Mount Hood is the most visited snow-covered mountain in the United States, and it’s not hard to see why. The pristine scenery is a joy to behold, the crisp air is revitalizing, and the mountain itself is one of the easiest peaks to climb in the Pacific Northwest.
While Mount Hood should definitely be one of your main points of focus during your trip, visiting it shouldn’t be the only thing on your itinerary. There are dozens of awesome activities in the area for you and your family to take part in.
So if you’re not sure what to do after you checking out the mountain, this comprehensive list of things to do around Mount Hood should definitely help.
Starting off this list is Timberline Lodge, a historic landmark built in the 1930s. While you would typically avoid visiting any lodges that you weren’t planning on staying overnight at, you need to make an exception for this one. It’s fantastic.
The first thing you’ll notice when you visit Timberline is the incredible architecture and handiwork in the building’s walls and structure. Built entirely out of local materials as part of a Works Progress Administration project, the lodge has been providing both shelter and amazement to visitors for nearly a hundred years.
The lobby of the lodge is particularly beautiful, as it contains a number of stone, iron, and wood-based art. You’ll also find a variety of historical exhibits that explain the history of the lodge and the surrounding area.
Although I’ve been focusing on the historical aspects of Timberline Lodge, this place is also a great place for those who don’t care much for history to visit. The lodge has numerous dining options, a gear shop for those planning to conquer the mountain, and gift shops filled with Mount Hood souvenirs. You can even take the Magic Mile Sky Ride up to 7,000 feet of elevation ‒ we’ll talk more about this option later in the article.
While the historical artifacts and gift shops do bring in some people, the primary appeal of Timberline is definitely the access to skiing, snowboarding, and biking. We’ll cover these activities in the next couple of sections.
Skiing and Snowboarding
Skiers and snowboarders visiting the area will find the steep, snow-covered slopes of Mount Hood a fantastic place to tear up some powder.
The most popular location for snow sports is almost certainly the Timberline Ski Area. Situated near the Timberline Lodge, it’s the only ski spot in North America open during every month of the year. Situated near the top of Mount Hood, visitors to this ski area will have access to more than 3,600 vertical feet to ski or snowboard down. Mount Hood is also the tallest mountain in all of Oregon, which will only add to the experience.
The Timberline Ski Area has a total of 35 runs, the longest of which spans more than 3.1 miles from top to bottom. There are 7 chairlifts servicing the 1,430 acres of skiable land, the highest of which goes up to more than 8,500 feet in elevation. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, Timberline also offers night skiing and terrain parks for those experienced enough to handle them.
Cycling enthusiasts will love taking a ride through the Timberline Bike Park. This park is brand new as of 2019, and contains a bunch of trails and features geared toward riders of all skill levels.
Once you buy a lift ticket, you and your bike can take a chairlift up the side of Mount Hood. Once you get off, you can ride down one of six trails that are currently open to the public. Timberline plans on doubling this network of trails in the next year, so visitors in 2020 and beyond will have access to an even larger selection of bike trails.
Some of the features geared toward experts include bridges, jumps, rails, and other items that will let you get some pretty big air.
If you do plan on attending the Timberline Bike Park, you should know that all riders must have the following items before getting on a lift:
- Lift ticket
- A helmet
- Closed-toe shoes
- Working front and rear bike brakes
No trip to Mount Hood is complete without hiking at least one of the dozens of trails that lead up the mountain and into the surrounding wilderness. While the snowy peaks near the mountain’s summit are thought to be the highlight of the scenery in the area, the forests around Mount Hood are spectacularly pristine and well worth some additional physical effort to see them.
There are far too many worthwhile hikes to mention them all here. If you’d like a comprehensive list of the most popular hikes near Mount Hood, you can view it here: Most Popular Hikes near Mount Hood
Scenic Driving Tours
If walking long distances over uneven terrain isn’t really your thing, you can still get up close and personal with the flora and fauna of Mount Hood by taking a scenic driving tour. Some of the more popular roads in the area include the Columbia River Gorge Scenic Highway, the Hood River Fruit Loop, and the Mount Hood Highway.
