Earlier this month, my husband and I had the rare opportunity to go on a weeklong trip alone without the kids. It was the first time in 15 years that we had traveled without them and for our destination we picked Oregon, a place neither of us had ever been. We wanted to spend our week outside hiking and after researching Oregon, it seemed like the place to go.
I instantly noticed that Oregon was special as we landed in Portland in the heart of the Colombia Gorge. I was stunned by the vast size of the brilliant blue Columbia River and surprised by the conical peaks of so many snow-capped mountains. After a week in Oregon, I have to confess that I was utterly amazed by its incredibly greenery and raw untouched beauty. So many forests and so many places to camp and hike.
Portlanders are blessed to have the mountains and the ocean both only an hour’s drive away from the city. For our week in Oregon, we wanted to get a taste of the diversity of this glorious state so planned our route to first stop at the series of stunning waterfalls along the Colombia Gorge (only 30 minute drive from Portland), then spend two days in Mount Hood, followed by two days in Crater Lake and the remaining two days in Cannon Beach on the ocean.
The Mount Hood National Forest is located in northern Oregon’s Cascade range south of Portland. Home to approximately 1,000 miles of hiking trails, the Mount Hood National Forest extends south from the Columbia River Gorge across more than sixty miles of forested mountains, lakes and streams encompassing roughly 1,067,043 acres. The centerpiece of Mount Hood National Forest is the mighty dormant stratovolcano, Mount Hood which reaches 11,249 feet (3,429 m) and is capped with glaciers, alpine lakes and over 4,500 acres of skiable terrain. I was surprised to learn that Mount Hood has five ski areas and depending on snow conditions, you can ski almost year round at Timberline. Given its short distance from Portland (roughly 50 miles (80 km), Mount Hood is a popular playground for Portlanders and tourists alike.
At Mount Hood, we picked the tiny town of Rhododendron to base our stay and found a delightful truly magical place on Airbnb called the “Little House on the Mountain”, a beautiful custom built, one-of-kind cabin. The cabin is nestled up on a forested hill above a main cabin, sitting on 4 acres of private wooded land, bordering Mount Hood National Forest Land. When you look out the large windows, all you see are trees! It was perfect for the two of us!
Given the time of year, there were not many tourists in town however we had hit the weather absolutely perfect and were afforded brilliant bright blue skies, warm sunshine and highs in the low 70s. Had we gone a week later, we would have been hiking in the misty rain which is the more typical Oregon weather.
To make the most out of our visit to Mount Hood, we did a fair amount of research on AllTrails to find the perfect hikes. For our first full day, we chose the well traveled 6.7 mile roundtrip hike to Bald Mountain from Lolo Pass. The trailhead is about a 30 minute drive from Rhododendron on the northwest side of Mount Hood.
We arrived to a full parking lot around 1 pm on a stunning Saturday afternoon. Given the incredible weather a lot of Portlanders had come up for the day to hike so we would meet lots of friendly faces along the way. We put on our hiking boots, grabbed our packs and set off into the glorious forest. The first hour or so of the hike takes you through a series of switchbacks leading you up through the forest with a few peeks of Mount Hood along the way. It is rated as moderate as it has some elevation gain (roughly 1,489 feet) and you can make the hike much more difficult and longer if you continue on once you reach the peak.
Once you reach the trail map (middle photo below), you have a few options. You can go left following a much longer trail or you can hang a right for a short .5 mile hike alongside the mountain affording a stunning view of Mount Hood. Thankfully we had some locals on the trail who were able to tell us where to go find the best views. They recommended going right and about one hundred feet or so after the turnoff (photo on far right) you will see a man-made trail veer off up the mountain to the left. It is a rough trail with lots of fallen down trees and a little steep, but in about 15 minutes or so you will make it to the top and have a sublime view of Mount Hood. We did both.
We decided to first take the trail around to the right for the view and were not at all disappointed. It was so gorgeous we didn’t want to leave!
Then we backtracked to the find the steep trail up to the top and reached it by 3 pm. When I found the small viewing spot, it took my breath away it was so incredible.
Unfortunately our photos didn’t turn out of us together as the sun was so intense and so bright our faces were severely shaded. But the memory of the raw beauty of Mount Hood and the surrounding forest is enough to fill my soul.
The route down was quick and steep and we were back at the car in an hour and fifteen minutes. We drove back to our tiny little cabin in the forest for a bit of rest and relaxation after a pretty fantastic day. I recalled one of my favorite quotes, “I’d rather be hiking” and smiled. The restorative power of nature and physical activity always makes me happy. I went to sleep dreaming about our next full day at Mount Hood knowing it was sure to be a winner.
If you go:
For hiking, the best time to go is June – October. We seriously lucked out with the weather and had absolutely perfect conditions. Sunny, dry and warm but not hot. No mosquitos nor need for a rain coat. Sunglasses required.
The entire hike took about three hours and fifteen minutes at a moderate pace with stops for photos along the way.
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We hope to return to Oregon next summer for some more hiking, and I will bookmark this and any future posts. We were based in Bend on our trip this summer and also found some awesome scenery and hikes! A beautiful state for sure.
Wow cool! Where did you hike around Bend? We passed through Bend on our way to Crater Lake. I’ve decided that Crater Lake is the most beautiful place I’ve ever been to and seen in the US. Wow. I can’t wait to blog about the hikes we did there as it was so incredible. I also just loved Cannon Beach so much. I’d love to go back to Oregon. It is pretty amazing!
You’re really back to traveling, Nicole. Good for you and I’m happy you had that time together. The trails look inviting and the mountain views are spectacular.
Well, slowly slowly I’m back. It felt good to get away but things still are so different. I really did enjoy Oregon and the fresh air. Felt very good! Hope you are well! 🙂
This sounds absolutely idyllic Nicole, and your photos are lovely. You were so lucky with the weather!
Have you been to Oregon Alison? It was pretty spectacular. Enjoyed it a lot.
Yes, several times. It’s a beautiful state.
Yes I really loved it. Still want to make it to BC! 🙂
One of the ‘best’ things out of the pandemic is we get to explore places closer to home that we have overlooked for far too long. Your trip to Oregon is similar to my recent one in so many ways: we’ve got to visit a place that we’ve never been to, we went hiking along beautiful mountain trails, and the weather was perfect when we went. I completely agree with you about the restorative power of nature and how physical activity makes me happy.
Yes very true! Hope you are doing well!
Hi there! Amazing photos from the trip and I can totally see you lucked out big time with beautiful blue skies! I had a question about the trail you took. You wrote “You can go left following a much longer trail or you can hang a right for a short .5 mile hike alongside the mountain affording a stunning view of Mount Hood.” I am guessing this spot you are talking about is the fork where the loop starts in Bald mountain from Lolo Pass Trail on AllTrails (blue dot in this link: https://ibb.co/0DNgVWX). By the “much longer trail to the left”, did you mean the loop as shown in AllTrails? Is the short 0.5 mile hike alongside the mountain the trail to Bald Mountain (blue highlighted 0.3 mile https://ibb.co/JvYjppF). Did you folks do the loop in the end as shown in AllTrails map? How steep/maintained was the steep trail to the top? Sorry about tons of questions!
Hi Casper: Thanks for the email and sorry for the delay! We hiked all the way up to the start of the loop and took a right. If you hike a short distance around the mountain you get the view and then we turned around. If it is a loop as the picture, we didn’t know. We just hiked around the side of the mountain until we saw mount hood and turned back. After we backtracked, there is the short hike up to the top but it is very overgrown and a little bit of guesswork. It is not too steep but was not well maintained when we went with a lot of roots. It is the better view and not too hard or difficult. I looked again at the map and realized it is a loop and we weren’t aware! Hope this helps! 🙂