It’s not so easy to get a good look at the north side of Mount Hood.
While folks in Washington might be used to a distant look at the north face of Oregon’s tallest mountain, Oregonians are more accustomed to other angles: the western profile visible from Portland, the eastern side viewed from Bend, or the much-photographed southern face, seen from popular ski areas and viewpoints along U.S. 26.
Getting a glimpse at the north side requires a little more effort, venturing out to the hiking trails, viewpoints and recreation areas found on the northern flank of the volcano.
One reason we don’t often get a good look at it is simple geology: The much-traveled Interstate 84 on the north side of the mountain is hemmed in by the towering cliffs of the Columbia River Gorge, which block it from view. It also takes a bit longer to get to the access points on the north side of the mountain, requiring a trip down the winding back roads off the main highway – and sometimes a hike through the wilderness after that.
But that effort is well rewarded with view after stunning view of the quiet volcano. Though often seen either in silhouette or under the glaring southern sun, this face of Mount Hood is just as beautiful as all the others.
If you’re looking for a fresh perspective on the famous volcano, or simply need yet another summer adventure, there’s plenty for you here.
With a waterfall, mountain views, a roaring river and quiet forest, Ramona Falls is a perfect late-summer hike at Mount Hood. As soon as the Sandy River recedes far enough for hikers (usually by the middle of summer) to safely cross, big crowds tend to descend upon the trail, tackling the 7.5-mile out-and-back adventure that ends at the pretty cliffside waterfall.
Nestled between Mount Hood and the Columbia River Gorge, Lost Lake is a popular destination known for its campground, resort and quiet waters open only to non-motorized boats. Whether you’re boating, camping or hiking through the area, the lake offers can’t-miss views of the mountain.
With several incredible Mount Hood views, culminating with a stop at a historic stone shelter in a meadow of alpine wildflowers, McNeil Point is one of the best summer hikes in Oregon. Beginning at the Top Spur Trailhead, the hike follows the famed Timberline Trail around Bald Peak and up the northwest flank of the volcano.
Another popular hike from the Top Spur Trailhead, Cairn Basin is a beautiful meadow with wildflowers, mountain views and a stone shelter of its own. With several backcountry campsites, it’s used as a stop on the Timberline Trail or as a backpacking destination of its own right.
Experienced hikers or mountaineers might want to tackle Barrett Spur, a crumbling mass of loose rock that is best accessed in the late summer or early fall. Because it’s a 3.6-mile journey up the spur and back from the Timberline Trail, it’s often done as an add-on hike from Cairn Basin or Elk Cove. With a rough and difficult path to the top, it should be attempted only by those with experience.
Everybody knows about Timberline Lodge, but few stop by to see the historic Cloud Cap Inn, a rustic lodge built nearly 50 years earlier on the other side of the mountain. Today, the inn is in rough shape, maintained by the Crag Rats climbing organization who are raising money to replace its dilapidated roof.
These days, Cloud Cap is primarily visited for its small forest service campground and trailhead, which gives access to the Timberline Trail and several other hikes on the northeast side of the mountain.
With incredible views of Mount Hood’s peak, including the ice sheets of Eliot Glacier, Cooper Spur is both a day hiking destination and a jumping off point for intermediate mountain climbers. A 7.1-mile out-and-back hike from Cloud Cap leads to the Cooper Spur summit, best done in the late summer or early fall. Like McNeil Point, it’s known for its historic stone shelter at the top.
When people talk about Cooper Spur, they might also be referring to Cooper Spur Mountain Resort, home to cozy cabins, lodge rooms and condos, as well as a restaurant and ski area in the winter. The resort is just off Oregon 35 south of Hood River.
Another stunning waterfall hike is found on the northeast side of Mount Hood, though it’s much easier and offers an even prettier reward at the end: Tamanawas Falls. The 3.7-mile out-and-back hike leads along Cold Spring Creek through a pretty forest, ending at the 109-foot waterfall tucked into a rocky alcove. While most of the trail is easy, there is some tricky footing across rocks near the end.