Autumn is that Goldilocks time of year in Oregon, especially on Mt. Hood — just after the chaos of summer fades away and before the snow starts to fall at the lower elevations. So if you’re looking to seize those lovely, crisp days before they, too, are gone too fast, here’s what to do on your next mountain getaway — in between arranging logs in the fireplace with favorite beverage in hand.
Catch a fish, play disc golf, pitch a tent
Through the winding roads of Estacada, Milo McIver State Park is bordered by the bends of the Clackamas River, with close to 1,000 acres of green space open for public recreation — Riverbend at the north and Riverside at the south. The two sections of the park are joined in the middle at the Milo McIver Memorial Viewpoint, a great starting point for visitors to get the lay of the land.
The river offers excellent fishing for steelhead and chinook; see for yourself at the Clackamas Hatchery’s fascinating public displays on the south end. Estacada Lake, also to the south, is a popular retreat for stand-up paddleboarding, kayaking and canoeing, with rentals available through summer.
Been meaning to try disc golf? The casual game (also enjoyed at a professional level) involves tossing small, hard Frisbees into baskets located throughout a course. You can rent discs here at this 27-hole course on the north end of the park, regarded as the crown jewel of Oregon disc golf courses.
Take a walk or run along the 14-mile network of trails weaving through both north and south ends, and book a campsite (through October) for some stargazing not far from the city.
Hike the trails
Tucked into the trees just off Highway 26, the family-friendly Wildwood Recreation Site near Welches is a great spot to stretch your legs, with accessible, paved loop trails meandering through old-growth forest to a fish-viewing window of the Salmon River (with kid-friendly interpretive signs about the lifecycle of salmon). For more of a trek, the 3-mile Mirror Lake Trail leads to the base of Tom Dick and Harry Mountain in the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness. On a clear day, you’ll see stunning views of Mt. Hood as you switchback along the hillside. Make sure to visit midweek to secure a nearby parking spot; a $5 recreation pass is required through Oct. 15.
Enjoy a brew
Reward yourself with a refreshing pint at the family-friendly Mt. Hood Brewing Co. in Government Camp, an institution on the mountain since 1991. A seasonally rotating menu for carnivores and veggie-lovers alike includes inspired fare such as shared plates of kalbi beef ribs, Neapolitan-style hand-tossed pizzas made with Northwest-grown wheat flour and toppings like pesto and smoked salmon, and a roasted beet hoagie with hazelnut goat cheese. The beers are also quite unique — try the blackberry sage sour or the “Ouragon” saison, a farmhouse ale brewed with barley, wheat, rye, hops, and juniper all grown and foraged in Oregon. Don’t forget the marionberry crisp with Tillamook ice cream. Look for Mt. Hood Brewing’s ales on tap at their brand-new satellite location in a railroad caboose and train car at Tilikum Station, near OMSI, in Portland.
Zip lines, alpine slides and mountain biking
Sure, Mt. Hood is spectacular in the wintertime, but you wouldn’t believe how lush and green it is after that blanket of white melts. June through September (weekends in September), Mt. Hood Adventure Park at Skibowl keeps kids and grownups of all ages pumped full of adrenaline with its famous alpine slide, zip line, rock wall, giant maze, Mt. Hood Bike Park (for beginners) and Freeride Bike Park (for experts). If you’ve been meaning to try a hike around Mt. Hood but would like the comfort of a guide, you can do that here too. Pick your skill level and sign up for a guided day trip or multi-day trip, which happen in all weather, year-round with Mt. Hood Outfitters.
Where to stay
Day trips are awesome, but overnights are pretty magical too. Collins Lake Resort in Government Camp offers two- and three-bedroom chalets and lodges just a mile east of Skibowl. Mt. Hood Oregon Resort in Welches has hotel rooms, a spa and 27-hole golf course. Stay in 200 square feet of super-cute space at Mt. Hood Tiny House Village, with six uniquely styled mini-houses encircling a cozy campfire, where you can make s’mores under the stars. The area is also full of elegant bed-and-breakfast options, such as Wonser Woods Estate in Estacada (co-located on a Christmas tree farm) and Sandy Salmon Bed and Breakfast Lodge, on the banks of the Sandy River near the town of Brightwood and the famous mountain bike destination, the Sandy Ridge Trail system.