Columbia River Gorge Scenic Highway
Driving the Columbia River Gorge Scenic Highway will treat you to a beautiful combination of flowing rivers, sparkling waterfalls, diverse fauna, and the famous Columbia River Gorge.
As far as waterfalls go, this route will take you past five spectacular ones: Bridal Veil, Wahkeenah, Sheppard’s Dell, Latourell, and Multnomah Falls.
If you only have time to stop at one of these, I recommend Multnomah Falls. At 611 feet tall, this magnificent waterfall is the second highest in the United States, making it one of the coolest places within half an hour’s drive of Portland.
Once you’ve taken in the Falls, you can head over to the Multnomah Falls Lodge, which is another historic lodge built in the 1900s. You can find a restaurant serving authentic Pacific Northwest cuisine, a gift shop with Multnomah Falls and Mount Hood souvenirs, a U.S. Forest Service Information Center stocked with trail maps, and a particularly nice view of the Falls.
If you do plan on visiting Multnomah Falls, here are a few tips to make your visit a bit better:
- Pets are allowed at the Falls. If you’re traveling with your dog, feel free to bring them along.
- Unlike many of the natural attractions around Mount Hood, you don’t need a Northwest Forest Pass to park.
- The mist from the Falls can make the air noticeably chillier. Bring a sweatshirt or coat depending on the season.
Hood River Fruit Loop
The Hood River Fruit Loop is a route that takes you to about 30 food and drink stands in the Hood River Valley area.
As you make your way around the loop, you’ll be able to get fruits, vegetables, wine, cider, flowers, and other kinds of food and drink. Here are a few of the highlights you’ll find as you make your way around this scenic and delicious drive:
- Apple Valley Country Store
- Cathedral Ridge Winery
- Grateful Vineyard
- Hood River U-Pick Organic
- Montavon’s Berries
- The Gorge White House Fruit Stand and Winery
If you like getting free stuff, the Fruit Loop is definitely an attraction that will appeal to you. Many of the stalls offer free samples, and anyone who visits at least 14 stalls can request a free market bag in the mail. If you want to get the bag, make sure you get your Fruit Loop brochure stamped by each eatery you visit. The organization that manages the Fruit Loop won’t give you a bag unless you have the stamps.
Mount Hood Highway
The Mount Hood Highway starts at the Troutdale Bridge, 16 miles to the east of Portland. If you want a taste of every environment the Pacific Northwest has to offer, this is the drive to go on. You’ll start off traveling through leafy rainforest, head into the old-growth fir forests of the Cascade uplands, and finish off passing the meadows and lakes around the Hood RIver Valley.
The distance of this drive is a little over 100 miles, and will take you a bit over 3 hours if you drive straight through. However, I recommend giving yourself at least 6 hours to stop and appreciate the many interesting landmarks just off the side of the road.
While I’ve already mentioned hiking as something to do, the Cascade Streamwatch is a trail that deserves special mention.
Located along the federally protected Salmon River, this paved and easily accessible trail has some interesting features that the other trails at Mount Hood lack. One of these is the underwater viewing area, which allows you to look at the entire length of a forest pool through a thick pane of glass. This glimpse into the underwater world is something you would otherwise need an oxygen tank and a pair of crystal clear goggles to experience, so getting the chance to view this from a safe and dry location is really something special.
Mount Hood Railroad
If you’d prefer to explore the Mount Hood area by train instead of by car or foot, get a ticket for the Mount Hood Railroad. This train takes you on a 4.5 hour trek through the Columbia River Gorge and up to the base of Mount Hood.
If you prefer entertainment to pure sight-seeing, the Mount Hood railroad still has something to offer. Themed rides are scheduled regularly throughout the season. This includes a family-friendly murder mystery ride, a western train robbery ride, and a ride that stops off in scenic Parkdale.
The train does serve concessions and drinks while operating, so you don’t technically need to bring a lunch with you. However, these food items can be less than fulfilling, so you might want to prepare for the day-long event by bringing something with you anyway. Many of the rides also involve stops in some really scenic areas, so having the chance to picnic in these locations is definitely worth it.
The prices on the railroad are decent.
- Adult prices on the Parkdale trip range from $35 for standard class to $55 for diamond class.
- Child prices on the Parkdale trip range from $30 for standard class to $50 for diamond class.
- Adult prices on themed trips range from $45 for standard class to $65 for diamond class.
- Child prices on themed trips range from $40 for standard class to $60 for diamond class.
If you do visit the town of Parkdale ‒ whether by train or by car ‒ you should check out the Hutson Museum while you’re there. This local museum is situated on a two-acre protected site near the tracks of the Mount Hood Railroad.
Described by visitors as “eclectic”, it features exhibits that showcase rock collections, military artifacts from World War I and World War II, Native American artifacts, and memorabilia collected from the Parkdale locals over the years. There is also a botanical garden next to the museum, which contains plants native to the surrounding area.
Mount Hood Cultural Center and Museum
If the Hutson Museum leaves you wanting a more traditional museum experience, the Mount Hood Cultural Center and Museum has you covered. The exhibits contained in this museum are all based on the history of Mount Hood. This includes:
- The history of the forests and the flora and fauna contained within them
- The discovery and early exploration of Mount Hood
- An art gallery containing pieces from local artists
- An overview of winter sports in the area
- The history of when and where different groups of people settled
- An overview of mountain climbing in the area
- An in-depth history of the Mount Hood National Forest
The museum contains a bookstore where you can purchase books about Mount Hood and souvenirs to commemorate your visit. There are also special exhibits and interactive programs held throughout the year, so check the museum website and see if any well be going on while you’re in the area.
Trillium Lake is a picturesque lake located near the base of Mount Hood. A trip to this lake will give you the chance to do a bunch of fun stuff:
- Launch a canoe or kayak from the boat ramp and spend a day on the water.
- Brave the cold waters and go for a swim.
- Grab your fishing rod and try to catch some of the local trout.
- Walk the easy and accessible Trillium Shore Trail.
- Go for a hike on some of the other trails in the area.
- Go for a bike ride on some of the other trails in the area.
- Tour some of the historic spots located near Trillium Lake.
- Pitch a tent and spend the night at the Trillium Lake campground.
I want to expand further on the last bullet point, as camping at Trillium Lake is one of the more fun and popular experiences you can have while visiting Mount Hood. If you do decide to take advantage of the campground, here are some things you should know before doing so:
- There are dozens of single and double sites available for both tents and RVs.
- Some of these sites operate on a first-come first-served basis, but others require advance reservation.
- Most parking spots are on pavement, though some are still predominantly gravel.
- Public toilets and drinking water are both available.
- Each camping site has a campfire ring, grill, and table for cooking and eating.
- Larger groups (up to 30 people) can use the picnic shelter for meals and the amphitheater for special events.
Whether you decide to camp or just make a day of it, the educational programs held regularly at the campsite shouldn’t be ignored. They offer a fascinating and interactive look into the area’s history, and can provide an even more interesting look into Mount Hood’s past than the local museums can.
Hot Air Balloon Ride
Visitors willing to pay a bit extra for an ultimate bird’s eye view of the Mount Hood area can take a hot air balloon tour.
If you’re interested in a hot air balloon ride, the tours offered by Portland Rose Balloons are a great option. Conveniently located less than 15 minutes from Portland, this company provides you with a comprehensive ballooning experience. Here are some of the highlights:
- When you arrive for the launch, you’ll be given the opportunity to help with the balloon inflation ‒ something that many balloon companies wouldn’t dream of doing.
- Most trips typically start in the early morning hours, so you’ll get to watch the sun rise over Mount Hood and illuminate the valleys below it.
- The direction you take is partially dependent on the direction the wind is blowing. The usual wind patterns will take you over the Willamette River, over a vast expanse of dense forest, or over some of the state’s most prestigious vineyards and farmlands.
- Once you land, you’ll be offered a champagne toast (as long as you’re at least 21) and given a chance to chat with the other passengers and the flight crew.
While the experience is amazing, the certainly isn’t cheap,
- Parties of three or less cost $199 per adult.
- Parties of four or more cost $185 per adult.
- Children ages 5-12 are $145.
- Portland Rose Balloons also offers an engagement/romance package. This private flight costs $740 per couple.
If you want a more intense experience in the sky, there are numerous skydiving companies in the Portland and Mount Hood area.
