Mount Hood, Oregon's highest summit at 11,240 feet, is a dormant volcano covered with 11 active glaciers. This sleeping giant dominates a wilderness of glaciated peaks with forested slopes and alpine meadows. More than 10,000 climbers a year come seeking the top of the state, making Mount Hood's summit the most visited snow-clad peak in America. With crevassed glaciers to cross, rotten rock to negotiate, and inclement weather the norm, Mount Hood also boasts one of the highest accident rates of all the earth's peaks. The most popular and easiest route on the mountain climbs the south side from Timberline Lodge, a route most climbers complete in less than 10 hours. At least 12 other routes up the mountain have been well established. Dormant but not dead, Mount Hood still vents sulfurous steam near the summit.
Much of the area's annual precipitation of 150 inches falls as snow between October and April, but sudden snowstorms may surprise you any time of year, a fact that has led to numerous fatalities on Mount Hood. A forest of Douglas fir covers much of the lower elevations, supported by an understory of Oregon grape, salal, rhododendron, and huckleberries (they ripen deliciously in August). More than a dozen waterfalls brighten river valleys that lie in the shade of the deep forest. Listen for the chirps and whistles of pikas and marmots on the rocky slopes at the tree line.
The majestic and very popular Timberline Trail encircles the mountain for 38 miles, often crossing panoramic alpine meadows painted with summer wildflowers and through creeks that may rise dangerously June and July when snow melts rapidly. At least 21 trails zig and zag their way through the wilderness to join the Timberline Trail. Cross-country skiing attracts many winter visitors.
Overuse has led to a ban on camping in many portions of the wilderness, but at 5,900 feet you can still find the highest campground on Mount Hood. Because this campground is at the end of a winding gravel road, it tends to attract people committed to a quite camping experience.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication