High on everyone's list of the PCT's finest attributes are its incomparable views of the great Cascade peaks. This 14.4-mile trek around the port side of 11,235-foot Mt. Hood delivers those epic vistas--only on this hike, you're also exploring one of North America's largest volcanoes. You'll meander through meadows teeming with midsummer wildflowers--beargrass, lupine, Indian paintbrush--and across canyons of crumbling earth that dramatically illustrate the power of volcanic mudflows. You'll pass beneath glaciers whose roaring, chocolate-colored meltwater rivers churn downhill with dangerous power. A bonus: The PCT drops a net 2,520 feet from Timberline Lodge to Lolo Pass, making this a relatively easy walk. Aggressive hikers can do it in one long day, but then they'd have to skip the side hike up Yocum Ridge. About 10 miles from Timberline, an unofficial trail climbs 2,000-plus feet up Yocum to colorful meadows so close to the Reid and Sandy Glaciers you'll feel the frosty breath emanating from their crevasses.
DON'T MISS A 2.3-mile detour onto the old Oregon Skyline Trail. From the PCT heading northbound, turn right onto the OST just after crossing the upper Zigzag River's two forks. The OST climbs higher on Hood than the PCT does, and it's more scenic, joining Paradise Park Trail 778 and crossing wildflower meadows that offer views of the glaciated upper mountain. Trail 778 rejoins the PCT about 2 miles beyond where you left it.