Since it is only a little over 60 miles from Portland, the White River West Sno-Park gets a lot of use, but much of that traffic stays within a half-mile of the enormous parking lot. Part of the reason is that even the views from the parking lot are gorgeous, and the crowds are usually sledding or taking shorter snowshoe or ski trips. So although you don’t need to go very far to enjoy this incredible valley, the rewards increase exponentially for those willing to increase their range.
The farther you are able to go up the river, the more the crowds will dwindle and the closer you'll get to Mount Hood. The trail starts climbing immediately upon leaving the Sno-Park and the river is always on your right. Before too long you will reach an old quarry, and this is where many turn around. If you are out for a longer ski, stay left and climb above the quarry. Look for tracks and the occasional trail marker, or just stay on the ridge above the river as you keep climbing up the valley. After approximately 2 miles you will reach a fantastic view point and a good spot to turn around.
If you have metal-edged backcountry skis, consider bringing them along for this trip. If you do find any tracks, chances are they won’t be in great shape, and metal edges will help you manage them. Additionally, much of the downhill return is steep enough to warrant the extra control the metal edges provide. That said, traditional cross-country skis will also get the job done, and snowshoes always suffice. And it’s a good idea to check avalanche conditions before you go. Visit the Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center site and make sure you understand the snow conditions before going too far.
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.