Mt. Hood, the second most climbed mountain in the world, is made up of 11 glaciers and a series of sleepy little towns including Government Camp, Welches, and Zig Zag. We’ve teamed up with Meagan Wristen from Mommy Travels to help you plan a successful Mt. Hood ski trip. After living at the base of Mt. Hood for over eight years and teaching all of her kids to ski there, she’s got the inside scoop on the best of what Mt. Hood has to offer during ski season.
After all these years I am still surprised by how many people have not heard about Mt. Hood. When I tell people I live in Portland, Oregon, I get all kinds of questions about the area, but never about Mt. Hood. How Portland has managed to keep their massive mountain, that can be seen from almost anywhere in the city, somewhat of a secret for this long is astounding. But I get it, until I moved to Portland I had never heard of Mt. Hood either. Imagine my surprise when I found out I was living next to a sleeping volcano.
6 Reasons Snow Lovers Must Visit Mt. Hood, Oregon
It’s no surprise in the colder months on a mountain that you can participate in an assortment of snow activities. You can ski, snowboard or snow tube at any one of the five ski resorts. BUT, it’s the uniqueness of what is offered on Mt. Hood that sets it apart from other ski resorts.
Before you head up anywhere on the mountain during the snowy season, remember to always carry snow chains for your tires and purchase a snow pass which will allow you to park on the mountain.
1. Snow Tubing
Now why would anyone kick off a ski trip article with snow tubing and not skiing? It’s because there is a one-of-a-kind snow tubing experience to be had up on Mt. Hood, Skibowl’s night time cosmic tubing. During cosmic tubing, they blast pop 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.
2. Ski and Snowboard
Did you know that there are five places you can ski and snowboard on Mt. Hood? No one ever seems to recall the fifth one for reasons unknown. All five ski areas offer lessons and have equipment available for rent, but that’s where the similarities end. Each offers a unique ski experience from the others with varying degrees of terrain and majestic views.
After trying them all, I think the skiing at Timberline is the best on Mt. Hood. Timberline Lodge boasts the Pacific Northwest’s largest vertical terrain with 3,690 vertical feet. 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. Being at the top of a mountain has it advantages when it comes to skiing. Timberline Lodge is the only year-round ski resort in North America. You can ski here all year, except for the two weeks it closes in September. Fun Fact: Timberline’s Magic Mile chairlift, built in 1939, was the first chairlift in Oregon.
Mt. Hood Meadows
Mt. Hood Meadows happens to be one of the largest ski areas in Oregon offering diverse terrain for all skiing and snowboarding abilities. It covers 2,159 acres and offers 240 acres of night skiing! Plus, 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. I can speak from first-hand experience … no one wants to fall off a lift!
Mt. Hood Skibowl
Skibowl has a little something for everyone with green, blue, and black runs. Mt. Hood Skibowl is usually the most affordable option for what it offers. The night skiing is even cheaper, which is surprising since Skibowl is the largest night skiing area in North America. Mt. Hood Skibowl also has bragging rights on location. 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. Fun Fact: Summit Ski Area is the second oldest continuously operating ski area in the United States, established in 1927.
Cooper Spur is the lesser known ski spot on Mt. Hood I alluded to earlier, and it’s another 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.
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.
Not a skier? No worries, 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 quite long! 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.
5. Enjoy Stunning Views
There are plenty of places to go to capture a beautiful view of Mt. Hood, but a personal favorite is Jonsrud Viewpoint in Sandy, Oregon. Sandy, Oregon is one of the little towns you will drive through to get to the ski areas if you are headed from Portland up to Mt. Hood.
6. Eat Great Food
Mt. Hood has lots of excellent food options, but depending on the season restaurants may or may not be open on any given day. I’ve only included places that are open year round to avoid causing disappointment. These are few foodie bites you won’t want to miss out on.
Eat a Doughnut at Joe’s Donuts
Joe’s Donuts is an iconic little donut shop at the base of Mt. Hood in Sandy, Oregon. During peak times there is a line out the door, but they are well worth the wait. Plus, you can buy a snow permit here.
Experience Chicken Alfredo from Ratskellers
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.
Try a Slice of Pie or a Maple Bar at Huckleberry Inn
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.
Sip a Cocktail at 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 During a Visit to Mt. Hood
Now that you have your activities planned, you need a place to stay!
My family has checked in at many of the hotels around the mountain. Out of the places we’ve stayed, 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 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.
Hope to see you soon at Mt. Hood!
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