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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