When it comes to hiking, I’m ideally a fan of the alpine environment. I like to start out in the trees and hike up out of them, above timberline, to where the mountain views are widest. High up places like the Goat Rocks in Washington, Oregon’s Wallowa Mountains, and on Mount Hood spots like Cooper Spur, McNeil Point and Gnarl Ridge, define my kind of a walk in the woods.
In the winter, however, a lot of the alpine country is much harder to access. And so, for hiking, we’re pushed downward to the river trails, maybe out to the Gorge or just east of the Cascades. This past weekend, we logged a few easy miles among the towering cedars and firs along the Salmon River trail in the Mount Hood National Forest, and while its views are much more subtle and understated than, say, the top of Old Snowy Mountain —
— it’s still among the best winter hiking to be found around Mount Hood. A few to consider:
- Salmon River Trail — An easy stroll along a beautiful and wild river — one of the only ones in the nation to be designated a Wild and Scenic River for its entire length — the Salmon River trail makes for a nice winter walk no matter the weather. It’s relatively flat, so it’s great for kids, and the moss-draped old growth Douglas firs and western red cedars that rise from the forest floor absolutely tower overhead, making you feel as if you’re walking through some kind of prehistoric era. The trail can be up to 7 miles long and there are lots of good places to stop for a break and turn around. To get there, take Highway 26 east from Portland to the town of Zigzag. Turn south on Salmon River Road and drive five miles to the trailhead on the left, just before a bridge over the river. More info.
- Hood River Mountain — This one’s a little ways away from the mountain, just outside Hood River, but its view of the peak and the entire Hood River Valley is simply jaw-dropping. Just three miles roundtrip and 600 feet up, Hood River mountain affords you a view that usually takes a lot more effort to attain. From Hood River, drive south on Highway 35 for just under a half-mile to East Side Road and turn left. According to Doug Lorain’s book, Afoot and Afield, “follow it 1.5 miles to the turnoff for Panorama Point County Park. Keep straight on East Side Road, and .4 mile after the park turnoff, turn left on Old Dalles Road. Drive east . . . for 2.1 miles to a saddle beneath a set of power lines. Park on the side of the road.” More information.
- Lower Creek Falls (Wash.) — Even farther from Mount Hood but still within reach for a day hike from Portland, Lower Creek Falls follows a serene Falls Creek, heads over a stunning suspension bridge, and tops out at the three-tiered Lower Creek Falls. Another great hike for kids and hounds. From Portland, head east on Highway 14 (in Washington) to milepost 47 and turn north toward Carson. Drive 14.5 miles on Wind River Road, pass the Carson National Fish Hatchery, and stay right on Wind River road for another 3/4 mile. Turn right on FS 3062 and drive 1.5 miles to the trail head. More information.