Mt. Hood may be an icon of northern Oregon, and its Timberline Trail may be epic with backpackers, but it also offers some great day hiking. The scenery can be a bit varied, too – waterfalls, lakes, meadows, rock scrambles, glaciers, historic huts and fire lookout sites, and more, not to mention great views of the big peak, Columbia River, three volcanoes in Washington (and another in Oregon), and the fields and near-desert to the south and east. Sound pretty epic? It is!
I first visited Mt. Hood in 2010 en route between San Francisco (who wouldn’t want to hike the Golden Gate Bridge?) and the Olympic Peninsula, where we were scheduled to meet up with (my) childhood friends. We couldn’t really do the area justice, being on a time schedule, but we figured out it was nice enough, we’ve returned more than once for a whole lot more trails!
So here are 10 of my favorite day hiking destinations on Mt. Hood, in no particular order! All trail distance is round trip 🙂
10 of the Best Day Hikes on & around Mt. Hood
Lookout Mountain. Short and sweet, but the trail up has some quite epic views of Mt. Hood’s eastern flanks. It’s not hard to spot other hikes on the mountain, too, like Cooper Spur. The peak once hosted a fire lookout. 3 mile loop.
Rock Pile. For another epic, slightly distant, view, this time from the north, try the Rock Pile along a long disused trail kept up by volunteers. 4.2 miles out & back.
Elk Meadows. If meadows and waterfalls are more your thing, try the trek to Elk Meadows, alive with wildflowers in season and with views of Mt. Hood any time of year (assuming the mountain isn’t socked in). About 6.8 mile lollipop loop.
Elliot Glacier Overlook / CCC Warming Hut. Located below the famous Cooper Spur (we’ll get to that in a minute), the views over the Elliot Glacier are jaw-dropping. Crevasses, deep and blue, pit the glacier’s surface, while downstream, views extend over the Columbia River to Mt. Adams, Mt. St. Helens, and Mt. Rainier. And to top it off, enjoy a stone hut constructed buy the Civilian Conservation Corp. About 2.5 miles out & back.
Red Hill. You won’t read about Red Hill in most commentaries on Mt. Hood, but that may be because there is no trail to the summit, and the closest trail the Forest Service has long ignored / discouraged the use of. Still, the views from the top are pretty far-reaching and I was disappointed that Mt. Hood was clouded in during my visit. About 4.4 miles out & back.
McNeil Point. Another north-side hike, McNeil Point offers some really good views of Mt. Hood. There might be other views, as well, but since I hiked it in the fog and rain (and sleet, and snow), it was a challenge to see beyond the profuse wildflowers five feet away. So it was a terrific rainy day hike, and would be even better on a clear day! 10.5 miles out & back from the Mazama Trailhead
Mirror Lake. Mirror Lakes is just one of those short, outstanding trails one finds so very occasionally. Start with a waterfall next to the parking area, then ascend the steep trail to wander around the placid lake with reflections of the big mountain. About 3 mile lollipop loop.
Gnarl Ridge. If outstanding is your aim, rugged is your game, and wildflowers and waterfalls make your heart skip, don’t miss out on Gnarl Ridge. Spectacular may not quite do it justice… 9.8-12.5 mile out & back or out & back with spur loop.
Owl Point. While not well known or well-visited, Owl Point is pretty epic in terms of views. Between you and the mountain is only one large valley. Multiple viewpoints along the way offer slightly varying views. 4.0-5.7 miles out & back (depending on how many spurs you take)
Cooper Spur. They say to save the best for last, so here’s my all-time favorite! The trail is steep, but the views of Mt. Hood’s peak, the Elliot Glacier below, Mt. Jefferson, Mt. Adams, Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, the Columbia River, surrounding farmland, and the near-desert of eastern Oregon makes this one terrific hike. And if you get the hankering, you can even catch the sunrise from above the parking area. Pretty cool, right? 7.9 miles out & back.
Bald Mountain. If you’re not up to hiking McNeil Point, check out the nearly-as-good hike to Bald Mountain, with epic views to Mt. Hood (it’s on my bucket list!) 2.0 miles out & back.
Zigzag Canyon Overlook. Again, not a long hike, and definitely on my bucket list, the overlook is on the edge of a gaping canyon. 4.4 miles out & back from Timberline Lodge.
For even more Mt. Hood hikes, check out the Oregon Hikers website.
Wednesday Wed Nov 22 30%
Chance of Rain
Cloudy with a few showers. High 57F. Winds light and variable. Chance of rain 30%.
Thursday Thu Nov 23 90%
Periods of rain. High 59F. Winds W at 15 to 25 mph. Chance of rain 90%. Rainfall around a quarter of an inch.
Friday Fri Nov 24 20%
Considerable clouds early. Some decrease in clouds later in the day. High 56F. Winds light and variable.
Saturday Sat Nov 25 100%
Cloudy with periods of rain. High 48F. Winds light and variable. Chance of rain 100%. Rainfall near a quarter of an inch.
Sunday Sun Nov 26 90%
Rain showers in the morning will evolve into a more steady rain in the afternoon. High 54F. Winds NNW at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 90%.