One of the most prominent and experienced companies around is Skydive Oregon. Although it’s a bit of a drive ‒ just over two hours from the base of Mount Hood ‒ the thrilling feeling of jumping out of a plane over such amazing scenery is worth the time and effort.
One of the biggest reasons Skydive Oregon is so popular is their perfect safety record and over 30 years of experience. Over 130,000 people have been trained and jumped from Skydive Oregon’s planes, and every single one has landed safely. The main reason for this is the high quality of the instructors ‒ the average Skydive Oregon instructor has over eight years of skydiving experience and more than 2500 skydives under their belts.
If you have family or friends with you who aren’t interested in jumping, Skydive Oregon does have a spectator section that they can wait in. This area has picnic tables and benches in a shaded porch area, so anyone watching can do so in relative comfort. It’s also located right across from the aircraft loading area, so photographers in the group can snap photos of the jumpers boarding the plane, taking off from the ground, and landing safely in their parachutes.
Note: If you have a dog with you on your trip, you can’t bring them into the airport. Visitors who are planning to bring their dogs and also want to go skydiving may need to rethink one of those two parts of their trip.
Swan Island Dahlia Farm
The Swan Island Dahlia Farm is located in the Willamette Valley, which is about two and a half hours from Mount Hood. This is another attraction that is a bit far from the Mount Hood area, but it’s basically a must-see for flower lovers who are visiting the area around Portland.
In business for nearly a century, the Swan Island Dahlia Farm has grown to become the largest grower of dahlias in the United States. Operating on nearly 40 acres, the Farm runs a bustling retail, mail order, and wholesale business.
That’s cool, but what’s in it for you?
Well, the dahlia fields are open to the public from early August into early October. If you come to the farm at any time between 8am and 6pm, you can walk through and take pictures of the largest dahlia farm in the country. Visitors who don’t feel up to walking through 35 acres of farmland can view samples of each type of dahlia on the path leading to the fields. There are also numerous picnic tables placed throughout the Farm, potentially making this the most beautiful picnic spot in all of the Pacific Northwest.
If you want to remember your trip to Swan Island Dahlia Farm, they also have a gift shop open to the public all year round. Many of the souvenirs involve flowers, though a surprising number pertain to the mountainous region around the area too.
Note: Outside food and drink is permitted, though alcohol is not. You are free to take pictures, but drones are not allowed to be flown above the Farm.
Canoeing and Kayaking
No trip to Mount Hood is complete without a trip on the water of one of the pristine lakes surrounding the mountain’s base. Most of the lakes in the area have some kind of boat access point for you to slide a canoe or kayak into, and the area-wide ban on motorboats will ensure the entirety of your boating trip remains quiet and peaceful.
If you don’t have a canoe or kayak, there are plenty of rental shops in the area you can get one from. One option is Mt Hood Outfitters, which is located in the town of Government Camp. They service four of the most popular lakes around Mount Hood: Trillium Lake, Clear Lake, Timothy Lake, and Frog Lake.
If you’re looking to get a rental on a whim, your best bet is to hit up Trillium Lake. Mt Hood Outfitters has a station there where they rent out boats directly. The one caveat is that Trillium Lake can also get pretty popular during the peak of summer, so you might find that all of the boats are rented out by the time you get there. If you are planning an impromptu kayak trip, your best bet is to call Mt Hood Outfitters and check on their boat availability before making the drive.
River tubing down the waterways near Mount Hood is a unique and rather intense way to experience the pristine wilderness surrounding the mountain. Mt Hood Outfitters ‒ the company that offers the boat rentals we discussed in the previous section ‒ also offers guided rafting trips down three particularly exciting rivers: the Deschutes River, White Salmon River, and the Clackamas River.
Each river is rated at Class III, which means they can have waves that reach three feet in height. Class III rivers can also contain obstacles like logs or rocks, but there should be relatively few of them. Class III rivers are relatively tame, and should be suitable for most people.
Each river is located about 75 minutes away from Mount Hood. Prices depend on the river, but range from $55-$70 for adults and $45-$55 for children under the age of 12. If you come in a group of 13 or more, they do offer a volume discount.