PNW Trail Conditions [2017]

Gathering photos and facts to review trails has become a fun part of my adventures and I hope you enjoy my trail guide posts. Between training and just enjoying the amazing outdoors, I end up back on many of the same routes but an update rarely makes sense.

Angel's Rest View

Since there always seems to be a shortage of updated trail condition reports, it’s often not until I show up at the trailhead that I know for sure if there’s snow, obstacles, or even trail closures to contend with (WTA does a great job solving this for Washington hikes.) To do my part, I’ve been logging my regular Oregon, Washington and California trail for a few years now and encourage everyone to share and post there’s often as possible. 

Last Updated 7/10/2017. 

Easy to Moderate PNW Day Hikes

  • Multnomah Falls @ Columbia River Gorge, Oregon:
    • 4/30/2017 – Spring days at the falls mean lots of crowds on the trail with a raging fall to help make it all worth while. The trail up is in good shape though on my last few hikes it’s ranged from dry to slick so be sure to bring shoes with decent traction. Also seeing lots of people without anything, even water, and while I know it’s not a long trek, it is a climb so don’t underestimate having those essentials handy especially as it starts to warm up out there. Beyond the falls you’ll find a lot of water running across the trail and a little patch of snow hanging on around Weisendanger Falls (more above it on the way to Larch I hear.)
    • 2/5/2017 – Winter has returned for another round in the gorge with big rigs wrecked off the side of highway 84, cars ditched at trailheads and basically it’s pretty sketch out there this weekend. Parking on the highway 84 lot for the falls, things were a combination of ice, slush and snow right out of the driver’s seat and that continues up to the lodge though the crews there continue their awesome efforts carving a path at least part way. No power currently so no facilities, not that they’d be open anyways (note: this includes the restrooms as of this post.) Lots of snow around the lower viewpoint while the gates for the upper were closed up again and with the rain, few people wanted to push that boundary this time.
    • 1/16/2017 – The gorge is covered in ice and snow on the ground so it should be no surprised that the falls are absolutely frozen in. Unfortunately with the popularity of the trail, closures come fast and everything above the lower falls was technically off limits. Plenty of people walked around the gate and up to the bridge (a few beyond that from what I could see) with no one stopping them but I figured it was best to head elsewhere myself. Traction system required.
  • Cape Horn @ Columbia River Gorge, Washington:
    • 4/2/2017 – Hello nice weather crowds… Arrived at the lot around 11am after hiking on Hood to find all the spots and nearby road overflow filled up though I was quickly able to snag a space. Heading up the trail with plenty of others around, the markers, sign posts and other details are in good order with no major trail obstacles to report. Recent rains have made the trail pretty muddy so bring something to wash your shoes off with and watch your traction on the descent, especially around the few exposed turns at the viewpoint. Despite how busy it was, people were super friendly, glad to move over (or happy to be given room to pass) and it was just all around nice out!
  • Elowah Falls @ Columbia River Gorge, Oregon:
  • Angel’s Rest @ Columbia River Gorge, Oregon:
    • 4/5/2017 – A few dry days have worked wonders on the trail as most of the mud and puddles have dried on up making for an easy path from the parking lot to the summit. Of course this brought plenty of crowds to the trail but such is Spring! No hazards, obstacles or other issues on the route to report. There’s a little loose dirt on the climb to the top to watch out for along with the 2-move scramble finish but otherwise it’s all walking on Angel’s Rest!
    • 3/16/2017 – Spring is making its way into the gorge with raging waterfalls, muddy trails and plenty of signs of new life (snakes includes, yuck!) Busy day on the trail now that the sun is starting to show up and especially with how many other hikes have been impacted by the serious weather limiting accessibility. Beyond a lot of mud in the middle to upper section of the trail, there are no major issues or hazards to report. Have fun out there!
    • 1/23/2017 – Much of the snow and ice from last week has melted out over the past few wam[er] and sun[ier] days leaving the trail is nice shape all things considered. There’s still plenty of snow out there and the trail starts on slush and ice from the sign post up with a few fallen trees and lots of debris around. The first 1/4th of the trail is well shaded and where you’ll find most of the slickest spots along the entire trail though even that is showing signs of melting up. By the switchbacks at the half way point, solar exposure has melted things out completely revealing the trail’s actual dirt path. A few higher switchbacks are covered in slushy snow here, clear sailing over the rock field and then one last snow stretch as you wind up towards the summit plateau which is very muddy but winter free. Microspikes remain a good idea though it’s certainly possible to get by without them.
