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Posted on Jul 27, 2015

Adventures in Oregon: Paradise Park

At the start of summer, Andrew and I sat down at our kitchen table and made a bucket list of sorts. We pulled out our guide books, which are entering that satisfying state of ‘well-worn,’ and selected several hikes that we knew no matter what, we wanted to do before summer’s end.

At the top of my list was Paradise Park. It has loomed in my mind since I first cracked open William Sullivan’s 100 Hikes in Northwest Oregon and saw its beauty gracing the first two pages. It is the subject of much discussion in various wildflower and hiking forums that I follow – and rightly so: stunning meadows dotted with wildflowers spread out before the grandeur of Mount Hood. And the name – Paradise Park … could it possibly sound more appealing?

A little while back, we set out to cross this hike off the list, departing early with Sasha and Annie along with plenty of food and water. The Paradise Park loop is 12.2 miles with a 2300 feet elevation gain, so it’s a good idea to be prepared to be out there for awhile. We started off following the Timberline Trail to Zigzag Canyon, making good time since we had traveled this path before and had no need to stop for scenic photos. Once we reached the canyon, we continued on the Pacific Crest Trail, switchbacking for a mile and a half down to the base, dropping about 700 feet in elevation. The Zigzag River greeted us and Sasha balked at the idea of getting her precious paws wet. Sooooo, I scooped her up in my arms and carried her across. So spoiled.

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What comes down must go back up … so up, up, up we climbed.

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Forest gave way to alpine meadows and I felt like I should be wearing a dirndl and herding goats.

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(take at look at the slant of the meadow against the sky in the background – that gives you an idea of the climb!)

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We came to what I dubbed ‘the most magical stream in all the land’ which is actually the south fork of Lost Creek.

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I promise you my photos do not do justice to this beautiful little slice of heaven. Despite my reluctance to leave this gorgeous spot, we continued along the trail and were rewarded with more views of Mount Hood rising majestically above a carpet of color. Apparently, the flowers peaked early this year due to the extreme heat we’ve had, so we missed their main performance. However, I was plenty satisfied with the beautiful views we saw. I can’t even imagine what it will be like when we return next summer to see it in its full flower glory.

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We breaked for lunch, taking in the gorgeous setting and some much-need calories.

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We followed the loop around, descending through forests and small meadows. We passed Rushing Water Creek spilling out into a narrow waterfall against a spectacular rocky backdrop.

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(you should click on the above photo to see that rocky expanse in all its glory)

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More waterfalls greeted us as we passed Lost Creek. Kind of incredible to think the peaceful little creek we crossed earlier is the source of these falls.

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Zigzag River appeared again and this time, Sasha found her courage and crossed all by herself – proud dog mama moment. 🙂

Our feet grudgingly climbed up the steep canyon to rejoin the Timberline Trail at ZigZag Overlook.

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A hop, skip and a jump later (or something like that), we were back to our car – tired but filled with that special blend of awe and satisfaction that comes from a truly good hike.

Paradise Park – you were worth every step.

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