We knew it was going to be a busy camping weekend. Earlier in the week, I got onto  the Reserve America website to see what was available  for the weekend. We only had  time for a Friday and Saturday night trip, and I was worried that it was going to be hard to find a place, given it was a weekend. I was right, it was downright impossible. In fact, the closest campground I was able to find where I could make a reservation was in Washington State near Mt. St. Helens – a pretty long haul from Portland. We decided to head up to Mt. Hood so we could turn around and head home if we were unsuccessful at finding a site.

We knew our chances of finding a spot located off highway 26 would be nearly impossible….and it was. But, lucky for us, most people don’t know about McNeil campground right off of LoLo Pass Road. We love it there. It’s private and quiet and different than most places on the west side of the mountain.When we got there on Friday, only a handful of sites were taken. But, by Saturday, only a few remained empty. It is definitely high camping season around here!

Nevertheless, we had a great time using McNeil as our home base. We started out the morning with a hearty breakfast and then headed over to the Zig Zag Ranger Station to look at some hikes. We found one that we thought would be a pretty place for sunset called the Bald Mountain Hike that was known for it’s dramatic views of the glacier. We decided to spend the rest of the day just driving around, scouting out campgrounds and admiring the local attractions. First stop was the historic Timberline Lodge…always a favorite place to explore!

Lupines Blooming at Timberline Lodge

Front door of the lodge displays this neat, colorful wood carving.

Timberline Lodge is one of the only places in the country that features year round skiing and snowboarding. It was busy on this bright summer day!

A side view of the lodge

Admiring the view of the Cascade Range from one of the balconies

So cozy inside…you want to hunker down with a book even on a sunny day!

More wildflowers

After exploring Timberline, we headed farther up the Mountain looking for a nice spot to eat lunch. We ended up driving down the road that led to Little Crater Lake where we stayed last year. This is a small campground, but quite beautiful…and a great place to enjoy a sandwich!

Clear waters of Little Crater Lake

Another view…

We spent some time exploring the Clackamas Lake Area…a neat old ranger station and a quiet meadow.

Historic Clackamas Ranger Station

Memories preserved

Clackamas Meadows

We arrived back to our campground late in the afternoon looking forward to an early dinner and an evening hike. I was a little nervous about the hike…I wanted to see the sweet light on the mountain, but I wasn’t looking forward to hiking back down the trail in the dark. We weren’t sure what to expect from this hike since it is a lesser known area – but it ended up being well worth it. What an amazing view we had of the rising moon and setting sun.

Grilled steak and a fresh salad….tasty!

Heading up the trail!

Just a mile up through old growth and loads of huckleberry bushes….

You finally emerge from the forest to a clearing…this is what we saw…Austria?

A shot of the Cascades facing the opposite direction….

Then around the bend to a spectacular view of the mountain.

Ah…the sweet light!

One more of the layered colors…

Then back to camp:

Perfect way to end the night…

What a day…….