Home Pacific Crest Trail PCT: Mount Hood

PCT: Mount Hood

by Lisa

Day 3
Lost Lake Jct to Rushing Creek – 16 miles

I wouldn’t say that I had a great night’s sleep, but I awoke the morning of my third day with a fresh perspective. I wanted to be on trail, I knew I was physically prepared, and a handful of small challenges wasn’t going to disrupt my mental state. I needed a mental trick and so decided to set myself mini goals for the day and not worry too much about how far or fast I got there. 

First I had to choke down a green smoothie. I’d put this recipe together as an alternate to my protein & caffeine butt-kicking smoothie. I’d tried it out at home and thought it was okay but once out on trail it was less than appetizing. Some things were better left as is. 

I could tell the mosquitoes were ready to swarm as soon as I got out of my tent so I made sure to get everything squared away before I faced them. Once on my feet I quickly stuffed my tent into my pack and hit the trail with a ProBar in hand.

Morning view of Mount Hood

I was decently stiff from the previous two days of hiking and took my time over the first few miles. My first goal for the day was a road junction where I’d stop and make my oatmeal breakfast. About half a mile back from the road I was treated to a grand view of Mount Hood. Inspiration to keep going. 

After my second breakfast I had a big climb and then a ridge walk before my next goal – a trail junction. One trail at the junction led off towards a trailhead parking lodge and another to the Timberline Trail. I made sure to stick to the  PCT. 

Next up was a two mile descent through the forest. This seemed like a perfect time to listen to one of my audiobooks. I often put my earbuds in as a distraction through forested uphills and downhills. 

The cascading Ramona Falls

Before I knew it I popped out at Muddy Fork creek. I crossed the creek on a wide log and then stopped for lunch. I noticed there were lots of day hikers passing by and realized that my next mini goal, Ramona Falls was a popular destination. 

To reach the falls I took an alternate trail that paralleled the PCT. I got to hike alongside Ramona Creek under a high rock wall instead of high above the Sandy River. Ramona Falls were lovely and I particularly enjoyed feeling the cool spray of water. It was pretty crowded with day hikers so I didn’t stay too long. From the falls onward the PCT joined up with the Timberline Trail.

My next destination was a campsite on the other side of the Sandy River, about half a mile away. I wanted to get across the river before having a longer break. The Sandy River flows through a wide floodplain in a deep glacier-carved canyon and had a beautiful view of Mount Hood. 

The Muddy Fork floodplain below Mount Hood

The river was flowing pretty strong in the early afternoon sun. The narrowest spot had a few narrow logs across it but the roaring water made me nervous. I spent a bit of time looking up and downstream for a safe option. When I noticed a hiker on the other bank, I hurried back to the log crossing. I would cross as long as I had a witness in case something went wrong. He crossed first and then I balanced and scooted my way across. We waved to each other and moseyed on. 

A few minutes later I was sitting on my ground cloth with my shoes off and my stove heating water. My plan was to have my dinner meal and enjoy a bit of a rest. I had hiked twelve miles so far but I knew I could go a bit further. 

An epic view of the valleys around Mount Hood

My inspiration and ultimate goal for this section was Timberline Lodge which sits at 6,000 feet on the shoulder of Mount Hood. They have a calorie-filled breakfast buffet that is talked about by all PCT hikers. Where I relaxed near the Sandy River was at an elevation of about 3,350 feet. I had a big climb ahead, with most of the elevation gain occurring in the next three miles. 

After a short nap to help digestion I was back on my feet. I put a podcast in my ears and started the climb. As I got higher I realized that I was a climbing a ridge between two deep river canyons, switchbacking from one side to the other. There were some amazing views of Mount Hood’s west face. One foot in front of the other, a consistent pace, and a bit of mental distraction helped me push through. 

The summit of Mount Hood peering over lush green meadows

I started looking for a campsite after crossing a small creek flowing into a basin. Luckily enough I ended up in a beautiful spot on the edge of a tree-rimmed meadow and steps from an incredible view of the mountain.

It was wonderfully calm and quiet and I felt like the luckiest hiker to have found this great site. To top it all off, I was just over five miles from Timberline Lodge. Brunch would be my reward for a few solid days on trail. 

Clouds rolling in near sunset.

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