About 10,000 mountaineers of all experience levels attempt to climb 11,249-foot Mt. Hood each year, while Mt. Defiance in the Columbia River Gorge has become a training site for climbers.
- Mt. Hood’s 11,249-foot peak and Mt. Defiance’s 4,950-foot summit offer Oregon visitors plenty of mountaineering challenge.
- Mt. Hood’s summit can be scaled from at least four approaches, and Mt. Defiance has been used by mountaineers in training to climb Hood.
- Inexperienced climbers should strongly consider hiring a guide.
Late spring and summer are the best seasons for mountaineers to climb Oregon’s Mt. Hood or nearby peaks. Mt. Hood’s 11,249-foot summit has one fairly accessible approach and at least three other, more challenging routes. Mt. Hood can be summited in a single day with an early start. Ice axes, crampons, rope and harness, and mountaineering experience are highly recommended for those attempting Mt. Hood.
Mt. Defiance, located near Starvation Creek State Park in the Columbia River Gorge, is the Gorge’s tallest point at 4,950 feet elevation. Some say the nearly vertical trail to the Defiance summit is more difficult than scaling Mt. Hood. Since Mt. Defiance stays snow-free in the summers, some mountaineers climb Defiance to train for Mt. Hood.
Safety considerations when climbing Mt. Hood include inexperience, rock fall, severe weather, hypothermia, and avalanches. Many of those apply on Mt. Defiance, but avalanches are unlikely if you attempt Defiance in the summer.
Where to Climb
- Mt. Hood: The most popular and least challenging route up Hood is on the south side, accessed from Timberline Lodge. Three other approaches pose greater rock challenges (as difficult as Class 5): the Cooper Spur, Cathedral Ridge, and Illumination Saddle routes.
- Mt. Defiance: The trail up 4,950-foot Defiance heads at Starvation Creek State Park. This grueling climb gains elevation quickly and some say it’s the most difficult trail in the entire Gorge. From the top, five Cascade volcanoes are visible: Mt. Hood, Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Adams, Mt. Jefferson, and Mt. Rainier.
Guided Tours & Rentals
Hiring an experienced mountaineer to guide your climbing expedition helps ensure your safety, and many qualified guides can be found by exploring the listings on this page.