One Night Backpacking Trips For Beginners

You've got all your gear, and you're ready to hit the trail - only problem is, you're not sure where to go! If you live near the Portland metro area, check out our recommendations below for beginner friendly backpacking trips. These trip ideas are all within a few hours drive of Portland, and are great adventures to get started with backpacking.

If you're inspired to try any of these trips, make sure you are physically fit enough to hike at least 5-6 miles per day, wearing all of your backpacking gear. I've accidentally signed myself up for trips I wasn't physically prepared for, and it can turn a fun weekend of adventure into a grueling slog. Please be prepared and hike responsibly - you are responsible for your own safety in the backcountry.

Green Lakes

Most years, the Green Lakes trail doesn't fully ice off until July, and is best visited late in the summer. The bugs can get pretty bad here earlier in the season, but by late August, almost all the mosquitoes have died off and you can hike in peace.

If you can make it out here, Green Lakes is one of the most beautiful and accessible campgrounds in the Three Sisters Wilderness. It's a 4.5 mile hike out (9-10 round trip), and follows the Green Lakes Trail the entire way. There's a decent amount of campsites scattered around the three lakes -but note that visitors between May and the last Friday of September, are required to carry a Central Cascades Wilderness Permit for both overnight and day trips.

South Sister from Green Lakes, Central Oregon

If you get lucky with the weather, a great time do camp here is in late September/Early October, after the permit system ends for the year. One of my favorite trips in 2021 was a Friday night, after-work hike up to Green Lakes the first week of October. It can get a bit cold later in the year (below freezing), so make sure you pack warmly.

Sunset illumintating Broken Top, Central Oregon

Paradise Park Lollipop Loop

This lollipop loop starts at Timberline Lodge, and heads northwest to a beautiful alpine meadow. Above timberline, you'll have breathtaking views of Mt. Hood, and the meadows supply an ample selection of wildflowers. Paradise Park specifically refers to the area above timberline on Mt. Hood's southwest slope, and is some of the best terrain on Mt. Hood that can be easily accessed.

Snowy Mt. Hood from Paradise Park, Oregon

The total trip distance is about 12 miles, but may be longer if you explore any spurs. From Timberline Lodge, follow the PCT/Timberline trail nortwest for about 3.8 miles, at which point you'll meet the Paradise Park trail. Along the way you'll pass the Hidden Lake trail (skip it), and the Zigzag overlook. Once you get to the Paradise Park trail, turn right. This is the start of the lollipop loop, and you'll ascend a short distance to gorgeous alpine meadows.

There are a collection of scattered campsites around here, near Lost Creek, and Rushing Water Creek. The campsites are at around 5.4-5.7 miles from the trailhead. After traversing the alpine meadows, the Paradise Park trail descends to meet the Timberline trail - once you intersect the Timberline trail, take a left. Follow the Timberline trail back to Timberline Lodge (6.5-7 miles from the campsites).

Mt. Adams High Camp

Disclaimer: The road to Killen Creek Trailhead from Takh Lakh Lake is unpaved and deeply rutted. It's doable in a regular passenger vehicle, but you should be comfortable driving on rougher roads.

High Camp is an alpine meadow at around 6,900' on the slopes of Mt. Adams, with ample views and wildflowers in season.
The trail to High Camp starts at Killen Creek Trailhead, near Takh Lakh lake. The out-and-back trip is around 4.5 miles each way, and has about 2,264 feet of elevation gain. This trip is pretty nostalgic for me, as I used to do it almost every year in the late summer as a kid. I was last here in August 2020, and it was just as gorgeous as I remembered.

Mt. Adams from High Camp, Washington

Once you get to the trailhead, hike up the Killen Creek trail until it meets the meets the PCT in a T-junction. At the PCT, turn right and head south. Shortly after turning onto the PCT, take a left turn on the trail that heads up towards Mt. Adams - This is the trail to High Camp. the High Camp trail climbs to a meadow and the camping area - if you're intending to go higher, keep in mind that a Cascade Volcano Pass is required for anyone above 7,000' (essentially anywhere above High Camp). I've never seen a ranger up here, but it's never fun to get a ticket/fine.

There are free (primitive) campsites around the meadow - But be sure to find a spot that is already clear of vegetation, as camping directly in the meadow will harm the plant life. The camping spots here are pretty dispersed, but there will be social trails to and from them. The ecosystem here is sensitive, so please stay on existing trails and pack out everything you bring in.

Canyon Creek Meadows

The shortest of the bunch, Canyon Creek Meadows is a 7.5 mile loop on the east side of Three Fingered Jack. Start at the Jack Lake Trailhead, and head north on the Old Summit trail. Once you intersect the Canyon Creek trail, turn left. Follow this trail until you reach a T-junction, and then contiue straight towards the campsites. This area is terrible for mosquitoes until late summer, so I recommend coming here in August-October (before snow covers everything in the fall).

Flowers blooming at Canyon Creek Meadows, Oregon

The campsites are nestled in a wooded area near the meadows (yes, there are awesome wildflowers). Spend some time to explore here - you can hike right up to Jack Glacier (the only glacier on Three Fingered Jack), and poke around the meadows to look at the flowers. If you're lucky, you might see one of the resident mountain goats.

To loop back, return to the Canyon Creek trail from your campsite and continue north until you reach the Old Summit trail. Turn right and follow this trail back to Jack Lake trailhead. Similar to the Green Lakes trail, Canyon Creek Meadows falls within the Central Cascades Wilderness Permit area. Make sure you secure a pass if you're planning to visit during the permit season.

Mt. Jefferson at Canyon Creek Meadows, Oregon

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About Us

Heart Rock at Joshua Tree
Thanks for visiting our travel blog, Trails And Trekking! We're Lauren and Anders - an adventure loving couple currently stationed in the Pacific Northwest. We're avid hikers, backpackers, and travelers. We're both originally from Oregon, but we've spent the last two years traveling the Pacific Northwest and beyond. We created this blog to share our passion for exploring the outdoors, and to inspire you to get outside.