Oregonians are known for their devotion to an active, outdoor lifestyle, and the territory of Mt. Hood, less than an hour and a half from the city of Portland, is no exception.
Mt Hood is located in
Clackamas County and encompasses the communities Estacada, Government Camp, Sandy, and the Villages of Mt Hood (tiny towns with lively names like Alder Creek, Brightwood, Wemme, Welches, Zigzag, and Rhododendron). Although the towns are small and spread out, giving Mt. Hood a rugged feel, the territory offers a surprising array of accommodations--ranging from the no-frills Best Western to the secluded luxury cabins available through Mt. Hood Vacation Rentals (complete with hot tubs and state-of-the-art kitchens).
The historic Timberline Lodge, nestled just below the steepled peak of the mountain, is a must-see for everyone. In this a castle-like marvel of stone and wood and iron you can have a full meal or sip wine and taste artisan cheese. On the mountain, you can enjoy year-round skiing or unwind and take in the view from the "Miracle Mile" chairlift which ascends an additional 1,000 feet (4,000 feet from the top of Mt. Hood's 11,239 foot peak).
Unlike most mountains in North America, Mt Hood doesn't have an off-season. In summer an international crowd comprised of people of all ages, ranging in skill and fitness levels, journey to Mt. Hood, where they can enjoy activities like skiing, snowboarding, and snow shoeing (to name a few).
Another facet of Mt. Hood's allure lies in its ease of access to a variety of trails and campsites, places where one can hike, run, bike, raft, kayak, fish, camp, rock climb, or ride horses. For a nominal fee you can purchase a day pass to any of the trails in the
Mt. Hood National Forest. The appeal of Mt. Hood's trails is their ease of access by car ($5 to park) and the scenic, yet well-maintained feel. The trails vary greatly in grade (some steep, some flat) and length (ranging from 1.1 to 40 miles). They wind through forests filled with Douglass firs, wild flowers, and rhododendron, snake alongside rivers, and traverse thundering waterfalls.
You can grab a map from one of several ranger stations and choose from more than thirty trails or hook up with a tour given by Mt. Hood Adventure, a company that offers guided hikes, as well as summer activities as diverse as windsurfing, rock climbing, bungee jumping, alpine sliding, and bird watching. In the winter months, when the international crowd wanes and is replaced by day-tripping Portlanders, outdoor activities range from the obvious (skiing and snowboarding) to the more obscure (mountaineering and ice fishing).
In addition to the plethora of outdoor activities, Mt. Hood also offers numerous restaurants and places to shop (tax free). There are several driving tours in the area: One can follow Highway 26 along the Barlow Road (part of the
Oregon Trail) or take the Sandy Area Farm Loop (located at the gateway to Mt. Hood), a tour that highlights local plants, produce, wines, and goods.
When you tire of driving and doing, great moments can be had by simply finding a place to sit as you gaze up at the majestic beauty--glacial blues blending with bright white powder--of
the highest peak in Oregon.
Kelsey Maki teaches composition and creative writing at The College of New Jersey and Brookdale Community College. She earned her BA in American Literature from The University of California-Santa Cruz and her MA in English from Rutgers University and has published articles on teaching and composition.