    • 1/17/2017 – Ice, snow and my first ever time having to bail before a summit at Angel’s — yup, winter is that serious in the gorge this year. Things are interesting from the start with a very icy parking lot and a mound of snow to get over just to get into it. The trail is entirely snow covered early on with spots of thick ice as you make your way up but the first half is very accessible in winter gear. Moving up to towards the rocks and into the open, ice builds up quickly. At first this is easily sovled with a decent traction system but about 3/4 of the way up I ran into a thick, wet sheet of ice at a steep incline which my microspikes struggled to find good traction on. After chopping out steps through part of it but seeing more ahead, I decided to call the hike as a solo visitor and head back. Reports from others and a few sets of foot prints suggest that with a little gumption people are getting to the top but with the forecast rain and low temps, be real careful out there. Traction system required, ice axe is probably a good idea too.
  • Kings Mountain @ Tillamook Forest, Oregon:
  • Dog Mountain @ Columbia River Gorge, Washington:
    • 5/25/2017 – Wildflower season is in full effect at Dog Mountain with blooms all around the upper slopes. This of course means the crowds are also out in full force so plan to arrive rather early (or take the shuttle from the Stevenson Fairgrounds on the weekends for $2/ adult.) Other that that the trail is as expected: mud free, well beaten in and easy to follow. Watch for poison oak around the sides of the lower slopes and as always, there’s no water up there so be sure to bring plenty as we get into those warm summer months!
    • 5/3/2017 – Hello Spring (finally.) The snow has all melted, the trail is starting to dry up and there’s signs of the wildflowers (note, signs as in just the start of things, the flowers are not out yet.) Of course nice conditions also mean crowds and even middle of a week day it took me a few minutes to get a parking spot in the lot though the trail really did not feel that busy heading on up. There is some mud in the shady spots to contend with and it’s definitely slick in some of the steeper spots on the way up or down so if you don’t love the idea of the main route back, take the long loop (keep going at the final trail sign) for a gentler option.
    • [To second trail junction] 1/26/2017 – Conditions have improved drastically over the last week as the trail melts down but that doesn’t make the place easy, to the contrary, slick snow and packed snow have combined forces to make for quite the adventure! Set out mid afternoon to find the switchbacks still snow covered from the trailhead but much more manageable. This turned out to be the hardest part of the hike I went on as the steep cliffs of the section and shade from above has left plenty of slick, packed snow to traverse up and down. Reaching the junction above the switchbacks, I went with the less difficult route and found a very nice boot path all the way up to the view point though it was still slow going on the varying snow which of course got deeper with each step up. After a lot of postholing in the increasingly soft snow, I made it up to where the trails reconnect and decided that was enough for the day and returned to the car. Just 3 others seen on the trail, total.
  • Eagle Creek @ Columbia River Gorge, Oregon:
    • 1/16/2017 – Reports (and photos) from a couple friends who went out to Eagle Creek yesterday shows that the place is an and epic and terrifying land of ice. Huge build up along parts of the trail with ice to watch out for above as well. The chain is a good tool to help but microspikes or more would be very smart here.
  • Munra Point @ Columbia River Gorge, Oregon:
  • Wahkeena Falls @ Columbia River Gorge, Oregon:
  • Hamilton Mountain @ Southern Washington:
  • Beacon Rock @ Southern Washington:
  • Silver Star Mountain @ Southern Washington:
  • Trillium Lake @ Mount Hood National Forest:
  • Saddle Mountain @ Seaside, OR
  • Tilly Jane @ Mount Hood National Forest, OR
    • 6/5/2017 – Well summer is certainly well on its way as the snow line has moved up to just above the Tilly Jane A-Frame rather than the parking area well below it! This does of course mean that the hike up has become nice and straight forward with just a few small patches of snow to navigate up or down. Some mud early on the trail and the upper portions are more ruts than actual path but aside from that and a couple downed trees, it’s all straight forward. Plenty of snow at the Tilly Jane campground and above however if you’re looking to head to Cooper Spur!

