The hike to Ramona Falls has been on our list for at least two years, and we finally knocked it out over the weekend. Although I feel like we’ve done a ton of hiking in Oregon, it turns out that we’ve never really done anything in the area just west of Mount Hood. I’m pretty excited about getting back out there this fall to experience a whole new area! We had what I think might be the final glorious weekend of summer: 80-something degrees and sunny (as I write this, it is 55 degrees and raining), which turned out to be perfect weather for hiking near Mount Hood.
The 7-mile loop trail was kind of crazy with the variety of landscapes we experienced. We started out hiking alongside the Sandy River, which is a not-so-beautiful gray river (the color comes from glacial silt rock). You can see from the photo above that the river was MUCH smaller this weekend than it could have been (thanks to a very dry year). This definitely worked out in our favor since you have to cross the river about a mile into the hike. Generally, there’s a bridge put in during the summer, but it washed out in a crazy storm last summer and was never replaced. Even with the river this tiny, it was rushing at a pretty terrifying speed. There are signs all over the beginning of the trail showing you how to safely cross the river and warning you to turn back if the water is too high (people have died crossing this river). Luckily, the big tree that Eric is standing on in the photo below served as the perfect bridge for us, allowing us to cross the river safely.
After the river crossing, we took the trail loop to the right (we honestly didn’t even see the left option), which is the River Side Trail. We could see the Sandy River for a brief time, but once we entered the woods, we couldn’t even tell we were near the river. This portion of the trail was pretty sunny (read: warm), and we seemed to pass in and out of desert-like areas and more traditional Pacific Northwest forest. But after a bit of climbing and sweating, we got considerably colder as we approached Ramona Falls (shade + ice water = chills).
When we returned to the area where we crossed the Sandy River, we were treated to AMAZING views of Mount Hood (the sun was shining a little too close to the mountain on our way in, making it hard to see). Obviously, the poor guy is in need of some snow. But I tell you what, we’ve lived in sight of this mountain for a year, and I still find myself amazed every single time I see it.
Just a few helpful tidbits if you plan to visit Ramona Falls:
-Northwest Forest Pass required.
-Kind of gross porta-potties in the parking area (read: collapsing floor in one, live rodents in the other).
-The forest road to the parking area is pot hole city. Drive slowly and be prepared to do some interesting navigating around the giant holes. There are also tons of campsites along the road, if camping is your jam.
-This trail is super popular. When we arrived around 9:30 am, there were probably 20 cars in the parking lot. When we left a little after noon, the parking lot was completely full. Get there early.
-There is a gate on the road that gets closed in the winter. Check here for updates on the road closure and warnings about river water levels.
To get to the Ramona Falls Trailhead from Portland, take I-84 east to Exit 16 (NE 238th Dr. in Wood Village). Take NE 242nd Drive to US-26 E in Gresham. Continue on US-26 E for about 30 miles. Turn left onto Lolo Pass Road (there will be a sign on 26 telling you that Lolo Pass is coming). Turn right onto Muddy Fork Road (it wasn’t well marked, but it was the first non-driveway/neighborhood road after entering Mount Hood National Forest). Keep right to take NF-1825 and follow this to the parking area. (There will be signs along the forest road guiding you toward the Ramona Falls Trailhead.)