Picture this: it’s a beautiful sunny day, and you’re riding a nice loop trail with splendid mountain views, meadows full of wild flowers, and no crowds. Where are you? It’s the Knebal Springs Loop Trail on the east side of Mt. Hood.
The 9.5-mile Knebal (pronounced ka-NEE-bul) Springs Loop offers a lot of variety: it runs through forest so dense that sunlight can barely penetrate, through sun-dappled forest, through small meadows with seasonal wildflowers, and through clear-cut areas with eye-popping views of Mt. Hood, Mt. Adams, Mt. St. Helens, and Mt. Rainier.
The trail starts at Knebal Springs Campground, a trailhead and multi-user campground that has corrals in only three sites but permits horses in all of the sites. The campground and its neighboring trails are shared with mountain bike riders, but the trails have long lines of sight so you can see the bicyclists coming, and the elevation changes are gradual so they don’t ride very fast.
To ride the loop clockwise, pick up the trail on the east end of the campground. Continue straight ahead on the Knebal Springs Trail #474. In 0.6 mile you’ll cross the Middle Fork of Fivemile Creek. In another mile, turn right on the Bottle Prairie Trail #455 and follow it 2.6 miles to a spur trail on the left that leads to Perry Point. Ride uphill a short distance to enjoy the view from Perry Point, then return to the Bottle Prairie Trail and continue along it.
In 0.4 mile the Eightmile Loop Bike Trail goes off to the left (sorry, no horses allowed). In another 0.4 mile turn right at the junction with the Knebal Springs Trail. Follow it 1.5 miles to where the trail comes out on gravel Road 120. You’ll see a trail that continues straight ahead of you, but do not follow it. (It runs only a short distance and ends at Road 1720.) Instead, turn right on Road 120 and follow it 0.1 mile, then veer left onto the single-track Knebal Springs Trail to continue the rest of the way back to the campground.
Ride Statistics: 9.5 miles round trip, with elevations from 3,650 to 4,950 feet. Stock water is available on the trail. The best map is the Mt. Hood National Forest map.
Getting to the Knebal Springs Campground: From Portland, head east on Hwy. 26. About 2.5 miles after you pass Government Camp, turn north on Hwy. 35 toward Hood River. Continue 13.2 miles and turn right on Road 44. Drive 5.4 miles and turn left on Road 17. Continue 0.4 mile, then go straight on Road 1720 when Road 17 makes a 90 degree left turn. Continue 2.7 miles to the horse camp. From Hood River, drive south on Hwy. 35 for 25 miles, then turn left on Road 44 and follow the directions above.
Season: Summer through fall
The Facilities at Knebal Springs Campground: 7 sites, 3 of which have 4-horse log corrals. All sites have fire rings and picnic tables. Toilet, spring-fed water trough. Manure should be disbursed beyond the campground boundaries. Camping fee; Northwest Forest Pass required for day-use parking.
More Information: The Knebal Springs Loop Trail is covered in the Knebal Springs Campground chapter of Riding Northwest Oregon Horse Trails, by Kim McCarrel, (Ponderosa Press, 2013).