15 Hikes for the Best Views of Mt. Hood

Take in one of the most stunning peaks in America.

You’ll recognize Mt. Hood as the imposing volcano looming over Portland in most paintings, photographs, or film of the city. The Mountain, as locals dub it, soars to a towering 11,250 feet and supplies the lakes, rivers, and watersheds that Oregonians rely on with water flowing from its 12 glaciers. But it does so much more than just that.

Mt. Hood provides Portlanders with the perfect weekend wilderness getaway, just an hour drive from the city. It offers near-endless activities like hiking, backpacking, fishing, and climbing year-round. And when we can’t escape to its slopes and foothills to breathe in that fresh mountain air – we like to find the best ways to admire this iconic peak.

Here are 15 ways to catch the best views of the tallest mountain in Oregon, without actually climbing to its summit.

1. Hike to Mirror Lake

Overview: 2.1 miles + 700 feet elevation gain

Distance from Mt. Hood: 7 miles


Photo: Mike Hathenbruck

Take one look at Mirror Lake’s crystal-clear reflection of Hood and you’ll see how it earned its name. With an easily accessible trailhead, short distance, and unbeatable photo opportunities – it’s hard to pass up this adventure. Learn more.

2. Climb Tom, Dick, & Harry Mountain

Overview: 5.8 miles + 1710 feet elevation gain

Distance from Mt. Hood: 7.4 miles


Photo: Dan Moe

The ascent of Tom, Dick, & Harry Mountain begins at Mirror Lake. This is one of the most popular and crowded day hikes around Mt. Hood for a good reason – don’t forget your camera on this summit push. Learn more.

3. Climb to the top of Mount Defiance

Overview: 12 miles + 4870 feet elevation gain

Distance from Mt. Hood: 19 miles


Photo: John Chau

Reaching the summit of Mt. Defiance certainly isn’t for the faint of heart – but the views won’t disappoint. Endurance athletes and ultra marathoners love this hike. Learn more.

4. Photograph Jonsrud Viewpoint

Overview: Parking lot

Distance from Mt. Hood: 28 miles


Photo: Kyle Szegedi

Okay, so this view doesn’t involve a hike – but it also doesn’t involve any of the crowds that are sure to be present on many others on this list. Enjoy the solitude on this easy pullover off of 26 near Sandy, and like the author says: Try to make it by sunrise if you can. Learn more.

5. Hike Lower Macleay Park to Pittock Mansion

Overview: 5.3 miles + 950 feet elevation gain

Distance from Mt. Hood: 50 miles


Photo: Rachel Davidson

Pittock Mansion proudly boasts one of the best views of Mt. Hood from the west hills of Portland, and this hike is the best way to get to it. Check two things off of your list: visiting one of the city’s historic landmarks, and seeing the state’s highpoint in all its glory. Learn more.

6. Backpack to Burnt Lake

Overview: 14 miles + 2200 feet elevation gain

Distance from Mt. Hood: 5.5 miles


Photo: Angela Clarke

One of the many beautiful lakeside camping spots within Mt. Hood National Forest, Burnt Lake does not disappoint on views. Tough out this longer hike for more secluded views of The Mountain. Learn more.

7. Explore Mount Tabor Park

Overview: Parking lot

Distance from Mt. Hood: 45 miles


Photo: Chandler Schoonmaker

Mount Tabor is yet another example of a tucked-away gem hidden right within the city streets of Portland. Hike through the park’s dirt trails or drive on up to the top for one of the best city-side views of Hood. Learn more.

8. Camp at Elk Meadows

Overview: 4.5 miles + 1200 feet elevation gain

Distance from Mt. Hood: 4.2 miles


Photo: Jenn Z

A fantastic first-time backpackers trip through the peaceful and quiet Elk Meadows, this adventure takes you through forests and across streams with Hood in the foreground, watching from the west. Learn more.  

9. Hike Paradise Park

Overview: 12 miles + 2300 feet elevation gain

Distance from Mt. Hood: 2.8 miles


Photo: Danielle Tourigny

It’s difficult to say that this hike gives you the best views of Mt. Hood, because it is literally on its foothills. Beginning at Timberline Lodge, Paradise Park is a great way to whet your appetite for a longer thru-hike of the popular Timberline Trail, or an eventual summit climb of Mt. Hood itself. Learn more.

10. Camp at Trillium Lake

Overview: 1.9 miles + 10 feet elevation gain

Distance from Mt. Hood: 6.9 miles


Photo: Kyle Szegedi

Trillium Lake is by far one of the most popular destinations in the entire Mt. Hood National Forest. Whether you’re visiting the day use area for a picnic or relaxing on its shores, or packing in camp for the weekend, you’ll get to enjoy views of the mountain as close as reaching out and touching it. Learn more.

11. Hike McNeil Point

Overview: 10.5 miles + 2200 feet elevation gain

Distance from Mt. Hood: 2.3 miles


Photo: Dan Moe

This hike hits two iconic Oregon trails, the Timberline Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail, and ends at an old stone shelter that overlooks the Coast Range. Go in July or August to revel in the PNW’s stunning wildflower blooms. Learn more.

12. Hike Cooper Spur

Overview: 6.4 miles + 2800 feet elevation gain

Distance from Mt. Hood: 1 mile


Photo: Isaac Koval

This adventure gets you up close and personal with Oregon’s highest peak. In fact, Cooper Spur will actually lead you all the way to the summit of Hood if you continue far enough (donning climbing gear, of course). End your hike at the historic Cloud Cap Inn for a well-deserved beer. Learn more.

13. Snowshoe White River

Overview: 4 miles + 800 feet elevation gain

Distance from Mt. Hood: 5 miles


Photo: Lorene Voskinarian

Snowshoeing around the foothills of Hood just shows that the mountain’s recreation opportunities are open and available year-round. Enjoy the rolling slopes on White River – great for first timers. Learn more.

14. Camp at Timothy Lake

Overview: 11.6 miles + 200 feet elevation gain

Distance from Mt. Hood: 18 miles


Photo: Talia Touboul

Timothy Lake is yet another destination within Mt. Hood National Forest that boasts of having the best views, best fishing, and best campsites around. Guess you’ll just have to visit them all and see for yourself. Learn more.

15. Sunrise from Rocky Butte

Overview: Parking lot

Distance from Mt. Hood: 44 miles


Photo: 2whljnky

Photography doesn’t have any cheats. So, whether you drive or walk up to Rocky Butte at the top of Joseph Wood Hill Park for this early-morning adventure, make sure you have your coffee in hand and camera ready. Learn more.

Cover photo: Kyle Szegedi

Published: February 20, 2017

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations.

Rachel DavidsonExplorer

Seattle

Mountain climbing, trail running, and writing all about it. New to Seattle! Hit me up to show me around or go on an adventure.

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