Mt Hood, one of the most picturesque peaks of the volcanic Cascade Range, is also referred to as the “Jewel of Oregon,” and for good reason. This glaciated titan of over 11,000 ft looks down over the Columbia River Gorge and offers jaw-dropping views for both Oregonians and Washingtonians. I refer to it as being mystic because every time my eyes lay sight upon it, I can’t help but marvel at its imposing stature and beauty and the way it seems to energize me when I get up close to it. It’s almost as if I gain a spiritual renewal. Perhaps this mountain is a so-called “power center” for me. One of the local Native Indian tribes refers to it as Wy’east. The name is borrowed by many regional businesses in the shadow of the mountain as if in a show of mighty respect for the guardian that stands tall among them.
Just like Seattle has Mt Rainier to fix their gaze upon, the city of Portland, Oregon is blessed to have Mt Hood offering up spectaculars views for both residents and visitors alike. There are no words to describe the rosey alpenglows as the near-setting sun reflects its last rays upon these mountains. If you are a landscape photographer, catching these unique moments are worth the wait. As well, Mt Hood has many faces, depending on which direction you approach her. Looks are deceiving, and if you view her from the northeast, she takes on a symmetrical cone shape that is especially lovely in the winter and early spring months as shown in the above video. If you live in Washington, you can get some smashing panoramic views of the north and northeast faces from the Columbia River Gorge. Oregon views from the gorge area are great as well, but I think some of the most magnificent views, the kind that blow your socks off, are from the Hood River Valley. You feel as though you can reach out and touch the mountain. Photography is best done early morning for crisp, bright shots. If you are visiting the area during the summer, this is particularly important since haze tends to build quickly. Closer to the Portland area, or the west side of the mountain, she has a noticeable angled summit tip that is quite picturesque. The south side is the most peculiar. This is the side of the volcano summit that blew out and is very different looking than her other faces. For a great view of this side, drive east from Portland on Oregon SR 26, which is a major highway pass through the Cascades. Stop off at Timberline Lodge, a national historic site, to get a fantastic close up view. You’ll be right at the timberline level at a good 6,000 ft above sea level. This is also a ski resort area, but you can ride the ski lift during the summer a mile up the side of the mountain for a breath-taking view of the surrounding valley. This is the only major ski operation in the US that is functional during the summer months. That’s right! Skiing during the summer months! And on a volcano!
South face of Mt Hood as seen from Timberline Lodge, Oregon
A northerly view of Mt Hood from Hood River Valley, Oregon
When asked what my favorite Pacific Northwest mountain is, I vacillate between Mt Rainier and Mt Hood. Though both are volcanoes in the Cascade Range, they are very different from each other in appearance and locale, each exuding their own beauty and authority. But one thing is for sure. I have equal respect for both.