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Mount Hood

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Mount Hood from Lolo Pass (Tom Kloster)

Mt Hood is the dominant point on the Portland skyline. From the west, the mountain rises to a classic, sharp pinnacle, but from other points the mountain has a blockier appearance. The mountain hosts twelve glaciers that provide water for the area during the dry summer months. It's a tourist mecca, providing hiking in the summer and skiing from six facilities all winter.


Volcanic History

The Cascade Range hosts many volcanic features. The most obvious are a series of stratovolcanoes including Mount Hood.

Mount Hood has a long eruptive history. Early major eruptions remain a bit of a mystery, but evidence has been found of four major eruptions in the last 15,000 years, including three in the last 1,800 years. The last major eruption occurred in late in the 18th century, shortly before the arrival of Lewis and Clark. The eruption created a lava dome that sent numerous lahars and rockfalls down the south slope of the mountain. The process is similar to what we currently see in the crater of Mount Saint Helens. A lava dome forms and rocks cascade down the sides creating a large, volcanic talus slope. In the crater of St. Helens, the rock is contained, creating a somewhat conical peak. In the open, on the south side of Mt. Hood, the rock fell down the mountain creating a large apron that extends well past Timberline Lodge. The remains of the lava dome are today known as Crater Rock. During this same time frame, a mudflow ran down the Sandy River Valley all the way to the Columbia River. This left the valley a mass of soft sand similar to the Toutle River Valley after the 1980 eruption of Mt St. Helens. When Lewis and Clark came west in 1805, they noticed the sand and named the river the "Quicksand River", a name which survives as the "Sandy River".

The last minor eruption of Mt. Hood was in 1907, when climbers noticed a cloud of steam near Crater Rock. The mountain continues to emit sulfur dioxide and carbon dioxide from fumaroles near Crater Rock. On occasional days, when the weather is just right, condensation from the area will still form a plume visible from Portland.

Human History

Native Americans called the mountain Wy'East, the son of the great spirit. The name lives on in Wy'East Basin, Wy'East Day Lodge near Timberline Lodge and Wy'East Camp, Creek and Falls in the Eagle Creek area. The name is popular outside of outdoor circles as well, showing up everywhere from Wy'East Park to Wy'East Medical to Wy'East Middle Schools in Hood River and Vancouver.

The mountain was named Mt. Hood by English Lt. William Broughton in 1792, after British Admiral Samuel Hood.

Climbing Information

Thousands of people climb Mt. Hood each year. The most common route is the south route beginning at Timberline Lodge. There are guide services available that will provide the necessary equipment and training. All of that being said, climbing Mt. Hood can be dangerous. The worst disaster was in May 1986, when nine students and teachers from Oregon Episcopal School perished in a whiteout during their descent. In late November 2006, three climbers disappeared on a north climbing route. One was later found, having passed away from hypothermia; the other two remain missing. In February 2007, three hikers and their dog fell into the White River Canyon. This story has a happier ending with all surviving relatively unharmed. In total, about 140 people have died in the attempt on Mt. Hood, including 30 climbers in the last 25 years.

Mt. Hood is said to be the second most climbed mountain in the world after Mt. Fuji. A similar claim is made by fans of Mt. Monadnock in New Hampshire. Both claims are accurate, differing only in the definition of "mountain". Mt. Monadnock sees more climbers, upwards of 125,000 a year. Western snobs however, look down on the 3,165 foot eastern peak as a mere hill, not in the running for "mountain" status. In any event, Mt. Hood is the second most climbed mountain over 10,000 feet in the world.

Hiking notes

While most hikers won't climb to the summit of Mt Hood, it still forms a large part of the local hiking experience. There are many hikes to the alpine areas on the mountain from Timberline Lodge, Cloud Cap, Top Spur and many other trailheads. These hikes are only easily accessible in the late summer and early fall, when the snow melts off enough for hikers access the meadows. Other area hikes climb to the top of other nearby peaks with spectacular views of Mt. Hood. These hikes include the Lost Lake Butte Hike, the Larch Mountain Hike and the Tanner Butte Hike. Other hikes reach to reflective lakes like Mirror Lake, Burnt Lake and Lost Lake. No matter how you look at it, Mt Hood is always part of the local hiking experience.



Oregon Hikers Field Guide is built as a collaborative effort by its user community. While we make every effort to fact-check, information found here should be considered anecdotal. You should cross-check against other references before planning a hike. Trail routing and conditions are subject to change. Please contact us if you notice errors on this page.

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