Best Hikes in Mount Hood National Forest (OR)

Mount Hood National Forest Overview

Mount Hood National Forest is located just east of the city of Portland, OR and offers an incredible outdoors experience just a short drive away from a big city. The forest shares its northern border with the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area and its southern border with Willamette National Forest. The forest derives its name from Mt. Hood, an 11,249′ stratovolcano and the highest point in Oregon. Mount Hood National Forest is one of the most-visited in the United States, with over four million people exploring it annually, but less than five percent of the visitors camp. There are recreational opportunities aplenty here as well. Backpacking the Timberline Trail around Mt. Hood, fishing, horseback riding, mountain climbing, or hiking one of the best hikes in Mount Hood National Forest below, are all popular activities.

StateOregon
Nearest Metro AreaPortland, OR
Area Size1,071,466 acres
EstablishedJuly 1, 1908
Hiking Trails1,000 miles

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Trailhead Traveler’s Recommended Best Hikes in Mount Hood National Forest

(*** = best hikes in Mount Hood National Forest)

Burnt Lake Trail #772 – 7.5 miles out and back
Mount Hood and Burnt Lake
Mount Hood and Burnt Lake, Photo by David Prasad

This trail enters the Mt. Hood Wilderness Area on the west side of Mount Hood. This trail accesses Burnt Lake and Zigzag Mountain with views above treeline. The north side also has wonderful old cedar snags showing remnants of a wildfire that came through around 1900. The trail continues south another few miles but returning back to the trailhead after a loop around the lake is your best bet.

Mirror Lake Loop #664*** – 4.4 mile loop
Mirror Lake and Mt. Hood in OR
Mirror Lake and Mt. Hood, Photo by Jeff Hollett

Views of Mt Hood from a small backcountry lake are a big draw for this trail and make it one of the best hikes in Mount Hood National Forest. Mirror Lake is a classic glacial cirque lake. The steep slopes south and southwest of Mirror Lake are the glacier cirque headwall. The trail to the lake is heavily visited and is kid friendly for the adventurous family.  Hiking beyond the lake up to Tom Dick and Harry Ridge and into the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness is a more challenging hike with a view of the Cascade Range.

Ramona Falls Trail #797*** – 7.0 mile loop
Ramona Falls in OR
Ramona Falls, Photo by Jeff Hollett

Ramona Falls is a jewel drawing visitors to the area and makes this one of the best hikes in Mount Hood National Forest. The Sandy River, a designated Wild and Scenic River, is a dramatic example of the forces that a glacial fed river can bring forth to change the landscape. Physical signs of a volcanic debris flow from over 200 years ago are evident where the trail is near the Sandy River. Hikers should be prepared to turn back or wait for a more suitable time to cross if it appears to be too dangerous.

Salmon River Trail #742 – 9.4 miles out and back
Salmon River and Forest-Mt Hood
Salmon River and Forest, Photo by U.S. Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region

This trail accesses the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness Area and travels through mossy old growth forest next to the wild and scenic Salmon River. The trail generally follows gentle terrain, but there are several steep sections along the way. The full length of the trail is 14.0 miles one-way but several established campsites along the way make it an excellent choice for backpacking.

Tamanawas Falls Trail #650A*** – 3.2 miles out and back
Tamanawas Falls, Oregon
Tamanawas Falls, Photo by Bonnie Moreland

This trail is found on the east slope of Mount Hood and follows the Cold Spring Creek. It is an ideal destination to cool off on a hot summer afternoon. The falls are approximately 100 feet high and 40 feet wide. A longer 5 mile loop using the Elk Meadows Trail is also an option.

Tilly Jane Trail #600A + Cooper Spur #600B*** – 8.8 miles out and back
Summer Mt Hood; Cooper Spur
Summer Mt Hood; Cooper Spur, Photo by Andrew Osborn

Increasing elevation and altitude make this a difficult trail but it provides some of the best up close and personal views of Mt. Hood that day hikers can access. This trail begins at Cloud Cap Saddle Campground and climbs up Tilly Jane Trail until it comes to a shelter and junction with Timberline Trail. From there it quickly climbs to several soaring viewpoints above the spectacular Eliot Glacier en route to the rocky crest of Cooper Spur, the highest point on the mountain that can be reached by trail. 

Top Spur Trail #785 to McNeil Point – 10.2 miles out and back
McNeil Point
McNeil Point, Photo by Wes R

Similar to the hike to Cooper Spur (above), this beautiful but challenging trail ascends a spur trail off of the Timberline Trail to McNeil shelter on the upper north flanks of Mt. Hood with outstanding views. Start out at the Top Spur Trailhead and head south on the Timberline Trail after a quick jaunt on the PCT – this route provides a much more scenic path via Bald Mountain. Continue on to the historic McNeil stone shelter where you can even see Mount Saint Helens and Mt. Rainier on a clear day.

Trillium Lake Loop #761 – 1.9 mile loop
Trillium Lake, Oregon
Trillium Lake, Photo by Bonnie Moreland

The Trillium Lake Trail goes around Trillium Lake and through Trillium Lake Campground. There are great views of Mount Hood along this trail. The trail crosses wetlands that provide bird watching opportunities. Its distance and easy terrain make it a great family hike, particularly for those with strollers or with limited mobility.

Umbrella Falls + Sahalie Falls Loop #667 – 6.9 mile loop
Sahalie Falls
Sahalie Falls, Photo by David Wood

The trail passes Umbrella Falls on the way to the Mount Hood Meadows Ski Area. On the way back from the falls, take a right at the junction with Sahalie Falls as you return to the Trailhead near Forest Road 3545.

Featured Image: Purple twilight on Lost Lake, Oregon, Photo by Bonnie Moreland

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2 Responses

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