Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Paradise Park

Now that I'm done recapping my spring Ireland trip, it's time to post some hiking pics!  Making up for being waylaid with plantar fasciitis last year, I've been hiking a lot this summer.  My focus has been to follow the wildflowers wherever they've been blooming.  And as you'll soon see, I think I've done a pretty good job.

Timberline Lodge and Mt. Jefferson

One of the summer's memorable hikes happened just two weeks ago when my buddy Young and I tackled the long trail to Mt. Hood's Paradise Park.  One of my favorite summer wildflower hikes, health issues had forced me to miss this annual trek for the past two years.  

I'd gotten intel from one of the local Facebook hiking groups that wildflowers were peaking in Paradise Park and putting on a spectacular show.  That was all the motivation I needed.  I texted Young and we agreed on a day and time to get up there.

Not much snow left on Hood!

There's lots to like about the hike to Paradise Park.  For one, it starts at Mt. Hood's famous Timberline Lodge.  Not only scenic, but the place also has bathrooms, water, and acres of parking.  Just uphill from the lodge, Young and I caught the Timberline Trail/Pacific Crest Trail (they are one in the same for several miles north of Timberline Lodge) for a couple of fast downhill miles.  Not far from the trailhead, we ducked under a ski lift.  It was still running for summer skiing high on one of Mt Hood's glaciers, although there didn't appear to be much snow left.  As a matter of fact, the summer ski season ended just a week later.

A fine patch of asters

The flower show began almost immediately.  We oohed and aahed over several patches of purple asters carpeting the nearby slopes.

Aster close-up

A few strands of pink fireweed also added color to the surroundings.

Fireweed bloom

Traversing a couple of rocky gullies, we finally arrived at the top of Zigzag Canyon.  Beyond this point, the trail dived down for a steep mile until it reached the Zigzag River.  Being a fast-moving glacial stream, getting across was sometimes tricky.  But Young and I took a break and watched where other hikers crossed.  From our observations, we were able to determine the best rock hopping route to the other side.  No problem - just a bit of wet feet for me (but my boots were waterproof.)  

Nice morning light on this canyon

Now safely across the river, Young and I concentrated on ascending the steep bank on the other side.  The temperatures were starting to rise as we huffed and puffed our way uphill.  After climbing for a mile, we came upon another trail branching off the Timberline trail.  This was the path to Paradise Park.  We were almost there!

Paradise Park's main meadow was especially colorful

But Young and I still had a bit of climbing to do.  Up and up, we wound through alpine meadows, frequently stopping to catch our breath and admire the scenery.  Flowers bloomed here and there, but not in great quantity.  This part of the trail seemed to go on forever.  When would we reach the main meadow?

We hit peak bloom

Then, turning a corner, there it was!  Paradise Park's famous wildflower meadows spread out before us.  And it was one of the best blooms I'd seen in many years.  Purple lupine stood out prominently, accented with yellow Goldenrod and white, puffy pasque seedheads.  The concentration of flowers was astounding.

Higher up, orange Indian Paintbrush stole the show

Aside from the high concentration of wildflowers, one of the great things about Paradise Park's main meadow is it also features a nice view of Mt. Hood.  And lucky for us, it was a blue-sky day - no clouds or fog obscuring the mountain. 

Young is all smiles

As I crept through the meadow, snapping copious photographs, Young followed another hiker on a narrow user trail that appeared to head uphill towards Mt. Hood.  Engrossed in my photo session, after a few minutes I looked up and realized my friend had disappeared over the first rise.

Interesting wispy cloud over Mt. Hood

There was only one thing to do - follow Young uphill.  I didn't want us to get separated!  As I trudged up the path I noticed the wildflowers transitioning from lupine to pasqueflower seedheads, beargrass, and patches of the most brilliant orange Indian paintbrush.  Wow, this was just as good as the main meadow!  A tiny, wispy cloud hovered over Mt. Hood and it was so unusual looking that I made sure to feature it in several shots.

Young in a flower-filled meadow (she's on the trail)

It was really, really hard to tear myself away from this gorgeous, flower-filled meadow.  But, after catching up with Young and snapping photos as we descended, I knew we had to move on.

We came upon this huge patch of lupine

So we continued on the Paradise Park trail, and the flower show continued with us.  Paintbrush and asters joined in as we contoured around a couple of small hills.  They were nice but not as impressive as that colorful meadow.  Surely nothing else would compete with the grand flower show we'd just witnessed.

This meadow was also full of pasque flower seed heads

Oh, but it did!  We rounded another bend and came smack-dab into an enormous wildflower patch, thick with lupine and pasqueflower mop heads.   

Field of purple

The meadow was absolutely packed with lupine!  It colored the entire slope purple.  I'd never seen such a high concentration of this wildflower before.  And Mt. Hood peeped between the trees to join the scenery.

