored the feeling of dirt and rock beneath my feet. The air smelled like ripe honeysuckle and high Cascade wildflowers. The wind was cool and crisp against my neck, which tingled with droplets of sweat. The river and streams, roared and bubbled with rapture. And the sun, breaking through the thick Douglas Firs, illuminated the forest with beautiful, late summer spotlights.
After a long week of work, I was wonderfully welcomed by a perfect trail and perfect day at Yocum Ridge in the Mt. Hood Wilderness.
Distance: 17 miles (7 mile Ramona Falls Loop + 10 mile out and back on Yocum Ridge
Starting at the Ramona Falls parking lot, the trail followed the Sandy River until it finally crossed via a small wooden bridge. (In the winter, this bridge is removed). Milky-white, the cold water rush down the mountainside with reverence even late in the summer from the melting glaciers above.
From here, the trail curved through the lower west flanks of Mt. Hood. At multiple points other hiking paths entered and exited the Ramona Loop trail including the Timberline Trail and PCT. At about 3.0 miles in, I reached Ramona Falls. The water splashed down the crooked stone wall with mossy grace.
Just across the wooden bridge below the waterfall, the trail for Yocum Ridge veered off to the west and continued its steady upward climb for 5 miles.
NOTE: About 0.6 miles on this trail, look for a fork in the trail at the downed tree bench. The Yocum Ridge Trail continues to the right up the ridge line and the Timberline Trail follows the lower path to the left.
Ending in at a meadow of wildflowers, the Yocum Ridge Trail tested my endurance but invigorated me with its beauty. Overlooking a large waterfall sprouting from a glacier finger and Mt. Hood raising from the ridge’s drop, the trail left me breathless for more than one reason.
The trail continues another mile or so up the ridge (if you have any energy left…remember you still have 8.5 miles back to your car) to a campsite and the Yocum Ridge summit path. This route to the top of Mt. Hood is considered to be one of the most difficult and dangerous routes, so be wise about where you venture!
Getting there: Drive east on Highway 26 to the town of Zigzag. Turn left onto Lolo Pass road (Forest Service Road #18) and continue for 4 miles. Turn right on Road 1825 labeled “campgrounds and trailheads”. Continue past McNeil Campground and then stay left past the road to Riley Horse Camp (there is a sign for Ramona Falls here directing your way). Follow the one-lane road to the trailhead parking lot – drive slow because of the road is very potholed.
Permits: You will need to purchase a single day or annual Northwest Forest Pass before departing for Ramona Falls and Yocum Ridge. There is NOT a place to purchase day pass on-sight. The Zigzag Ranger Station (just past the left turn onto Lolo Pass Road) sells the needed permit. Or here is full list of locations to purchase the pass. Once on the tail you will also need to fill out a permit for hiking in the Mt. Hood Wilderness (no-cost). Attach to your pack and hike on!
Looking for other hikes near Portland? Try one of these!