Long PNW Day Hikes

  • Mount Defiance @ Columbia River Gorge, Oregon:
  • Larch Mountain @ Columbia River Gorge, Oregon:

Alpine / Technical Mountain Climbs

  • Mount St. Helens @ Southern Washington:
    • [Summit via Monitor Ridge] 7/9/2017 – At long last, the summer route has opened on Helens! Had a great first climb up this weekend though there’s still plenty of snow on the ground. Things start out with some patches of snow through the trees so watch out for deeper melt outs that could catch you by surprise. Approaching the restroom, everything is melted out for the upper switchbacks and last of the dirt as well as the early section on the first boulders. Snow blocks the way across some of the upper part of the trail so navigate around it carefully and be mindful of kicking rocks towards those below you. Once you’re over the first rock field, it’s pretty easy to stick to the main route save for a few quick snow sections though it’s also possible to climb up the snowfields to climber’s left. Passing the monitor station, stick to rock for two sections, snow to bypass the third and then proceed either on snow or the loose ash to the summit. The cornice is large but pretty obvious so stay off that snow! Glissading is possible for a long ways though you’ll have to be careful to avoid rocks on the way down and also be mindful of the route as it’s easy to head far off as you head down.
    • [Summit via Worm Flows] 6/4/2017 – It’s been all of a week since my last climb and wow, things are changing quick! A solid snowpack still starts around 3,300′ but now with very little snow below and plenty of dirt patches above (skiers: some avoidable, some not so easily so get creative.) The crossing over Chocolate Falls is nearly melted out with direct access to running water there which you could easily treat versus melting snow. Plenty of melt out around the boulders as well so watch your footing and pay attention if there are multiple bootpaths: there’s likely a reason. Leaving the treeline, the main trail cuts up the boulder field on a narrow dirt path for several hundred vertical feet before offering the choice of returning to snow in the left side gully or sticking with the rocks for hundreds more feet. Above that there are patches of dirt and certainly rocks to watch for but you can certainly stick to snow to the summit. Large cornice concerns of course but even with cooler temps today the snow was about perfect for light spikes or no spikes climbing up and a long glissade back down to treeline.
    • [Johnston Ridge towards Harry’s Ridge / Coldwater] 5/29/2017 – Things are looking awfully incredible out by Johnston Ridge with plenty of green in the lower slopes and snow around the upper ridges. Speaking of snow, trails are definitely not fully melted out and just getting to Harry’s Ridge will mean walking on plenty of it. Most of the remain patches are pretty tame though watching your feet is important less you punch throw into a river bed but there is one slope about half way into the trail that’s pretty steep going… traction if it gets real cold out, otherwise just take it easy. Heading further up towards Coldwater Peak, there’s not a ton of snow at first but when you do run into it, it’s steep (signs of people routing around the first patch, not sure if many made it past the longer sections.)
    • [Summit via Worm Flows] 5/27/2016 – Heavy snowfall has kept the climb starting out of the lower, Marble Mountain sno-park so far though the melting process over the past few weeks is notable. Some patches of snow shortly out of the lot but it does not get truly continuous until about 3,300′ at which point you’re looking at several feet of depth. The trail / bootpath is well defined and melting down well around Chocolate Falls. Initial boulders are exposed though they can be avoided for the most part with a gully climb (or taken to avoid more snow.) After that it’s solid snow to the summit with a well traveled path leading right on up the Worm Flows, over to Monitor Ridge and up to the summit. There is a cornice presently so stay back from the edge. Soft snow as of this climb so solid boots and light traction were all that was needed to get up and 4,000′ of glissading to get down.
    • [7,200′ via Worm Flows] 5/15/2017 – Mother’s Day weekend was wet, snowy and chilly save for a brief clearing Sunday afternoon but still an amazing adventure. Snow still starts just out of the parking lot though it’s melting down quick with several bare dirt patches around 1/3rd of the way to Chocolate Falls for the ski crowd. Plenty of powder from the first clearing up however and a new base from the past few days has been added as well. The first ridge has started to melt out so most climbers are ascending up the side of the gully beneath the rocks. From there it’s a pretty straight forward shot all the way up to the base of the Swift Glacier where the route cuts left to Monitor Ridge. Deep powder from 6,400′ and up (we’re talking several feet of loose, wet) and as always, watch for the large cornice up top (per other’s reports.)
