I love downhill skiing as much as the next powder hound. The thrill of the steeps, bumps and tree skiing are a welcome annual adrenaline rush. But I look forward to cross-country skiing just as much. It’s a slower, social pastime and a great workout. In the Mt. Hood area, there are cross-country ski trails for all levels, from beginner to expert. Here are some ideas to get you started.
This 6-mile trail off of Highway 35 and Forest Service Road 44 is a popular mountain bike ride in the summer and an excellent ski trail in winter. The loop offers a gradual climb and tops out at the Five Mile Butte fire lookout, yielding great views of Mt. Hood, Mt. Rainier and Mt. Adams. This is a good trail for intermediate to experience skiers. Contact the Barlow Ranger District for information.
For a family- and beginner-friendly trail, this lake loop near Timberline Lodge can’t be beat. It’s 4.4 miles round-trip from the Trillium Sno-Park or 3.6 miles from the Trillium Access Hill. Other than the access hill (which beginners should walk down), this loop is relatively flat and scenic. It circles the petite lake, crosses a meadow and offers a lovely look at Mt. Hood. Contact the Zigzag Ranger District for more information.
If you’re up for a challenge, the Tilly Jane Trail makes a great ski day. Gaining more than 2,000 feet, it will challenge your heart and lungs on the way up and your balance on the way down. The trail leaves the Tilly Jane Sno-Park and climbs through the trees to the Tilly Jane Guard Station and campground. About half a mile further, find the Cloud Cap Inn and Snowshoe Club Hut. For more information, contact the Hood River Ranger District.
The above routes are not maintained or groomed in winter, so conditions will vary. That’s part of the fun. If you are looking for more predictable trails, check out the Mt. Hood Meadows Nordic Center or nearby Teacup Nordic, which are groomed frequently.
If You Go:
- Read more about the latest ski conditions and events.
- Check road and weather conditions at TripCheck.com and head out early and during the weekdays for fewer crowds.
- Consider making a car-free trip to Mt. Hood. If you are driving, load up a full tank of gas, printed maps (available at Oregon’s Visitor Centers) and extra water, snacks and supplies (such as medication) in case of a weather-related emergency.
- Pack a winter car kit before you head out. It might include: 1) kitty litter (for traction), 2) 3 gallons of water, 3) extra food, 4) blanket, 5) folding saw (for downed trees), 6) fleece gloves, 7) fleece beanie, 8) first aid kit, 9) lighter, 10) satellite texting/emergency device, 11) solar lantern, 12) toolkit, 13) flashlight, 14) fire extinguisher, 15) portable jump starter, 16) tire chains, 17) USB battery, 18) collapsible shovel, 19) road flares, 20) solar panel for charging devices, 21) tow rope, 22) ice and snow scraper.