Trillium Lake would easily win any snowshoe popularity contest. It’s Mt. Hood’s signature trail. In fact, it’s so popular that on a sunny weekend the parking lot is full by 11 a.m.
The trail is a 5-mile loop around the lake. My husband and I walked it in two- and-a-half hours with a couple water breaks and one “hold your nose” bathroom break.
Caution. Make sure to save some energy for the end. There’s a long, steep hill back to the parking area. Anticipate a couple stops on the way up to catch your breath.
We arrived at the Trillium Lake Sno-Park around noon on a Thursday that was alternately sunny and cloudy with snowflakes drifting down periodically. There was fresh snow, but the trail was well groomed and clearly visible.
We decided to go clockwise around the lake. Tracks on the inside of the loop are for cross country skiers and those on the outside are for snowshoers. Going this way, we arrived at the lake in less than an hour . . . it’s about two miles from the start. Once we went over the dam we saw a sign for campgrounds on the left and a short trail to the outhouse.
Basically the trail goes downhill to the lake then uphill to the historic meadow that was a resting area for Oregon Trail pioneers. Here at the Summit Meadow they gathered their strength for the final terrifying descent down Laurel Hill, a steep chute where the wagons were lowered by rope held back by dragging trees.
From Portland, it takes about an hour to drive to Trillium Lake. It’s directly off Hwy. 26 about 3 miles past Government Camp traveling east on the right side.
The parking area holds about 200 cars. Dogs are allowed on a leash. The day we picked to snowshoe the parking area wasn’t even half full and there was an even mix of skiers, snowshoers and dogs.
Sno-Park permits are required. They cost $4 for a daily, $9 for a three-day and $25 for an annual one. They are available at numerous shops in Government Camp, including Ski Bowl, Timberline and Summit ski areas.
There is no bathroom in the parking area, but there’s one across Hwy. 26 at the Snow Bunny Sno-Park. This sledding area is only open weekends and holidays and charges a rental fee for tubes and other snowplay toys. Of course, there’s the bathroom off the loop by the lake.
We recently drove past Trillium on a Saturday around 1 p.m. and there was a line of at least 20 cars waiting to pull into the parking area when someone left.
There are five cabins for rent near the meadow. Access is by snowshoe or cross country skis. For information:http://www.summitmeadow.com.
Rental equipment is available at shops along Hwy. 26 in Sandy and Government Camp or from shops in Portland such as REI.
Other Mt. Hood Favorites
White River Canyon is a three-mile hike that heads across a flat, open meadow directly towards Mt. Hood’s 11,239-foot summit. The trail ends at some overhead power lines, the turnaround for this snowshoe.
To access the trail, take Hwy. 26 past Government Camp and turn north on Hwy. 35 toward Hood River. Continue four miles to White River West Sno-Park on the left.
Because this trail is past Government Camp on Hwy. 35, it is usually much less crowded that those directly off Hwy. 26.
Frog Lake is a 5-mile loop that’s very popular with families and young kids. It’s also a favorite of snowmobilers so the parking lot can be very crowded on weekends. The parking area is on Hwy. 26 about 10 miles east of Government Camp on the left-hand side of the road and there is a restroom.
Government Camp History Snowshoe. Forest Service rangers offer free 2.5-mile round trip tours focusing on the history of Government Camp from the pioneer settlers to the present ski and snowboard growth. Tours are given Friday through Sunday at 1 p.m.
Meet at the Mound Hood Cultural Center in Government Camp. From there, snowshoers will hike up the Glade Trail in Government Camp, then head east on the Crosstown Trail and then back to the museum. Bring warm clothes and snowshoes.
For information: call 503-622-2033 or visitwww.fs.fed.us/r6/mthood.