Mount Hood National Forest Overview
|Lost Lake and Mount Hood, Oregon (Bruce Heinemann/Photographer's Choice/Getty)|
Mount Hood, the mountain for which this forest was named, is a volcanic peak that has been dormant since the early 1900s. It was the last obstacle faced by the pioneers of the Oregon Trail. It's the highest point in Oregon, rising to 11,239 feet, and it is snow-covered year-round. About an hour’s drive from metropolitan Portland, the city's skyline is dominated by Mount Hood's lofty presence.
Included in this area is the Columbia Gorge, a lush forest area featuring a densely-packed series of glacial waterfalls. Whether you come to the forest for an afternoon hike or a week-long backpacking trip, Mount Hood National Forest is a great place to be. You'll find it user-friendly; with well-maintained trails and an abundance of helpful rangers, the forest caters to a community that is actively involved in the outdoors.
Climb to the Summit of Mount Hood
Mount Hood is among the most climbed alpine summits in the world, second only to Mount Fuji in Japan. The traditional route to Hood's summit starts at historic Timberline Lodge perched at 6,000 feet. Camp at 8,000 feet, near the highest point of the Palmer Glacier. You'll have to put on your crampons and gear up pretty early in the morning—midnight's always a good time to start hard, long climbs, but make sure you're on your way by 4 a.m. You'll pass Crater Rock, Devil's Kitchen, and Hog Back. Your final destination is Pearly Gates, twin rock formations encrusted in wind sculpted rime ice. Just another few hundred feet above that is the summit ridge, a tremendous snow cornice with a vertical drop of a thousand feet or more. At 11,240 feet, you can see Mount Adams, Mount St. Helens, Mount Rainier, Mount Jefferson, and Three Sisters.
Hike the Tom, Dick, and Harry Loop
This six-mile loop is one of the most spectacular hikes in Oregon. The views are breathtaking in every direction and the flowers are abundant. There's a spectacular loop hike that includes Mirror Lake, the three summits of Tom, Dick, and Harry Mountain, and Ski Bowl. Mount Hood towers to the north; the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness and Mount Jefferson, Three Sisters, and Broken Top are to the south.
Ski and Snowboard at Timberline Lodge
With its huge hand-hewn beams and massive walk-in size fireplaces, Timberline is the epitome of ski lodges, painstakingly handmade by a battalion of skilled craftsmen and artisans as part of Roosevelt's WPA program during the Great Depression. Don't be surprised if the place creeps you out—it was the setting for Stanley Kubrick's adaptation of Stephen King's novel, The Shining. Timberline is open year-round, offering the longest ski season in North America.
Bike Frog Lake Buttes
It's called Frog Lake for a reason—the lake is absolutely full of tadpoles, guppies, and small frogs, depending on the season. It's a fun place to go in spring—though not for the batrachophobic (those afraid of frogs). You'll have an excellent view of Mount Hood from the top of Frog Lake Buttes. Also a great cross-country route in the winter, 13.8-mile gravel road loop starts at Frog Lake Sno-Park and is usually clear of snow from June to September.
Kayak Hood River
The west fork of Hood River is a rocky canyon with steep boulder gardens and a waterfall, covering the area of White Bridge to Hood River. This river is Class IV-V, and should only be tried by advanced level kayakers. Its sister, the East Fork, is a class V-V+ and too dangerous to be handled by anyone but experts. For a tamer run, try Hood River (Class III), from the convergence of the East and West Forks to the Columbia River. The Hood River's banks are characterized by basalt rock. The river originates as runoff from Mount Hood and is lined with rock gardens, forest, and orchards. The river offers fast-paced action; the rapids continue nonstop in pool-drop fashion. You'll end up at the town of Hood River, home to some of the best windsurfing—and microbrews—in the world.
Experience the Oregon Trail—Barlow Road
In 1845 Samuel Barlow, an enterprising adventurer, blazed his own trail around Mount Hood to the Willamette Valley. Until he opened this toll road, the pioneers could only reach the valley via rented log rafts on the Columbia River. Barlow offered an alternative to the perils of these primitive rafts; however, the route wasn't without its own dangers. The mountain's unpredictable weather was always a risk and at some point along the trail, wagons had to be lowered by ropes down steep chutes. Today you can see the Barlow Road much as it was in emigrant times. Your SUV might come in handy here; the road is bumpy and extremely primitive.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication