As I eased the steering wheel through a long curve in the highway, Mount Hood’s snow-encased peak appeared in a distant haze over the apple orchards. Vineyards and orchards stretched in either direction, barely starting to push out the first green of spring. Closer to the mountain, it was decidedly still winter, with snow piled several feet on either side of the road.
On a recent trip to Mount Hood, Oregon’s highest mountain, I saw experienced firsthand several of the outstanding adventures one can access. With the mountain’s iconic Timberline Lodge as my home base, and with snow tires on my sporty Buick Regal TourX, I was able to tackle the snowy environs with ease.
Mount Hood is home to four seasons of outdoor activities. Whether you hike the network of surrounding trails or, on a winter visit, clip into a pair of skis, you can’t go wrong.
Skiing and Hiking
Mount Hood is one of the few places in the world with year-round skiing. The mountains upper reaches remain snowy all year, and there’s usually one chair lift that continues to operate through summer’s hottest days. In winter, you can also ski at Mount Hood Meadows or the Ski Bowl. Cross-country skiing is a popular past time, too. There’s a flat, easily accessible trail to Trillium Lake that shows off the snowy mountain in all its glory.
Hardy travelers can opt to scale all of Mount Hood’s 11,000 feet, but there are easier hikes, too. Several alpine lakes are accessible (Hidden Lake, Mirror Lake, and Trillium Lake), and other good options include the Zig Zag Canyon Overlook, Ramona Falls, and Paradise Park Loop hikes.
“Hut” is an understatement. Carved out of the upper reaches of Mount Hood, Silcox Hut is a luxury lodge that sits at 7,000 feet. The hut can be rented out by groups for overnight trips. Rentals come with a ride in a Snowcat and a personal chef, turning the hut into a sky-high bed and breakfast. The hut also hosts elaborate, multi-course wine dinners on occasion.
Mount Hood Scenic Driving
It’s hard to go wrong behind the wheel of a car around Mount Hood. The Hood River County Fruit Loop takes you through the orchards and vineyards near the mountain, and the views are tough to beat. Add to that a wine or cider tasting, and you have the makings of a perfect day. The nearby Columbia River Gorge is also worth adding to an itinerary. The steep-walled gorge streams with waterfalls all year, and there are plenty of overlooks and easy trails to access them.