It’s easy to forget about Bald Mountain with the mighty Mt. Hood dominating the Oregon mountain narrative, but it’s a beautiful, lonely, peak in the same region, with stunning views from the summit. And while the lower trails are well-trafficked, that is not true as the elevation rises, leaving you alone in the wilderness towards the close of the hike.
There are multiple ways of summiting Bald Mountain, including the popular Lolo Pass Trail. But I prefer starting off at the Top Spur Trailhead. It starts things off smooth and green, under the shade of a one-mile stretch of old-growth noble firs that links up to a section of the Pacific Crest Trail. Take a right, and cut through the tangle of junctions you'll hit here by taking the trail straight ahead and uphill. It’s a southbound section of the Timberline Trail, and is signed as leading to the Muddy Fork. Confusing directions aside, this is the route to Bald Mountain.
Take this Muddy Fork trail for about 450 feet, and keep a sharp eye out for an unsigned trail to the left. It’s tucked between two trees, and is the historic Bald Mountain Trail. (Note that there’s a dead-end trail just beyond this junction by an old stump. Avoid this, as it just leads into the bushes.) Keep following the Bald Mountain Trail up and over some fallen trees, noting that here’s where the hiking crowds start to fall away. The trail isn’t well maintained, but it’s trodden enough that it’s easy to follow if you’re nimble and don’t mind climbing over the fallen timber.
As the forest grows rich with false azalea and huckleberries, you’ll know you’re reaching the summit. The trail levels out here, and you’ll cross into an opening in the woods where concrete blocks trace the foundations of an abandoned fire lookout that stood here in the 1930s. Hike the final few yards to the summit through a grove of mountain ash and alder, before clambering to a steep outlook. From this vista you’ll get a sweeping view of the Muddy Fork Valley, as well as a great shot of Mt. Hood.
You can clamber around the rocky outcrop of the summit and find a great resting or picnicking point while drinking in the beautiful view. In the late afternoon and early evening the sunglow is astonishing, so if you packed your camera, those are great times to whip it out. Few hikers make it to this part of the trail, so you’ll have the added benefit of solitude if your goal is to unwind in the woods.
Directions to the Top Spur Trailhead on NF-1810, Mt Hood, OR from Portland and other places West:
--Take I-84 to exit 16 for 238th Dr. toward Wood Village
-- After 0.3 miles, turn Right onto 238th Dr.
-- After 1 mile, continue on NE 242nd Dr to US-26 E in Gresham
-- After 1.8 miles, use the left 2 lanes to turn left onto NE Burnside Rd.
-- After 0.7 miles, continue straight onto US-26 E
-- After 27.1 miles, turn Left on E Lolo Pass Rd. at Zigzag
-- Follow it 4.2 miles and turn Right on Muddy Fork Rd.
-- After 0.7 miles, continue straight onto NF-1828
-- Travel 7.1 miles and Top Spur (McNeil Point) trailhead parking will be on your Left
You will be hiking near the Zigzag area in Mt. Hood National Forest. You can get more information at Mt. Hood Ranger Station on US-26 just past Lolo Pass Rd. or on the Forest Service website: