Not far from the government camp area trails that I described in a recent article on Snowshoemag.com is another group of trails near the town of Hood River. Not for the faint of heart, although I’ve included, to the best of my ability, hikes of all skill and endurance levels. For this reason, I have grouped the trails that I have chosen. Approach is via Route 26 and the Mt. Hood Highway. With the exception of Gumjuwac Saddle, the trails described below all start within a few miles of each other.
If you like a challenge and are fit for some verticals, this area is for you. Some of the trails are deep in the woods, a couple in the rain shadow of Mount Hood, some with breathtaking views. There are lodgings in Hood River, Government Camp and also on Mount Hood itself. Visit www.sentiers.com to view topological maps of the area and see details about accommodation in the area.
The season runs from mid-December to March for a few of these outings, but some of the trails aren’t at their best until January and are still snow covered in June, July, or August.
POCKET CREEK – Located in the rain shadow of Mount Hood, this area is a mix of beginner and intermediate trails totaling ten miles in length. The elevation of the trailhead is 3,800 feet, with a total gain of 1,080 feet and choices include round trip routes with beautiful views and intermediate loop routes through the forest. Do not plan on this area until the end of December and the season is over by mid-March.
BILLY BOB – Rated novice to advanced, this area long popular with snowmobilers sits in the rain shadow of Mount Hood, like the Pocket Creek area, but offers you the choice of groomed trails shared with snowmobilers or new trails away from them. Any choice offers a great view and even when the mountain itself is lost in the clouds Billy Bob is often in the sun. The total distance is eight miles and the trailhead is at 3,960 feet, with a gain of 1,100 feet. The season is limited here, from mid-December to the end of March.
COOPER SPUR – This is a ski area located on the northeast side of Mount Hood. Trail options range from beginner to advanced, fourteen miles in total, and include tours of Tilly Jane Sno-Park (described below) which are long uphill efforts for the more advanced, as well as a less strenuous route. in the Weygandt Basin under Cloud Cap Route (area described below.) If you’re looking for some spectacular scenery, the latter gives a view of three volcanoes and doesn’t involve a long climb. The elevation at the trailhead is 3,810 feet and the season runs from early December to early April.
MORE ADVANCED AND LONGER HIKES:
CLOUD CAP INN AND TILLY JANE CREEK – You need to get to the Cloud Cap Inn to get to the Tilly Jane Creek area, although Tilly Jane is an easy three mile getaway with a short season: January through March. Below you, as you walk slowly, you might hear the roar of the stream. Getting to the Cloud Cap Inn, a historic cabin, involves a more challenging loop trail and is 12 miles in total. You should allow four to eight hours and do not choose this outing if you are not in a position to make a long effort uphill. The elevation of the trailhead is 3,900 feet and the season runs from November to April.
SILCOX HUT – This is a great opportunity even in early summer, only two miles total, but this route starts at 5,000 feet and gains 1,290 feet. You’ll climb a mile and be over the woodland line, but if you’re looking for a good workout this might be the climb for you. You’ll be right up there, near the Mount Hood glaciers that feed the Palmer Snowfield, a place ski racers can train year round.
CRATER ROCK – This is backcountry rock climbing and will take you to the Mount Hood alpine area for a total six mile round trip. Higher and you would need technical climbing equipment! You will be above the clouds and enjoy unparalleled views. Allow at least six hours and make sure you’re in good shape for this challenge, but you can plan a season from January to June.
THE HOGSBACK – You are up there at 6,000 feet for the trailhead of this six mile hike on the south side of Mount Hood. If you can see the skiers in the Timberline ski area below, they will appear tiny. The Hogsback is the final staging area for those attempting to climb the mountain, so you’ll see all kinds of gear, clothing, and climbing, from seasoned climber to weekend whipped warrior, as you skip the game. climbing technique and enjoy the fabulous view from this bench along the mountain sides.
SADDLE OF ILLUMINATION – Another backcountry gem, this five-mile round-trip route is sometimes open until August. As above, you are high at 5,800 feet and the trek is five miles. Go early in the morning to ensure snow along your route if you try this in the summer, but it’s worth the climb for the views and the peace up there. You will be right off the beaten path for climbers attempting the summit.
GUMJUWAC SADDLE – A few miles from the trails above this one is rated as more difficult. The route covers five miles and is sure to test you. You will climb in a straight line several switchbacks from 3,600 feet and reach the Upper Hood River Valley, at the edge of Badger Creek Wilderness. This area is rarely visited and you can see hawks and owls, even bear tracks. Just for the sake of peace, this one is worth including in my article. Weather permitting, Mount Hood can pop out of the clouds just for you.
For more information on Mount Hood, visit http://www.mthood.info.