Not far from the Government Camp-area trails I described in a recent article on Snowshoemag.com is another group of trails near the town of Hood River. These are not for the faint of heart, though I have included, as best I could, treks at all levels of skill and endurance. For this reason I have grouped the trails I chose. The approach is via Route 26 and the Mt. Hood Highway. With the exception of Gumjuwac Saddle, the trails described below all originate within a few miles of each other.
If you love a challenge and are in shape for some vertical, this area is for you. Some of the trails lie deep in the woods, a couple in Mt. Hood’s rain shadow, some with views that will blow your boots off. There are accommodations in Hood River, Government Camp and also on Mt. Hood itself. Visit www.trails.com to view topological maps of the area and see details on lodging in the area.
The season runs mid-December through March for a few of these outings, but some of the trails are not at peak condition until January and are still snow-covered into June, July or August.
POCKET CREEK – Positioned in Mt. Hood’s rain shadow, this area is a mix of beginner and intermediate trails with a total length of ten miles. Trailhead elevation is 3.800 feet, with total gain of 1,080 feet and choices include out-and-back road routes with good views and intermediate loop routes through the forest. Don’t plan on this area until late December and the season is over by mid-March.
BILLY BOB – Classified as novice to advanced, this area long popular with snowmobilers lies in the rain shadow of Mt. Hood, like the Pocket Creek area, but gives you the choice of groomed trails shared with the snowmobilers or new trails away from them. Any choice provides a fine view and even when the mountain itself is lost in the clouds Billy Bob is often in sunshine. Total distance is eight miles and the trailhead lies at 3,960 feet, with a gain of 1,100 feet. Season is limited here, from mid-December to late March.
COOPER SPUR – This is a ski area located on the northeast side of Mt. Hood. Trail possibilities run from novice to advanced, fourteen total miles, and include tours from the Tilly Jane Sno-Park (described below) which are long uphill efforts for the more advanced, as well as a less strenuous route in the Weygandt Basin below Cloud Cap Road (area described below.) If you are looking for some dramatic scenery, this latter gives a view of three volcanoes and does not involve a long climb. Trailhead elevation is 3,810 feet and the season runs early December to early April.
MORE ADVANCED, LONGER TREKS:
CLOUD CAP INN AND TILLY JANE CREEK – You have to get to the Cloud Cap Inn in order to get to the Tilly Jane Creek area, though Tilly Jane is an easy, three-mile jaunt with a short season: January through March. Beneath you as you slog along you may hear the creek burbling. Getting to the Cloud Cap Inn, a historic cabin, involves a more difficult loop trail and runs 12 total miles. You should plan on four to eight hours and don’t choose this outing if you are not in condition for the long uphill effort. Trailhead elevation is 3,900 feet and the season runs from November through April.
SILCOX HUT – It’s a great opportunity even into early summer, just two total miles, but this route begins high up at 5,000 feet and gains 1,290 feet. You’ll be climbing a mile and be above the timberline, but if you’re looking for a good workout this climb may be for you. You’ll be right up there near Mt. Hood’s glaciers that supply the Palmer Snowfield, a year-round location for ski racers to train.
CRATER ROCK – This is backcountry climbing and will take you into the alpine zone of Mt. Hood on an out-and-back journey of six total miles. Any higher and you’d need technical climbing equipment! You’ll be above the clouds and enjoy an unmatched view. Allow at least six hours and be sure you are fit for this challenge, but you can plan on a season lasting from January through June.
THE HOGSBACK – You’re way up there at 6,000 feet for the trailhead of this six-mile trek on the south side of Mt. Hood. If you can see the skiers at the Timberline Ski Area below they will appear tiny. The Hogsback is the final staging area for those attempting to summit the mountain, so you’ll see all manner of gear, dress and climbers, from the seasoned climber to the whipped weekend warrior, while you skip the technical climbing part and enjoy the fabulous view from this bench along the mountain flanks.
ILLUMINATION SADDLE – Another backcountry gem, this five-mile out-and-back route is sometimes open through August. As above, you are high up at 5,800 feet and the trek runs five miles. Get going early in the morning to guarantee snow along your route if you attempt this in summer, but it’s worth the climb for the view and the peace up there. You’ll be just off the beaten path for climbers attempting the summit.
GUMJUWAC SADDLE – A few miles away from the above trails, this one is classified as more difficult. The route runs five miles and will test you for sure. You’ll make a straight climb up several switchbacks beginning at 3,600 feet and reach the Upper Hood River Valley on the edge of the Badger Creek Wilderness. This area is rarely visited and you may see hawks and owls, even bear tracks. For the peace alone this one is worth including in my article. If weather cooperates Mt Hood may emerge from the clouds just for you.
For more information on Mt. Hood, visit http://www.mthood.info.