Mount Hood's steep, snow-covered slopes dominate the landscape for miles around. Located at the north end of the Oregon Cascades, just east of Portland, it is part of Mount Hood National Forest. At the periphery of that national forest are numerous state parks and wilderness areas. Mountain snow melt creates scenic creeks and waterfalls, running into major rivers that include the Sandy, Clackamas, Hood, and Salmon Rivers.
Here are my recommendations for things to do and places to explore in and around Oregon's magnificent Mount Hood.
Scenic Driving Tours Around Mount Hood
A scenic drive to or around the mountain is a fun and popular way to enjoy Mount Hood's majestic beauty. Here are popular routes recognized for their scenery.
Mt. Hood Scenic Byway
An official National Scenic Byway, this 105-mile route runs from Troutdale, near Portland, along US Highway 26, meeting up with State Highway 35 south of the mountain. At this point your driving tour follows the eastern slopes of Mount Hood, heading north to the charming town of Hood River. Many of Mount Hood's popular historic and natural attractions can be found along this scenic byway. Travelers can turn this scenic drive into a loop by following Interstate 84 from Hood River back to Troutdale, taking in the views from the south side of the Columbia River . For even more beautiful views, take a detour off the Interstate to follow the Historic Columbia River Highway, which features several gorgeous waterfalls and view points.
North Section of the West Cascades Scenic Byway
This National Scenic Byway runs north-south along the west side of the Cascades range from Estacada to Oakridge. The North Section begins in Mount Hood National Forest, following the Clackamas River much of the way. The entire West Cascades Scenic Byway will take you well south, beyond a view of Mount Hood.
Whether or not you are fortunate enough to stay overnight at the historic Timberline Lodge, you should definitely stop and explore this Northwest gem. Built during the 1930s as a Works Progress Administration project, this grand mountain lodge was constructed from local materials and furnished with the handiwork of talented local artists and craftspeople. Be sure to check out the lobby, which features history exhibits, amazing stone, iron, and wood work, and a grand hexagonal fireplace. Timberline Lodge was acknowledged as a National Historic Landmark in 1977.
Visitor amenities at Timberline Lodge include gift shops, a gear shop, and fine and casual dining. Timberline is part of a year-round ski and mountain resort, offering numerous opportunities for outdoor recreation. In the winter it's skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing. In the summer, it's hiking, mountain biking, and still.... skiing! Whether winter or summer, playing or not, you can take the Magic Mile Sky Ride up to the 7,000-level, savoring Oregon mountain scenery the whole way.
To learn about Timberline Lodge's rich history, you can inquire at the front desk about daily guided tours that are led by an expert US Forest Service ranger. Another option is to stop at the Lodge's Barlow Room, where you can watch a 30-minute video presentation of The Builders of Timberline.
Skiing and Snow Sports on Mount Hood
Mount Hood is famous for it's year-round snow cover, offering downhill skiing in the winter and in the summer. Major ski areas in Mount Hood National Forest include:
Additional winter recreation opportunities include snowmobiling, sledding and tubing, mushing and skijouring, Nordic skiing, and snowshoeing. Several Oregon sno-parks are located around Mt. Hood.
These mountain resorts are fun in summer too, offering hiking, mountain biking, and a long list of outdoor adventure opportunities.
Hiking in Mount Hood National Forest
With 1000-plus miles of hiking trails, the opportunities are almost endless. Be sure to stop first at a ranger station to get up-to-the-minute information on trail and road conditions, as well as expert trail advice and maps. A stop at Government Camp will give you access to several trails.
Here is a small sample of Mount Hood's hiking opportunities:
- Ramona Falls Trail
One of the more popular day hikes, this 7-mile-round-trip trail comes with Sandy River, Mount Hood, and waterfall views.
- Glade Trail
Running from Timberline Lodge down to Government Camp, this trail is fun for hikers in the summer and for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing in the winter.
- Timberline National Historic Trail
Constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the 1930s, this 36.6-mile trail circles Mount Hood, passing through a variety of scenic and challenging terrain.
- Tamanawas Falls Trail
Accessed off of Highway 35 on the east side of Mount Hood, this 1-mile trail follows Cold Spring Creek through forest to the 100-foot-high falls. Additional trails in the area allow you to expand your hiking experience.
Cascade Streamwatch at the Wildwood Recreation Site
Easy, scenic, and educational, the Cascade Streamwatch nature trail is a family-friendly adventure and a great place to introduce anyone to the wonder of hiking and outdoor exploration. The improved paths take you through the forest and along a side channel off the Salmon River. Along the way you'll pass interpretive signs and an underwater stream-viewing window, learning about the salmon life cycle and the local ecosystem. This nature trail is located within the BLM-operated Wildwood Recreation Site (PDF brochure), which offers picnicking, wildlife watching, a playground, sports fields, and additional hiking trails.
Located in Government Camp along Highway 26, Mount Hood Cultural Center & Museum showcases all aspects of the mountain's colorful history. The development of skiing and ski facilities, the pioneer area, early exploration, and National Forest Service activity are each covered with interpretive exhibits and artifacts. One gallery is devoted to Mount Hood's natural history, complete with an interactive model of this active volcano. Art in all forms is another mission of this museum; galleries exhibit the work of local artists and lectures and workshops are held throughout the year.
The Mount Hood Railroad, departing from Hood River, is a fun way to enjoy the beauty of both Mount Hood and the fertile Hood River Valley. The scenic train ride runs from the town of Hood River to Parkdale and back. Various themed trips are offered throughout the year, from murder mystery dinners to The Polar Express.