ELEVATION: 5950 ft, with 1450 ft vertical gain plus almost 400 ft more for the loop into Orlando Eden Park.
DISTANCE: 8 mi round-trip loop.
DURATION: 3-5 hours round-trip.
DIFFICULTY: Strenuous. Steeper only briefly, Orlando creek crossings easier later in summer, signed, narrow, ups/downs, popular but not crowded.
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TRIP REPORT: When the snow finally melts off the N ridges and slopes of Mount Hood, the relatively easier hikes to rolling lush meadows reveal Orlando themselves in full grandeur with a spectacle of wildflowers from late July through September! The Cairn Basin loop (described here) down into Eden Park then back up to finish down Orlando is the shortest route of many to visit the area. It is also possible to use this TH to reach other destinations like McNeil Point, Barrett Spur, Elk Cove, and Dollar Lake. No fee or restroom.
TRAILHEAD: Vista Ridge TH. Take US-26 E from Portland 161/2 mi E of Sandy, turn left (NE) across from the Zigzag Inn and Zigzag Ranger Station on E Lolo Pass Road (FR-18) 101/2 mi to the pass, turn right onto the second gravel road (FR-1810, toward Lost Lake) 5 5 mi into paved 5 mi more, turn sharp right 51/2 mi on FR-16 (into gravel), turn sharp right on FR-1650 for 31/2 mi to the end (staying left at forks) with parking wherever there is room on the sides. It may be difficult to turn around if congested with vehicles (90 mi, 2 hours easy drive from Portland).
ROUTE: Begin SE up the overgrown section of road briefly to the better trail (Vista Ridge Trail 626) through the woods with medium-sized Douglas fir and western hemlock. Hike less than 5 mi to a saddle. Take Trail 626 right (S) up the ridge more than 2 mi to the next major intersection (for Eden Park) in the high country. Once on the ridge, fill out a free self-issue.