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Backpacker Magazine – October 2011

Perfect 10: North America's 10 Most Memorable Hikes

Ten trails. Ten unmatched miles each. Get maximum bang for each boot step on hikes that our most-traveled contributors call their all-time favorites.

by: BACKPACKER Contributors and Editors

The Lost Coast, Sinkyone Wilderness SP
Photo by BP1011PERFECT_Callaert_S75ElkLostCoast_445x260.jpg
The Lost Coast, Sinkyone Wilderness SP
Skyline Trail, Jasper National Park, Alberta
Skyline Trail, Jasper National Park, Alberta
The Jewels Route, Grand Canyon NP
The Jewels Route, Grand Canyon NP
Mt. Eielson, Denali National Park
Mt. Eielson, Denali National Park
Titcomb Basin Trail, Wind River Range, WY
Titcomb Basin Trail, Wind River Range, WY

Take it With You
>>Download a printable PDF for every Perfect 10 Trip

MY 10
BACKPACKER asked some of the top personalities in the outdoor industry about their favorite slice of wilderness. Below are their picks.

Andrew Skurka
Ultra-hiker
>Ten Mile Range in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains

Joe Horiskey
Longtime guide on Mt. Rainier
> East Fork Quinault River Trail to Enchanted Valley in Olympic National Park

Brett Dennen
Rock star, camp counselor
> Pacific Crest Trail running 10 miles south from Sonora Pass

Jon Jarvis
Director of the National Park Service
> The Pacific Crest Trail from Rainy Pass, over McAlester Pass, and into Stehekin Valley. “You can hear Julie Andrews. These are the American Alps.”

Gary Erickson and Kit Crawford
Married co-CEOs of Clif Bar & Company
> Lyell Canyon Trail out of Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite

Tyler Stableford
Adventure photographer
> Franconia Ridge Trail loop in NH, up Falling Waters and down the Bridle Path

John Gans
Executive Director, NOLS
> Ice Lakes, Deep Creek Lakes, and Echo Lakes in the Wind River Range, WY

Les Stroud
Filmmaker and survivalist
> West Coast Trail in Vancouver, from Pachena Bay to Valencia Bluffs

Wayne Gregory
Founder of Gregory Packs
> North from Agnew Meadows, past 1000 Island Lake and over toward Lyell in the High Sierra

David Startzell
Executive Director of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy
> The AT from TN 143 to US 19E: “It’s 15 miles, but it’s so much fun, it feels like 10.”

Justin Lichter
Ultra-hiker
>The 10 miles surrounding Cataract Pass in the Canadian Rockies

Dana Watts
Executive Director, Leave No Trace
> Mesa Trail, Boulder, CO


Perfect 10: Timberline Trail, Mt. Hood
Make tracks around Oregon’s gentle giant.
—John Harlin
 
Volcanic dust poofs into the air with each of Adele's footfalls. Step, puff, step, puff...her boots strike the Timberline Trail near Cooper Spur. Glaciers reflect the bright morning sun high above on Mt. Hood. I watch her steps and the trail’s reaction to them, and my heart beats in time. Puff, thump-thump; puff, thump-thump. I have something I need to say.
 
We planned this hike to celebrate our 14th anniversary—17th if you count, as we usually do, from when we first kissed. Tonight, we’d have our annual dinner and a room at the Timberline Lodge on the south side of Hood. With each step, I grow more nervous as I work up courage. We’d talked about this before, many times, and always reached the same conclusion: We’d discuss it again later. Only now, I didn’t want an open-ended discussion. I had made up my mind. It was time to change our lives forever. Ten more steps and I’ll say it.
 
Eight, puff, nine, puff...

“Adele?”

“Yes?”

“We should have a kid.” Puff, thump-thump. “Now. I think we should start trying tonight.”
 
Her feet stopped, and my heart raced inside my chest as her boots twisted in the sand until their toes pointed my way. Her face morphed quickly from quizzical to nervous to warm.
 
“OK,” she smiled.
 
We turned downhill to walk and talk. Ten more miles before dinner. These are my favorite 10 on the Timberline on any day, but on this one my heart thumped with pure joy. The trail plunged along Gnarl Ridge, across alpine meadows, through scrub, and into subalpine forest. Soon it led into the cold waters of Newton Creek; we could see where it continued up the other bank. We held each other’s arms tightly to brace against the current.
 
The path then wandered under ski lifts; crested a ridge with views to more
volcanoes in the south; angled down again into the White River’s broad scar of a drainage, victim of a thousand and one floods.
 
The day’s views stayed familiar—after all, Mt. Hood is our local peak. But I’d never seen the mountain look like this before. Truthfully, I haven’t seen it quite like that again, either.
 
It’s still 11,240 feet high, covered in snow, with wildflower meadows draping its sprawling shoulders. But now we have 15-year-old Siena, and each year we enjoy pieces of the Timberline. First, she toddled in its dust, then she tumbled in its flowers, and now she strides across its moraines. Each year, it’s the same mountain, but each time we hike it together we experience it differently. Our lives and perspectives flow like a raided alpine stream. Yet always there’s Mt. Hood, like a big snowy fountain that sits in the middle of our lives, and this section of the Timberline to bring us fresh joy.
 
PERFECT 10 Gnarl Ridge, at junction with Cooper Spur Trail, along the Timberline Trail to the Timberline Lodge
>>
DO IT
From Portland, take I-84 east to US 26. After 38.9 miles, veer left onto Timberline Rd. and park in six miles. 
PERMIT Northwest Pass required ($5/day or $30/year, fs.usda.gov/mthood) and wilderness permit (free at trailhead).
MAP Mt. Hood ($12, natgeomaps.com)
CONTACT (503) 668-1700; fs.usda.gov/mthood




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Reader Rating: -

READERS COMMENTS

Star Star Star Star Star
Conak
Jun 12, 2014

YES! I sadly live on the east coast now, and I always say the exact thing: too many trees! But no one ever agrees with me. Trees are nice, but there needs to be a changes to the scenery. Trees here, meadow there, rocks here, snow there. Variety. West is best. I've yet to make it out to Wyoming, but sounds like the place to be.

Bob
Nov 27, 2011

I just hikes it in Aug, awesome trail, but the Elliot river crossing is officialy closed, the high route mentioned is doable but hazardous, and at the White river the trail ends at a dropoff, you need to bushwack down hill about 150 feet, but the trail is not flagged. Still: awesome campsites, awesome views, and few hikers. definate 10.

Mike
Nov 17, 2011

Maybe a little dated. Along the east side of Mt. Hood the trail was wrecked by an avalanche several years ago and you will have to drop down very low or risk a high route to bypass it. Then, last summer, there was a large fire on the NNW side that burned a lot of the route.
This is not to say that it's still not a great trail, because it is. Just wanted to pass this on. Although the NNW side was closed as of the fall of 2011 and I don't know the plans for 2012.

Joe
Nov 17, 2011

I hiked through here a couple years ago and had an great time. We parked at Scales which is down a long bumpy dirt road. My pontiac Vibe barely made it through some parts. Got there at Midnight and hiked for hours under a full moon with no flashlight. The balds make for spectacular views. We only ran into people on the AT.

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