Mt Hood is a snow-capped volcano 11,249 feet high and has 12 glaciers. It is considered to be dormant, however, the USGS considers it to be potentially active with chances of eruption during the next 30 years between 3 and 7 percent.
There is no end of things to do on or around the mountain during both the summer and winter months--all of them are outdoors. Foremost is the skiing, both alpine and cross country. Of course there is also snowboarding. The area has six ski areas. Mt. Hood Meadows, Timberline, Ski Bowl, Cooper Spur, Snow Bunny, and Summit. From Timberline you have access to the Palmer Glacier for skiing even in the summer. Read about them here.
You don't have to be a skier or a snowboarder to have fun in the snow. There is a wonderful sledding hill at Summit and at the Snow Bunny Lodge in Government Camp where kids can have a great time tubing in the snow. At Skibowl there is actually a lift for snow tubers. It is a conveyor belt kind of thing where you sit in a tube and it pulls you up the hill.
This is one of the most climbed mountains in the United States. That is because it is one of the easiest mountains to climb. Easy doesn't mean safe. Hardly a winter passes without a climber or a whole group of climbers getting into trouble and sadly people do die. Unexpected storms are usually the cause.
The area also shines for activities during the summer months. There is golf at the Resort at the Mountain, an alpine slide at Government Camp, endless hiking trails, lakes for boating and fishing, rivers for kayaking, rafting and fishing, mountain biking, and mountain climbing. Mushroom hunting during the spring and fall can be fantastic with chantrelles, morels, and boletes. There are trails that are suitable for hiking, cycling or horseback riding. You can camp in a beautiful campground or rent a rustic cabin by a babbling creek.
Even if you are just passing through on your way to somewhere else, you need to make a stop at Timberline Lodge, a National Historic Landmark. This just shouldn't be missed by anyone. There are very few buildings like it in the world. Not only will you see spectacular views of Mount Hood, but also views to the south over the Mt. Hood National Forest with lakes and other snowcapped mountains in the distance.
The Timberline Trail is a beautiful hiking trail that goes around the mountain at the timberline level. It is a fantastic hike to take during the first two weeks of August when the alpine flowers are in bloom. It takes about four days for the entire hike if you stop for the night. Shorter day hikes can be made from Timberline Lodge or the Cloud Cap Inn.
Always check at Timberline Lodge or at the Government Camp Ranger Station to see if there are any problems on the trail that you should know about. Even if you are just making a short hike from Cloud Cap Inn, register your plans and how many people are in your party at the forest service hiking sign-up post. You will see it as you leave the parking area to begin your hike. Update: It is still possible to get to the Cloud Cap Inn but you can't take the usual road from Cooper Spur because of falling trees from the forest fire in 2008. Check with the Forest Service about how to get there.
Here are some Mt. Hood hiking trails that are easy enough for the whole family. You can even see parts of the old Barlow Road, the last segment of the Oregon Trail that the pioneers with their covered wagons traveled on. The chutes that they were so terrified of are still visible on Laurel Hill. This was the steepest part of the 2,000 mile trail. Parts of Barlow Road are now used for hiking and biking and part of it is now the paved road that follows the north side of the Sandy River from Brightwood to Lolo Pass Road.
There is an abundance of wildlife in the area. It is not unusual to see deer frolicking on the golf course in Welches. I used to have them grazing in my yard regularly. Bear are also plentiful but not enough to be scary. These are brown bears not the grizzly type. You will see beaver dams sometimes in the streams that flow through campgrounds. Racoons are around but you may not see them unless you make the mistake of putting food out for them. They know a good thing when they see it and are not hesitant to tell all their friends that there is a new "restaurant" in town.
You may want to read up on some of the forest's permanent residents. There are brown bear and cougar in the area. Don't be frightened. In 25 years I saw one cougar and it was being chased by three poodles. It doesn't hurt to know what you should do if you do run into one.
The Wildwood Recreation Site is between Brightwood and Welches off of Highway 26. This is a great place for a picnic and walking the interpretive trails. It is right on the Salmon River. There are picnic tables at each site and there is an area for large groups with shelters and outdoor kitchens. Groups can have fun playing baseball on the grassy baseball field. It's always a bit cooler here on hot summer days. Note: There is no overnight camping at Wildwood. For information on group facilities call 503-622-3696.
You will find good fishing in the rivers that flow from the melting snow on the mountain. You have a choice of the Sandy River, Salmon River, Zig Zag River, and White River. There is also some excellent fishing in the area lakes which I describe on this page.
You can get everything you need for fishing including your fishing license at The Fly Fishing Shop at the Welches shopping center. Marc and Patty have lived in the area all their lives and they can tell you the best places to go to catch your dinner.
The Zig Zag Ranger Station between Zig Zag and Rhododendron is a good place to stop for information about hiking trails, campgrounds, and for information about any permits that might be needed. Also the Mt. Hood Information Center off Highway 26 on Welches Road in the village of Welches (turn at the traffic light) has information for the entire area. Plus you can get Forest Recreation Passes, Sno-Park Permits, and Day Fishing Licenses here. In the winter it is a good idea to stop here for road information if you intend travel further up the mountain.
You can now take a bus from the Gresham Transit Center clear to Timberline Lodge. The Mt. Express bus stops at the Brightwood Store, Welches Thriftway, Rhododendron, Ski Bowl, Government Camp, and Timberline Lodge with a few other stops in between. There are five runs a day currently and after November 1st additional runs will be added. See up-to-date information here.
We often think of the Mt. Hood area as just the mountain corridor that is accessed by Highway 26. But the Hood River Valley is also connected to the mountain. It's the north side. Here you will find a big difference in weather and vegetation. It is a farming area with beautiful orchards of apples, peaches, and pears. And it has gorgeous views of the mountain.
You can enjoy all the beauty with a ride on the Mt. Hood Railroad that travels from Hood River to Parkdale on the north slope of Mt. Hood. You can get to Hood River two ways. Travel from Portland up the Columbia River Gorge on I-84 or travel east from Government Camp taking the Highway 35 junction around the mountain to Hood River. Either way has some spectacular scenery.
Mt Hood is one of my favorite places in Oregon and I lived in the area for 25 years. I reluctantly left ten years ago to take a job in another area of Oregon.