Until the snow starts falling, and even when it’s deep on the ground, getting up into the higher elevations on Mount Hood is always a treat. The mountain’s various faces all provide their own inspiring aspects. Mount Hood is a year-round destination. Although the weather is variable in fall and spring, the winter and summer crowds drop off, and you may even find a bit of hard-earned solitude on the popular and often crowded trails.
In the summer, when the snow has finally melted off of most trails, the subalpine meadows are at the peak of their wildflower blooms. Red and magenta paintbrush, lupine, wooly western pasque flower, pink and yellow monkeyflower, and Cascade aster are just a few of the flowers that fill the mountain slopes and line the creek beds high above 6,000 feet. It’s hard to beat long sunny days with views for hundreds of miles in every direction.
As summer turns to fall, the crisp mountain air returns. Early season snowfall provides a fresh white dusting on the grey glaciers, a prelude of more winter snows to come. With cooler temperatures, the clouds return to the forecast. Hiking through intermittent clouds on the slopes of Mount Hood is a true delight, and occasional glimpses of a summit are all the more alluring.
Want to get the most of out of a visit to Mount Hood? Here are five high-elevation hikes, many with backpacking opportunities, to get you up on Oregon’s highest peak.
Gnarl Ridge is on Mount Hood's eastern side (also called its Hood River). The trail starts at the Elk Meadows Trailhead or at Tilly Jane Campground. It can be looped and also has good backcountry camping options if you are looking to do a Mount Hood backpacking trip.
The view of Mount Hood's rugged western face from McNeil Point is arguably one of its best. The trail can be hard to find a times, and there are a few options to make the there-and-back hike a bit more varied.
Elk Meadows, also on the mountain's eastern flanks, is lower in elevation and considerably easier than the other hikes on this list. But don't let that dissuade you. The views of Mount Hood are impressive, and there are so many places to setup a tent and camp for the night.
Getting to Paradise Park requires a strenuous hike, but if you hit it in wildflower season, the display is overwhelming and sure to offer a beautiful distraction from sore legs. The hike leaves from Timberline Lodge and can be done as a snowshoe in the winter as well.
Cooper Spur runs up the northeastern flank of Mount Hood, and this hike will get you way up the mountain. The views of Mount Hood's nearby summit, and north to Mount Adams and Mount Rainier, make this a must-do hike for anyone who can't get enough Cascade Mountain views.