Cloud Cap Road provides a scenic and gradually-graded route to several facilities surrounding the Cloud Cap Campground, including the Tilly Jane A-Frame, the Cloud Cap Inn, and the Tilly Jane Guard Station. Each is available to rent for overnight stays, though the campground is closed in the winter. Aside from providing winter access to the cabins, the trail is a great destination in itself, offering incredible views of Mount Hood, the Cascade Peaks to the north, and the surreal landscape of a post-wildfire forest. It is a good destination for anyone who wants to test their stamina on the 9-mile, 2,300-foot climb.
The trail can be combined with the shorter Tilly Jane Trail to form a loop, or done as a there-and-back adventure. If you are traveling the full loop, be aware of the trail gradients; the Tilly Jane Trail is a steeper approach that could make for some advanced cross-country skiing terrain on the way down, especially if you are skiing without metal edges. Depending on your mode of transportation, it may be advisable to ascend via Tilly Jane Trail and descend via Cloud Cap Road.
The skiable section of Cloud Cap Road starts at the east edge of the parking area. The route follows Forest Road 3512 as it switchbacks along a ridge above the Elliot Branch of the East Fork of Hood River. Despite the elevation gain, the road is evenly graded for the entire 9 miles; other than the distance and elevation, it makes for a moderate ski trail. The majority of the route passes through the remnants of the 2008 Gnarl Ridge Wildfire, leaving much of the trail exposed and offering great views.
Forest Road 3512 ends at the Cloud Cap Campground parking area. The Tilly Jane Trail #643 continues to the south, passing the Tilly Jane Guard station and crossing a creek bed before climbing quickly back up to an American Legion amphitheater and shuttered bunkhouse. The A-Frame is just beyond the bunkhouse. If you use the Cloud Cap Road to return, there are many opportunities for steeper descents by cutting through switchbacks on the way down. The Wagon Road Trail #642 does just this, but is not clearly defined in winter.
Winter backcountry adventures can be dangerous outdoor activities that pose significant risks as conditions affecting safety (i.e. weather, snowpack stability, avalanche hazard) are constantly changing. Prior to engaging in these activities each individual should get the proper training to make safe decisions and be equipped to use avalanche safety resources and tools. Please visit our Backcountry Skiing and Avalanche Safety post to learn more.