Mount Hood – McNeil Point and Ho Rock
Location: Oregon, Mount Hood
Distance & Gain: 9 Miles, 3,200 feet
Difficulty: Medium to Strenuous
Type: Out and Back
Season: Summer and Fall
Date Hiked: September 5, 2018
Permits and Fees: Valid Recreation Pass is required at the trailhead, and a free self-serve wilderness permit is needed between May 15 and October 1.
Description: A beautiful climb up one of the western flanks of Mount Hood with excellent views at the top.
Last Wednesday, Jammies and I took a hike up to McNeil Point on Mount Hood. It was good day hike with excellent views of the mountain. The first half was through forest along the crest of the Bald Mountain ridge, and the second half crossed alpine meadows overlooking the Muddy Fork Canyon and Sandy Glacier. Mount Hood loomed high above, providing great views of the western face of the mountain.
Bald Mountain Ridge and McNeil Point
Jammies and I split out of Portland around 9:00 AM, driving up Highway 26 to Zigzag, and then Lolo Pass Road to the Top Spur Trailhead. After boots, sunscreen, and a quick pee, we were on the trail. Star time was 10:00 AM. We registered a wilderness permit at the sign board a quarter mile in and then followed the Timberline Trail toward Carin Basin. The trail was quiet that morning, climbing gradually along the Bald Mountain ridgeline toward Mount Hood.
A couple hours in, the trees opened up to high meadows, and open views of Mount Hood and the Muddy Fork Canyon. We ate a quick snack on a nice rock nearby here.
About a mile beyond the meadows, at the base of McNeil Point, the trail contoured to the left, passing a rocky slope, a few streams, and a seasonal pond. Just beyond the pond was a sign saying “Meadow Restoration Keep Off, McNeil Pt Trail.” This was NOT the trail. Continue up the Timberline Trail a few hundred feet and look for the “McNeil Point” sign for the real trail.
The McNeil Point Trail is about a mile long, climbing a short ridge and traversing a small rocky slope, leading you just above the treeline.
From McNeil Point, the views of the Muddy Fork Canyon and the Sandy Glacier are excellent. There is a rock shelter at the point as well, and many bivy sites in the surrounding area.
From McNeil Point we continued on to Ho Rock, following a use trail taht climbs about 700 ft over a half mile. This climb was steep, but we took it slow and enjoyed the views and pretty stands of Mountain Hemlock and Whitebark Pine.
From the top, we had great views into the Glisan Creek drainage and a spectacular view of the Mount Hood summit. We hung out at the top for a while, eating lunch and taking photos. It was a good spot and well worth the climb.
To the west we had great view of the Muddy Fork Canyon. Across the canyon below us sat a massive fin of rock. Jammies and I wondered if anyone had climbed it. Looked like fun!
Ho Rock has a nice outcrop for a quick easy scramble-climb to the top. The views are just as nice at the bottom, but it’s always fun to put my feet on the top of the local high point.
Around 3:30 PM we were heading back down. We had nice views over the small expanse of McNeil Point along the way. From this vantage we realized we had actually missed the historic McNeil Point Shelter, and decided to check it out on our way down.
The shelter was a plain rock structure with a tin roof and rudimentary fireplace. It was built in the early 1920’s and intended to be a stop along the Timberline Trail, but the trail was rerouted after the shelter’s construction. Some of the roof beams had hiker graffiti dating back to 1992 suggesting a replacement around the early 90’s. We checked out the shelter for a little while before continuing on.
We saw a cutoff trail on one of our maps showing a shortcut from the shelter back down to the Timberline Trail. We tried this on the way down, and although it was very steep in places, we did not find it to be too much of a problem to descend, (climbing up it would be another matter though). The lower end of the cutoff trail tied into the Timberline Trail at an unmarked junction back at the base of McNeil Point.
Passing back through the lower meadows, the western face was well lit with afternoon sun, showing lots of detail on Mount Hood and the Muddy Fork Canyon, so we stopped for another quick round of pictures.
The rest of the trail was mellow with an easy couple hours of downhill grade back to the car. This entire stretch of trail is in the trees, so it was shady and cool. Once back to the car, we clapped the dust off our boots and changed into the flip-flops, and made the 20 minute drive up to Government Camp for burgers at Mountain Charlies Restaurant. We both enjoyed this hike a lot and would recommend it to anyone looking for a good day hike on Mount Hood.
More information can be found on the excellent wiki-based website, Oregon Hikers:
Official information can be found on the Mount Hood National Forest website as well: