The lookout at Fivemile Butte is a rewarding trip even if you haven’t been fortunate enough to obtain an overnight stay in the vintage structure. The ponderosa pine, western hemlock, and Douglas fir all work in this transition zone between eastern and western Oregon. Because it's on the east side of Mount Hood, this area may have less snow later in the season. This is something to keep in mind if you are attempting to reserve the lookout after March; you may be hiking instead of gliding your way in.
The trek in and out is easily done as a day trip on skis, though intermediate skills are called for on the descent down. The distance is also very doable on snowshoes, which may also allow you to find your own direct route to the top. If you do remain on Forest Road 120 for your climb, you will enjoy some terrific views to the east and north as the road winds around the butte. After approximately 1.5 miles, take the sharp left onto FR 122 and continue to the top of the butte. The Fivemile Butte Lookout Tower was first constructed in 1934, though heavy snows took their toll on the original building. The current structure dates back to 1957. On a clear day the views of Mt. Hood are dramatic, even from the base of the tower.
Return by the same route, or for a longer seven-mile loop, return to Forest Road 120 and continue southwest until it meets Forest Road 44 near the intersection with Eightmile Creek. Head east on 44 to return the Billy Bob Sno-Park.
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.