Have you ever wished you could ski year-round? In Oregon on Mt. Hood, you can!
Mt. Hood is made up of 11 glaciers and a series of sleepy little towns including Government Camp, Welches, and Zig Zag. After living at the base of Mt. Hood for over ten years and teaching all of my kids to ski here, I’ve got more than a few tips.
Tip #1: Before you head up anywhere on the mountain during the snowy season, remember to always carry snow chains for your tires.
Tip #2: Don’t forget to purchase a snow pass which will allow you to park on the mountain.
Tip #3: If you need ski or snowboard tuning and repair, I recommend Boots and More. Greg is a great guy and does excellent work at fantastic prices.
Ski Year Round!
That’s right, on Mt. Hood you can ski basically year-round. Mt. Hood is home to five ski resorts:
Timberline stays open all year except for two weeks in September. Winter athletes from around the country visit Mt. Hood in the summer to keep training. Timberline has 3690 vertical feet of terrain for beginners, intermediates, and experts. This is the only ski resort in North America open all year.
There’s Noah pictured above last April snowboarding for the first time! Timberline has lessons, but he just popped up and snowboarded down the mountain. I couldn’t believe it. We love skiing in the spring when the snow is still amazing, but it’s not so cold. This year we will easily be skiing until the end of May.
I think skiing at Timberline is the best on Mt. Hood and Meadows a close second. Because Timberline is located at 6,000 feet on Mt. Hood, the ski area is one of the few where you start at the lodge, ski down and then ride the chairlift back up.
Mt. Hood Meadows
Mt. Hood Meadows is one of the largest ski areas in Oregon offering assorted runs for all skiing and snowboarding abilities. It covers 2,159 acres and offers 240 acres of night skiing!
For beginners, it has a covered magic carpet, which is a conveyor belt skiers can stand on that takes them to the top of a slope. This is ideal for beginners who are not yet ready for the ski lift. Sadly, I can speak from first-hand experience … no one wants to fall off a lift!
Mt. Hood Skibowl
Skibowl has diverse terrain with green, blue, and black runs. Mt. Hood Skibowl is often the most affordable option for what it offers. Night skiing is even cheaper, which is surprising since Skibowl is the largest night skiing area in North America. Located in Government Camp, it is the quickest ski resort to get to from Portland.
Summit Ski Area
Summit Ski Area is perfect for beginners because of its tiny size and the affordability of their ski and snowboard school. Their instruction is the cheapest on Mt. Hood and I consider it a ski area for beginners and kids, but it’s possible I am biased as this is where I taught my kids to ski.
The Summit Ski Area has only one lift that sources skiers to a green run or a blue run.
Random Fact: Summit Ski Area is the second oldest continuously operating ski area in the United States, established in 1927.
Cooper Spur is a lesser-known ski spot on Mt. Hood. It’s a great ski area for beginners with one lift and only 10 runs. I find that there are many locals that have never heard of Cooper Spur, which means it is rarely crowded.
It’s Not Just Skiing!
Skiing is just one of the many snow activities on Mt. Hood. They also have tubing, sightseeing, hiking, sledding, horseback riding and more.
SkiBowl is home to a one-of-a-kind snow tubing experience, Skibowl’s night time cosmic tubing. During cosmic tubing, they blast pop-rock music over large speakers and light up the hill with black and colored lights. This is the only place in the United States that offers cosmic tubing.
Snow tubing is also available at Summit Ski Area and Copper Spur.
If you do not want to pay for snow tubing you certainly don’t need to. There is an abundance of snow parks where you can sled for free with your own gear instead. We recommend Snow Bunny, Glacier View Sno Park and Trailhead, and Little John Sno Park.
Snowshoe out to a glistening frozen lake that looks like it came straight from the pages of a fairy tale hidden in a forest untouched by visitors. With more than 1,200 trails to snowshoe and hike around Mt. Hood territory, this list could get lengthy! I’m sticking with a few popular hikes that can be hiked year-round.
Remember that the snow levels can get extreme during any month, so it is important to always check in with a Ranger Station to find out snow conditions before you hike any of Mt. Hood’s trails.
Trillium Lake is a 4.4 mile snowshoe hike during the winter with an incredible payoff, an amazing view of the frozen Trillium Lake and Mt. Hood. The trail is gentle and well groomed. You can also cross-country ski around this lake.
Little Zigzag Falls
This is a quick 1-mile round-trip hike perfect for those hiking with kids.