Wildflower close-up

Wowza!  All forward progress ground to a screeching halt for several minutes.  I'm embarrassed to say how many images I snapped.....and it was really hard to whittle them down to the four I've included here.

Another happy hiker

I think the thing that finally tore me away from this spectacular meadow was my grumbling tummy.  It was nearing noon, and we were both definitely in need of some food.  From previous visits, I knew of some nearby campsites that made good lunch spots.  So I packed my camera and hiked on.

The flower show continued in the next canyon

Reaching the campsites required climbing into and out of a drainage area.  As Young and I headed downhill to the very small creek crossing, again we were distracted by more wildflowers popping out of the hillsides.

Young getting photographs

A great vantage!  Tons of colorful blooms with Mt. Hood rising above the canyon.  How could we not resist another photo stop?

Monkeyflowers blooming by a small creek

Only our hunger kept us from taking another extended photography break.  Again, I packed the camera away and we crawled back up the opposite bank.  On top were several campsites, with nice logs to sit on.  Perfect for a lunch break!

Young picks the perfect lunch spot

Paradise Park is also a very popular backpacking destination.  It being Saturday, we'd seen many folks on the trail shouldering huge backpacks - some hiking the PCT, some the round-the-mountain Timberline Trail, but several had Paradise Park as their destination.  The problem for us was that many of the sites we'd hoped to use for our lunch break were already taken by backpackers.  A few tents were already staked at some of the more popular places.  But lucky for us, we did manage to find an open campsite.  Young quickly claimed a nearby stump and leaned her back upon it.  She then propped her feet up on an adjacent tree.  It looked quite comfy!

More of the mop-heads

My PB and J sandwich helped restore some energy.  After downing more food, along with lots of water (it was getting hot out here!) Young and I packed up our lunch things and continued down this flowerful path.

We took a side trip to Split Rock

We passed by fields of purple asters and more mop-headed pasqueflowers (I fondly refer to them as "hippy on a stick.")  Now out of the woods and above treeline, the sun beat down upon us.  

Flower garden below Split Rock

One of the local landmarks in this area is a huge boulder that is cracked down the middle.  It sits prominently on the barren alpine tundra above Paradise Park Trail.  Nicknamed "Split Rock" I often take the side trip to visit this unusual sight.  I asked Young if she was interested in seeing Split Rock up close, and of course she said yes.  Unfortunately there were two guys camping right next to the rock, so we didn't linger long.

The scenery was absolutely fantastic!

The final mile of this lovely alpine wonderland wandered through another flower-filled meadow.  It was all so beautiful!  I wished I'd thought to bring overnight gear - I didn't want to leave!  

Crossing a rocky gully on the return trip

But finally our path dived steeply downhill to meet up with the Timberline/Pacific Crest Trail.  From here it was a tough 6 mile trek eastbound on this trail back to Timberline Lodge.  By now it was mid-afternoon and the sun was beating down upon us.  Temps were nearing the 90s.  Although there were a few areas of forest that provided shade, much of this return trip would be in full sun.  And uphill.

Getting ready to navigate the Zigzag River crossing

There was only one way to get through this - put our heads down and hike.  So that's what Young and I did.  Although we passed by a few nice wildflower patches along this trail, nothing compared to the floral show we'd witnessed in Paradise Park.  

Flower-filled gully near Timberline Lodge

The worst part about hiking the Paradise Park loop is that the final 3.5 miles are all uphill.  After Young and I safely crossed the now-raging Zigzag river, we knew there was a tough climb out of the canyon ahead.  We promised each other that after this hike was finished, we'd head to the nearest brewpub for a well-earned adult beverage.  As Young and I struggled through the final hot, tough miles, our mantra became "think of the beer!"

Beer always tastes best after a long hike!

Nothing tastes better after a hot, dusty trek than an ice-cold brew.  Our reward for covering 13.7 miles and 3000 feet of climbing.  A steep price of admission to Paradise Park's incredible wildflower meadows.  I'd say it was totally worth it!



  1. I am so envious of your wildflower hikes. They are just stunning. That was quite a walk though with that mileage and elevation.

  2. Wonderful images! A marvelous post.

  3. ...Mother Nature plants some amazing gardens. Thanks for taking me along for the tour.

  4. Holy cow! What a flower show! Well worth the 13+ miles...but 90 degrees is way too hot for hiking; that beer was very well deserved!

  5. An amazing and beautiful hike, thanks for sharing. A well derserved beer indeed!

  6. Beautiful wildflower meadows and great photos all the way - you certainly earned that beer!

  7. Incredible scenery! I much prefer the name "hippy on a stick" too! I enjoy barbecue chips with my beer!

  8. A totally, totally sensational day! Ohhhhhh, I wish!


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