Cairn Basin Quest


Seven years I have lived in Oregon, about 70 miles from the infamous Mt. Hood. I have spent some time snowboarding on the mountain and exploring the outlying areas for camping and hiking, but I have yet to venture up the mountain for the backpacking experience; until now.


A week ago I decided to make the trip up to the timberline trail which loops around the high peaks of Mount Hood. The trail varies in altitude from 3240 ft. to 7300 ft. My hike started at the Top Spur trail head and followed up the ridge line to McNeil Point and north to Cairn Basin at about 5900 ft. What starts as a steady incline through an Old Growth forest soon breaks through to some incredible views of the northwestern slopes of Mount Hood. Eventually McNeil Point comes into site as the switchbacks start to traverse north up and down over canyons developed from the many glaciers water runoff. Even since before I moved out to the northwest I have heard of the abundant amounts of wildflowers that blanket the meadows high up on the mountain. The stories don't bring justice to what actually occurs.


The landscape is incredible enough without the constant barrage of varying colors that come from the numerous amounts of plant life.

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As I crossed the last creek and rounded the bend towards Cairn Basin I was faced with a close up of a forest burn. Chard trees hollowed out with blackened skeletons remains as a reminder of the forest that once was.


The contrast from the thick green and blanketed colors makes for a wild scene for sure.


After some exploration I found a campsite on the opposite side of the meadow from one of the few original shelters that scatter the mountain.


The site was tucked 25 yards from a bluff overlooking Washington's Volcanic giants; St. Helens and Adams.


From this same vantage point the sights of a dead forest, possibly from an early burn stretches across the next hillside beyond the canyon that runs just north of Cairn Basin.


The only spot on my list I did not explore, but still got a great overview of, was Eden Park; a lush green meadow with small creeks snaking through it that sits a half mile below Cairn Basin. With one trail in, this is an alternative for camping spots. One that offers a different landscape than what you will find at Cairn Basin.


Hiking into an area such as this is rewarding with the expansive views and ever changing landscapes and monuments, but creating a home base to spend some time exploring an area is much more beneficial. Spending time to see how the light fluctuates, watching the clouds dissipate from Mount Hoods peak as the sun sets and hearing the cracks and moans of the steep, jagged glaciers high up on the mountain. This is the reward...