    • [Summit via Worm Flows] 4/16/2017 – Brrrrrrrr! Winds far exceeded their forecast and the promised blue skies rarely made it through the clouds leading to my coldest Helens climb ever. Still a great adventure / climb / view but shows the importance of preparing for what could happen despite what’s suppose to! Even with the cold, it never really got to freezing on most of the mountain and the snow was warm ranging from deep powder to layers of dry to unconsolidated. Crampons were helpful in the morning though not required as the day went on, snowshoes were a win but mostly it was about layers. Most climbers took the traverse to Monitor Ridge for their summit though some continued to push up the more direct Swift Direct variation. Plenty of signs of recent avy slides on solar slopes plus many growing cornices around the slopes.
    • [Summit via Worms Flow] 3/31/2017 – Another amazing day on the mountain! While the snow level seems to be rising with the warming weather, there’s actually more snow up on the high mountain than a few weeks ago.Conditions remain great for climbing and ski / boarders with a few feet of snow right to the edge of the parking lot. Weather cycles are definitely impacting the route as the lower ridges were completely soft and prone to serious postholing even mid morning. Snowshoes or skins are a must have (carry them to the GPS station or higher as the route may soften up on your descent.) No major hazards and only a few bands of rock to contend with / navigate around on the first ridge. Crampons / traction systems are helpful in the morning hours and for the final summit push. Most people seemed to ascend through the Swift Glacier and the route is mellowing out to a less serious finish.
    • [Summit via Worms Flow] 3/19/2017 – Took advantage of the rare blue bird day to get a climb in before the next storm system. While avalanche warnings have dropped way down the past few days, there are massive signs of slides pretty much all over the mountain with debris piles that would bury pretty much anything. Lots of cornices and crowns are still standing and seem ready to fall.As for the route, the drive up to the sno-park was easy with just a few spots of snow along the narrow road. Snow right out of the lot and all the way up starting out pretty solid in the early morning and getting quite soft by mid afternoon. Some of the rocky ridge is exposed below the Weather station but very little dirt climbing is really possible. Climbers attempted summits via different approaches on the Swift Glacier bowl though with a steep route and packed snow, many opted for a day lower on the mountain.
    • [Ape Caves] 2/11/2017 – Similar conditions to before with deep snow from the parking area (currently with better road conditions up) to the cave entrance. Stairs down were very icy and bringing an axe or rope to help would be a good idea.
    • [Ape Caves] 1/21/2017 – With huge snowfalls and some broken down equipment, plowing the South Side of Helens has been limited over the past few weeks. While things looked decent for our trip, the roads were narrow and would be hard to get two cars by in many spots with no access beyond Cougar Sno-park to Marble Mountain due to slides. Still, pulling into a very snowy Ape Caves parking lot (currently large enough for about 10 cars if everyone parks real close), it was time for adventure! In winter the main lot is inaccessible and there’s an extra 1 mile snow hike (each way) to get the usual starting point for the caves. Deep snowpack the entire way up with snowshoes being not so optional. The caves themselves are snow free and a much warmer 46-degrees though expect an icy / snowy descent down to reach them. No issues inside the cave but with resources even further away, be sure to hike in with plenty of supplies and a good flashlight (and backup.)
  • Mount Hood @ Oregon:
    • [Timberline to Palmer] 4/9/2017 – Everything aligned for a perfect day on the mountain… Pulling into the lot around 10, things were just starting to get full and for good reason. Clear but not bright skies and 5″ of fresh powder made for an amazing look right out of the lot and while snowshoes were a must for the climber’s trail, it was smooth sailing up to Silcox. Following the groomed climber’s trail far to the right this year took away some of the directness of the usual Palmer climb while adding some distance in but still straight forward enough. The sun came out and softened up the snow further for our Palmer visit before plunge stepping back down at an easy pace. New snow in town and all the way on up.
