Pioneers nearing the end of their journey were greeted to the snow-capped peaks of 11,245-foot Mount Hood. These days, backpackers are still awed by the natural wonders found on the 1,200-miles of trails within the Mount Hood National Forest.
And the little town of Hood River, located 58 miles east of Portland, Oregon, is the hiking mecca of the Pacific Northwest. “The Mount Hood National Forest has endless opportunities for hikers in search of backcountry experiences,” says Jeree Mills of the U.S. Forest Service.
Cascading waterfalls, alpine lakes, old-growth forests and meadows filled with wildflowers are just some of the scenery one encounters on the trail system here. If you visit the Hood River Valley during the springtime, you’ll be treated to apple blossoms and the chance to fuel up on the abundant lush berries found alongside the trails. And if that is not enough, 189,200 acres have been set aside as wilderness area. Choose from the Salmon-Huckleberry, Bulls of the Woods, Badger Creek, Hatfield and Mount Hood Wilderness Areas.
Great trails are within a 35-minute drive of town. Hike the 12.2-mile Surveyor’s Ridge Trail (an out and back); the 4.5-mile Cloudcap Saddle Trail (scenic views); the 20-mile Salmon River Trail (old-growth); the 7-mile Lookout Mountain Trail (wheelchair accessible); and if you’re looking for a great loop, combine the Umbrella Falls with Sahalie Falls Trail for a 7-mile trek. And for a 360-degree view of Mount Hood, try the 42 miles of Trail 600.
After the trails, in town, rest your “dogs” at the Fullsail Brewery; sample the fare at the 6th Street Bistro or sip a tall one at Brian’s Pour House. Gear hunters may search for bargains at 2nd Wind Sports and the Cascade Adventure Center.
Other outdoor excursions close to town include the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area (along Interstate 84) and the Gifford Pinchot National Forest (across the Columbia River in Washington).
Lewis and Clark made their way through the area in the early 1800s and it’s too bad the town wasn’t around then or they might not have ever left!
Before you hit the trails pick up a copy of Russ Schneider’s “Hiking the Columbia River Gorge” ($12.95, Falcon Press, 800-582-2665).
For more information, contact: Mount Hood Information Center, 6500 E. Highway 26, Welches, OR 97067, 503-622-7674.