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Exploring the Mazama Trail in the Mount Hood Wilderness - Next Adventure

Exploring the Mazama Trail in the Mount Hood Wilderness

If you’re looking for an exciting outdoor adventure just outside of Portland, the Mazama Trail is calling your name. This 7.9-mile out-and-back trail offers a challenging yet rewarding experience for hikers and backpackers alike. Located in the breathtaking Mount Hood Wilderness, the Mazama Trail promises stunning scenery, rigorous climbs, and unforgettable memories.

Getting There: Directions to the Trailhead

1. Follow Hwy. 35 south for about 13 miles to Woodworth Road.

2. Travel west on Woodworth Road for three miles to Dee Highway (281).

3. Turn right on Dee Highway and continue for about five miles to the Dee Hardwood plant.

4. Turn left, drive across the bridge, stay left, and follow signs to Lost Lake for about seven miles to Road 18.

5. Turn left onto Road 18 and then follow Road 18 to Road 1810.

6. Follow Road 1810 to Road 1811 and drive three miles to the trailhead.

photo of mountain through trees

The Trail: What to Expect

The Mazama Trail is known for its challenging terrain, making it ideal for those looking to push their limits. Our recent adventure was an overnight backpacking trip, which allowed us to fully immerse ourselves in the natural beauty of the Mount Hood Wilderness. Get ready for a workout, as this trail features a significant elevation gain of approximately 3,500 feet.

The hike starts with a steady climb, and you'll be ascending almost continuously throughout the trail. Despite the physical demands, the trail’s beauty makes every step worthwhile. You’ll begin your journey surrounded by dense forest. Although there was some evidence of past fires, much of the area has recovered, showcasing resilient new growth.

Expect the trail to be somewhat dusty, so wearing gaiters can help keep your shoes free of debris. As you progress, the landscape transforms into beautiful meadows filled with vibrant red flora and lush green fauna. Be prepared for some muddy patches and potentially deep puddles, especially if you hike early in the season. Waterproof boots and hiking poles can be invaluable in these conditions.

Water sources are limited in the first few miles, with the first reliable stream appearing about 4 to 5 miles in. It’s crucial to bring plenty of water, especially if you’re hiking late in the season. One of my hiking buddies, Chris, opted to rely on filtering water along the way and struggled without a sufficient water supply. Always pack more water than you think you'll need to avoid this pitfall.

As you climb higher, the scenery becomes even more spectacular. You’ll encounter pristine rivers, giant boulders, and the milky waters of glacier runoff. The icy cold streams are a refreshing treat, and using a reliable water filter like the Sawyer Squeeze is essential.

On this hike, we scouted out the McNeil Point Trail, but it was overcrowded. I recommend sticking with the Mazama Trail for a more secluded and serene experience. Despite being more challenging, it offers solitude and a deeper connection with nature.

There are numerous campsites along the trail, offering both primitive and more established options. We chose a primitive campsite with breathtaking views of the valley, perfect for soaking in the golden hour and watching the mountain bathed in the soft light of sunset. On clear nights, the stargazing is phenomenal, making it an unforgettable experience.

If conditions permit and there are no burn bans, sitting around a campfire, sharing stories, listening to music, and stargazing are perfect ways to end the day. The camaraderie and connection with nature make for cherished memories.

photo of campfire

Gear Recommendations

For an overnight trip on the Mazama Trail, you’ll need to pack wisely. Here’s a list of essential gear:

The best time to hike the Mazama Trail is between June and October. In June, you might need crampons due to lingering snow, and starting early in the day is advisable to avoid post-holing through the snow. September is ideal, offering the best weather and trail conditions. However, be prepared for chilly nights regardless of the season.

view from hike
view from hike

Final Thoughts

The Mazama Trail is not for the faint of heart, but it rewards those who take on the challenge with unparalleled beauty and a sense of accomplishment. Whether you’re tackling it as a day hike or an overnight backpacking trip, this trail offers an incredible journey through the majestic Mount Hood Wilderness.

So lace up your boots, pack your gear, and set out on an adventure that promises to test your limits and leave you with memories to last a lifetime. The Mazama Trail is waiting, and it’s time to answer the call of the wild!

photo of mountain on hike

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