A good hike serves many purposes: a physical challenge and a good training tool, mental relief from our otherwise occupied lives, a way to connect with the outdoors, unplugged time to be alone (or share with family and friends)…
I’ve been hanging out in the middle-to-tail end of a training cycle and needed a decent day outside, counting time on feet and getting in some vert without focusing so much on mileage. I gathered some of my favorite adventure buddies and we drove to Mt. Hood to take on the McNeil Point hike.
McNeil Point (to the shelter) | Oregon Hiker’s Field Guide
Stats: Approximately 10 miles and ~2,200 feet elevation gain
Area: Mt. Hood
Starting point: Top Spur Trailhead | 45.4074,-121.7856
This hike has various intersections with both the Timberline Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail, so it really can be as long and complicated or straightforward as you’re willing to venture. We started out early and had the trail to ourselves on the way up, seeing a pair of backpackers only. It was mid-October and we enjoyed the crisp air, beautiful morning golden hour, and the fall foliage colors. (*Tip: get there early, because the parking spaces are limited and the trail gets busy!)
The majority of the trail is in the woods, but the vistas are plentiful and spectacular.
Eventually there are some meadows and marshes, and then the trail gets a bit more steep, headed for the treeline. Eventually the trail spills out onto the McNeil Point table and forks, both leading to the shelter. Taking the lower trail (to the right, along the edge of the ridge) seems the “easier” option, and to the left climbs a bit more, approaching the shelter from above. I like to pick one and then return on the other, but it’s much of muchness and is simply preference. In the distance, Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, and Mt. Adams stand tall, and dotting the sightline is also Lost Lake and Bull Run Lake. My watch read the mileage at this point around the 5.5 mile mark.
Poking around the shelter, the primitive structure is one simple room with a fireplace in the corner. Inside, a few packages of food were left behind; I can only assume as an offering for hungry thru-hikers.
This a great and obvious destination for the hike. Sit for a while and enjoy the accomplishment – it’s not an easy hike. It’s a simple out and back, so following the trail back down will be easy and recognizable (and for us, wonderfully runnable), and continues to give spectacular views in a different light.