- Mt. Hood offers a wealth of backcountry adventure routes, from moderate to extreme.
- Many runs can be reached from the ski resorts by taking the farthest-reaching chair lifts; others require a trail hike.
- Knowledge and experience with ungroomed mountain trails, navigation, mountaineering, and safety are essential ingredients for a good backcountry trip.
Experienced skiers seeking backcountry adventures won’t be disappointed with a visit to Mt. Hood and its surrounding National Forest. Many backwoods runs can be reached from the farthest-reaching chair lifts operated by Hood ski resorts. Others are accessed via hiking trails that crisscross the area. Unpredictable winter storms mean the summer months are best for backwoods excursions. Backcountry skiing is not for the sedentary or inexperienced—high fitness level, steep ungroomed trail experience, superb navigation skills, and avalanche safety expertise are required.
Where to Enjoy the Hood Backcountry
Backcountry ski routes abound on Mt. Hood’s slopes; the most popular are accessed from Timberline on the south face. Two moderately-steep examples are the Mazama Face, accessed from the Hogsback; and the Zigzag Glacier on the mountain’s west side, reached from Illumination Rock. A more extreme backcountry route, the Snow Dome, can be found on Eliot Glacier above Cloud Cap Inn. And in the Mt. Hood National Forest, the trail past Mirror Lake opens up to a large bowl area with varied terrain from rollers to cliff drops.
In several spots, backcountry skiers will find lookout cabins that can be rented for up to four inhabitants to provide respite along their routes.
Plan & Prepare
Preparation is crucial for enjoying backcountry trips. Here are some things you’ll need to prepare for your adventure:
- Climbing skins for your skis.
- Mountaineering equipment (ice axe, crampons, rope and harness, at minimum).
- Be aware of cliffs and crevasses on the glaciers.
- Knowledge of avalanche safety.
- Study topographical maps carefully.
- Travel in groups, with other experienced backcountry mountaineers.
- Wilderness permits are required in the Mt. Hood Wilderness area.
- Take a working cell phone or rent a mountain locator unit.
Guided Tours & Rentals
Lessons, equipment rentals, and guides are available in the Mt. Hood area to organize your trip; checking out the providers listed on this page will get you started.