“Run the 7-mile Ramona Falls Loop with great views of Mt. Hood. It requires crossing the Sandy River on logs.”
— Kathleen Walker
The access road Forest Road 1825 is gated in winter at the Sandy River for cross-country skiing once there is a foot or more of snow usually. This is wilderness and groups must be 12 "heartbeats" or less. Larger groups must be at least one mile apart at all times or find non-wilderness trails to run. A self-issued wilderness permit must be obtained by all groups and fastened to a pack. The permit explains other wilderness restrictions.
The Ramona Falls Loop is an iconic 7-mile loop trail that has seen changes over the years. The Sandy River cuts through a volcanic mudflow from the 1780's eruption of Mt. Hood that resulted in Lewis and Clark naming it the "Quicksand" (now Sandy) River. The sand and volcanic ash has huge boulders bigger than Volkswagens that are moved in winter storms when the river can fill almost the entire canyon. The river channel itself has moved from hundreds of feet to 1/4 mile in a single storm event. The enormity of the canyon and the power of the river is humbling and even more so when a flood event occurs.
The Ramona Falls Loop Trail provides views of Mt. Hood in the Sandy River canyon and, of course, the iconic Ramona Falls. The south side of the loop is the warmer, drier side and the north side is the cooler, wetter side. If it is very hot, you can go up and back on the cooler side. This trail requires crossing the unbridged Sandy River on fallen logs, rock hopping, or fording the river, so it is not for everyone.
There are plenty of lodging and dining opportunities in the Villages of Mt. Hood. Two websites to check on are: mthoodterritory.com/
The best time to do the Ramona Falls Loop is anytime other than a summer weekend when it is very crowded. Springtime can still have high river flows but blooming wildflowers. Fall gives you wonderful colors.
Features: Fall Colors — River/Creek — Views — Waterfall — Wildflowers
Need to Know
The Ramona Falls Loop no longer has any seasonal bridge over the Sandy River. Runners must use caution when crossing the Sandy River. There are river crossing safety signs with guidance on how to cross safely. There are downed logs up and down the river, but they can be loose and unstable, so use caution. You can ford the river when the water is low. Water levels can rise quickly in the afternoon when the snow higher on the mountain melts as temperatures rise. A Northwest Forest Pass or other valid parking pass is required to park at the Ramona Falls Trailhead from May 15 to October 1.
The Ramona Falls Loop has been one of the most popular trails on the Mt. Hood National Forest for years. You start on the Sandy River Trail #770
running up the rugged Sandy River Canyon. The trail here is part of the Old Maid Flats geologic area that is the old mudflow from Mt. Hood's eruption. The river continues to cut the canyon banks away leaving sharp drop offs and overhanging cliffs that you should not run on. Forest Service managers continue to reroute the trail away from the ever-changing canyon lip.
The trail eventually drops down into the river canyon. The river itself moves considerably from year to year and a seasonal bridge is no longer available, so runners must use caution and cross the Sandy River on a log or ford the river. Once across the river, you can decide to go clockwise or counterclockwise. Counterclockwise is recommended. You take a right and head southeast on the PCT #2000 skirting the north edge of the Sandy River canyon.
After 2.85 miles, you come to the PCT #2000 /Timberline #600 junction. Bear left on the Timberline Trail #600 and head towards the waterfall. Take the obligatory pictures on the bridge. Please do not climb off trail as this is wilderness. The waterfall can be crowded at times, so consider finding a place along Ramona Creek to stop for a picnic.
Continue on Timberline Trail #600 for a short distance past the falls and then bear west (left) on the Ramona Falls Trail #797
. This is considered the wet side of the loop where on a warm summer day, it is much cooler than the "dry" side. Head northwest on the Ramona Falls Trail #797
until you get to the PCT junction. Bear left (straight) at the PCT intersection towards the Ramona Falls parking lot (not towards Bald Mountain). Continue on the PCT heading southwest, and cross the creek again until you get to the Sandy River Trail #770
. Turn right (west) onto the Sandy River Trail #770
and follow it back to the trailhead.
Flora & Fauna
Ramona Falls Loop begins in the area called "Old Maid Flats" which is identified by the carpet of moss over the volcanic mud flow. The sandy soil results in large stands of lodgepole forests with occasional Douglas fir and western hemlock. Western red cedar are found on the creek side of the loop. Wildflowers include bear grass and rhododendron, Oregon grape, salal, sword fern, and huckleberry.
History & Background
Oregon Geographic Names says that John E. Mills, a US Forest Service employee, discovered and named the falls on August 8, 1933, while locating trail. He was courting his wife-to-be Ramona.