As a Mount Hood regular, it's been a winter season worth forgetting. But as a Mount Hood regular summer hiker, with trails that should be covered by feet of snow, it's already time to get back out on the trail. Here are five of my favorite hikes on Mount Hood and in the nearby vicinity that I can't usually get to in the spring. These are the lesser known trails, so regardless of the time of year, expect fewer people than some of the other trails on Mount Hood's slopes and environs.
McNeil Point is arguably one of the best vantage points of Mount Hood looking up the west slope of the mountain's face. The trailhead can be hard to find, but once you're making your way around Bald Mountain on the way to McNeil Point, you'll have great views and old-growth forest to hike through. For the ambitious adventurer with the requisite mountaineering skills, the trail to the Sandy Glacier Ice Caves proceeds from the McNeil Point Shelter.
This hike along the Muddy Fork of the Sandy River is fed by the Sandy Glacier. During this warm winter, you can hike at the snow line. With relatively little elevation gain, the trail provides interesting and less-often seen aspects of Mount Hood, which looms above for the entire hike. Keep an eye out for the sword in the stone.
The hardest part of the Owl Point hike is the bumpy gravel road to the trailhead. From the summit of Owl Point, you'll have an impressive view of Mount Hood and also get to see the extent of the Dollar Ridge fire from 2011. The trail starts at 4,500 feet elevation, so it may be too snowy to reach quite yet, but barring a large snow dump in the spring, this trail will be accessible much earlier this year.
The trail to Burnt Lake is fairly well known and popular in the summer months, but it is on this list since it's accessible so much earlier this year. So set out onto this trail now, and avoid the summer rush. By continuing past Burnt Lake to the summit of Zigzag Mountain, the traffic drops off considerably even during the busiest of summer days.
The Hunchback Mountain trail starts from beyond the Zigzag Ranger Station and proceeds up a steep forested ridge. The elevation gain on this hike is almost entirely in the first 2 miles, and it's substantial. Although there are fewer iconic views of Mount Hood along the hike, make sure to take a rest at the Rockpile viewpoint to get a good look at the mountain. Keep going to get to the amazing views overlooking the Salmon River Canyon.