    • [Timberline to Silcox Hut] 4/2/2017 – Brrrrrrrrrr! I’m not one to get cold usually but today was something else with serious layering required even at the parking lot thanks to some nasty winds. My goal was just to get to the hut or near it for some sunrise shots so left the lot around 5:15 on mostly solid snow along this season’s very well built up climber track. Threw the crampons on early because why not though they were not needed on the lower slopes (they did make it easier to take a few shortcuts.) Most climbers I met had bailed due to the winds / cold which were roaring up top I’m told but otherwise the route looks well defined and ready for my fully return!
    • [Timberline to Palmer Lift] 2/13/2017 – Another great day on the mountain! While chilly and windy, this rare blue-bird day showed the result of all the year’s snow as the hike from the lot up was stunning start to end. Fairly soft snow and certainly snowshoe worthy up to about the Silcox Hut. After that it was possible to find more packed and even icy sections firming up to downright slick in spots by Palmer. Reports from summit climbers were good conditions on the gate with the left gate being straight forward (by winter standards) to downclimb though I also spotted people taking the Old Chute back.
  • Mount Adams @ Southern Washington:
    • [Southside to Summit] 6/24/2017 – The road to Adams’ South Side trailhead had finally melted out and apparently everyone knows about it. Left for the trailhead around 1pm on Friday, arriving at the Ranger station in time to register in person, get some last minute beta and beat some of the crowds up though the parking lot was still fairly full at 4pm. The road up the trail is sporty and while that’s plenty of fun in my Jeep, it’s not a place you want to be taking the low riding BMW to. By sunset, the trailhead lot was pretty jam packed and the late arrival crowd ended up parking a ways down the road so arrive early. Right now everyone is taking the winter route (further to climber’s right) to avoid some cornices with the snow line about a mile up the trail. Hundreds and hundreds of daily climbers have made for a nice bootpath as a marker though not much in the way of steps until the upper mountain. Went for a one day push myself starting at 2am and hitting lunch counter just after 5. Much of the area is still snow covered though some dirt sites exist, especially a bit lower on the mountain. Took plenty of time for the second half, summiting around 9 (no signs of the building) and even after a decent break, the snow was still too icy to glissade until close to Lunch Counter. Crampons, axe and a lot of water are must haves right now.
  • Mount Rainier / Camp Muir:
    • [Paradise to Ingraham Flats] 5/20/2017 – The West Coast’s incredible winter is holding on at Mount Rainier with plenty of snow still pilled up around Paradise and even a ways below it! The hike up to Camp Muir remains a snow climb with a well defined boot path kicked in for now. There are a few more rocks exposed along the way but don’t expect to step on any dirt along the way even at Panorama Point which remains a steep snow ascent. After a few short pushes above it things mellow out for the uphill but moderate climb to Muir. High winds the evening of our climb made a summit less than appealing so we elected for a later start to check things out around Ingraham where conditions are spectacular! Snow over Cathedral Gap with only minor signs of rockfall and a quick route over to the flats. The main route up is still IG Direct though who knows how long that will last as warmer temps arrive…
    • [Paradise to Muir] 5/7/2017 – Snow, snow and more snow! See my previous report and add another 1,500′ of moderate snow hiking for conditions on up. Camp Muir remains partially buried with the shelter accessible via the side door’s upper portion. Two bathrooms on the public side and the other two by the guide / ranger huts are operating. Most tents were setup in the gully behind camp to avoid the wind. Bunkhouse is looking nice though dark, almost smells normal, ok, not really.
    • [Paradise to Muir Snowfield] 4/29/2017 – Winter continues at Mount Rainier! Snow from the parking lot up with not one step on rocks along the way up to 8,500′ (or above to Muir, that was my turn point with inclement weather rolling in.) This of course means it’s essential to be ready for snow conditions including some moderate inclines up to Panorama Point (it’s dirt switchbacks in summer) and the few hills above it. Weather started out great with a decent forecast but changed fast into full whiteout conditions with visibility ranging from poor to nothing, navigation skills and route finding are also essential out there! Other than that, great snow (crampons were handy in points, snowshoes on the descent but good boots could have got by) and for the ski crowd, enjoy the zippy ride down!

Have your own trail update or question? Leave a comment below or on my trail guide posts.