From Portland to Estacada to the Columbia River Gorge and everywhere in-between, Mount Hood is a beacon of adventure and a thunderous addition to Western Oregon's topography. Especially in winter.
Though it's hard to play favorites when it comes to verdant spring, summery dog days, musky fall, and snowy winter on the shoulders of Oregon's tallest mountain, but this 11,250-foot behemoth serves up something for everyone when the temperature drops. For anyone looking to explore snow-blanketed old-growth, quiet, icy lakes, and wide valleys, cross-country skis are choice. As an added bonus, the barrier to entry is relatively low, and most of the areas on this list feature a variety of trails, from beginner to expert.
Please take note that winter weather can shift relatively quickly, and being well-prepared with layering options and route-finding tools can make the difference between an exciting adventure and a bad experience. Be sure to check avalanche reports in any areas with potential exposure (like Heather Canyon Ski + Snowshoe Trail).
Below, you'll find the top five recommended cross-country ski trails to put on your list for winter. Below that you'll find a relatively comprehensive list of Mount Hood's cross-country ski trails.
Though this is one of the most popular cross-country ski areas on the mountain, it's still well worth a trip. Visit on a weekday if you can to minimize the crowds. You'll find an expansive network of well-groomed trails, a cozy warming hut, and stellar Mount Hood views.
Catch this one on a clear day and you'll not only get an in-your-face view of Mount Hood's incredible Wy'East Glacier, but you'll also get a glimmering view of Mount Adams, Mount Rainier, and Mount St. Helens rising triumphantly in a row. The prize at the end of this challenging trail is the historic Tilly Jane A-Frame—a cozy cabin that has served as a refuge for mountaineers and a haven for friends and families since the 1930s.
In the heat of the summer, Trillium Lake is one of Portland's favorite camping destinations and, on a sunny weekend, is awash in RVs, colorful watercrafts, and happy campers. Getting a wintertime perspective is a whole different animal: The 4.5-mile trail is mostly friendly toward novices with several short climbs and is punctuated with fabulous views of Mount Hood framed by tall coniferous trees and the wide lake.
For anyone with a frame of reference that predates the massive 2006 flooding, White River is a marvel of ecological turmoil. What was once a much narrower river valley is now a wide wash that provides a gentle grade for cross-country skiing and a triumphant view of Mount Hood's entire southeastern slope. Be sure to check avalanche conditions before setting out.
This is the longest and most accessible trail in the Government Camp network. Routes here are totally customizable and are generally very easy, though they have a tendency to get tracked out by snowshoers. Setting a shuttle in the Thunderhead area can cut the trip in half, where the Summit Ski Area Lodge awaits with a cold beer or a hot cider—the cherry atop an adventurous cake.