Wildwood Recreation Site
This recreation area offers hiking trails for any experience level, including boardwalks. The Cascade Streamwatch Trail is an accessible, 3/4-mile paved loop that features quality educational displays and picturesque views of the Salmon River, including a fish viewing window below the stream level. The fish viewing is amazing when the salmon are running in the fall. The Wetlands Trail is an accessible, 3/4-mile loop trail leading to the more challenging Boulder Ridge Trail, a 4.7-mile hike up the steep slopes of Huckleberry Mountain into the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness. These trails can have snow on them in winter depending on the snow level.
Should You Climb Mt. Hood?
For most people, the answer is absolutely not. Mt. Hood is the second most climbed mountain in the world, but I am certainly not going to suggest you head out to climb it.
Mt. Hood rises 11,239 feet above sea level (USGS), and its base spreads over 92 square miles. If you want to hike there are plenty of fantastic trails to pick from that are safe. There are people that climb Mt. Hood every year, but they have trained and often know the mountain well or they have hired someone to take them up. If you are in good shape and have trained to climb Mt. Hood you can estimate 4-7 hours to the summit. Other climbers should prepare for a longer climb, maybe 6-9 hours.
The weather on Mt. Hood can change rapidly, so if this is something you are determined to do research, research, research. And when in doubt, cancel your climb. It’s not worth the risk.
Note: I suggest not climbing, but I do recommend hiking.
Mt. Hood hiking is unbeatable. Here are a few of our favorites.
Mt. Hood Meadows: Mt. Hood Meadows offers a scenic chairlift in the summer that will take you far enough up that you will have lots of hiking options. On the way up and down you can enjoy sweeping views of Mt. Hood.
Trillium Lake: One of the most popular places for a hike is Trillium Lake. Trillium lake is a man-made lake built in the Summit Meadows area near Government Camp offering year-round recreational opportunities. You can snowshoe and cross-country ski to the lake in the winter. (I was so surprised when I found out this was a man-made lake. I thought this was only done in drier states with few natural lakes like Texas.)
Little Zigzag Falls: A super simple hike, just a mile round trip.
Mt. Hood Restaurants
To be honest, I do not think there are a lot of good dining options on Mt. Hood. There are a few worth mentioning.
Y Bar at Timberline Lodge
After a long day of skiing at Timberline pop into the Y bar for a treat. Their s’more’s dip and the hot chocolate are both wonderful.
If you need some regular food that isn’t pure sugar the nachos are a good option for splitting.
If you are headed up the mountain through Sandy be sure to stop at Joe’s Donuts. You can have them for a snack or for breakfast.
Until I had the chicken alfredo at Ratskellers, I never understood why anyone would order chicken alfredo over another option. But once I tried their version, it completely opened my eyes. It’s everything it’s supposed to be, creamy cheesy perfection.
After finishing up on the slopes, you must stop in for their famous Huckleberry shake, huckleberry pie, or a maple bacon bar. Huckleberry Inn is located in Government Camp and open 24 hours a day.
Blue Ox Bar
This unique bar used to be a wood storage area, but was converted into a bar in 1937 when the lodge opened and someone realized that there was no bar. They keep a bourbon cocktail on tap, “Hohnstein’s Dancing On The Bar Again” made with oak-aged bourbon, huckleberry syrup, apple shrub infused with black pepper, fresh thyme, lemon & ginger served on the rocks with a splash of club soda.
Where to Stay on Mt. Hood
After staying at many places I can wholeheartedly recommend these three as my top picks:
If ski in/ski out accommodations is what you seek, then this is where you should stay. Why? Because Timberline Lodge is the only ski-in/ski-out lodge in the state of Oregon. Just because this is the only option does not mean you are compromising on quality, this beautiful lodge is a National Historic Landmark and overall a wonderful place to stay.
Best Western Government Camp
One of our family’s favorite places to stay on Mt. Hood is the Best Western located in Government Camp. The location is fantastic, near Timberline and even closer to Skibowl. It also doesn’t hurt that almost every restaurant up there is in Government Camp! This Best Western has rooms with two queen beds, a microwave, and a refrigerator in them. Plus, there is a complimentary full breakfast. If you are planning on skiing Timberline, keep in mind that Best Western guests can purchase discounted lift tickets at the hotel.
Resort at the Mountain
The Resort at the Mountain in Welches is an excellent place to stay. Fireside rooms are cozy with real log fireplaces, perfect for warming you up on a cold night. They have a golf course on-site and the location is close to hiking and skiing.