The Hood Report: Beyond the Trail

Showcasing some of the lesser-known mountain bike trails in the Hood River area, plus where to stay during your visit.
the hood report
Overview of Mount Hood area trails. Google Maps.

When discussing destination mountain biking in Oregon, most follow one of two paths: Bend or Oakridge. Although you wouldn’t be unwise in selecting either for your next trip, it would be a mistake ignoring careful consideration of the Mount Hood and Hood River-area trails. Why? Well, in case our last 8 ride reports failed in justifying the Hood-area as a legit destination, the following is a CliffsNotes of sorts summarizing our findings.

Mountain biking trails and networks of trail starting with the Sandy Ridge Trailhead, some 20 miles west of Mount Hood, to networks 30 miles northeast of the lofty peak are collectively known as Hood-area trails. Within a 30-mile radius of the Timberline Lodge, located at the base of Mount Hood, there are well over 200 miles of mountain biking trail. All trails between the outermost edges of our Hood-area circumference are found just minutes away from the Mount Hood Highway which connects Sandy Ridge all the way to Syncline, making for easy access, a plethora of shuttle options, and more amenities than you can shake a Maxle at. Indeed, Mount Hood and its surrounding riding opportunities have all the makings of a superb mountain bike destination.

the hood report

Now let’s talk about some trails we didn’t get on, where and when to stay, and everything else to shape up your next mountain bike vacation in Oregon. For where to eat, visit individual ride reports for the best option closest to the trail discussed.

Other Noteworthy Trails

Not for lack of trying, but here’s a few rides not featured in The Hood Report, and definitely worth your time while exploring the Mount Hood region by bike:

Gunsight Ridge

Gunsight is a trail you head to to get away from the typical crowds found in places like Post Canyon or Sandy Ridge. It’s higher up and further out with a mixed bag of terrain along the way. You’ll roll through everything from shaded, forest sections covered in thick pine beds to areas of exposed, dry talc and shale. You’re either grinding your way up the short, mildly-steep climbs, or working your way back down. Throw in the occasional rock garden, a few tight switchbacks, and two large scree fields, and it’s definitely no “gimme.” Don’t expect this to be a flow trail, totally buffed and groomed, but then again, that’s not why you ride Gunsight. It has the feel of a mild adventure. By far, the highlights of this ride are the views of Mount Hood and its distant neighbors, so make sure to wander up to viewpoints along the way.  Making it a loop up from Highway 35 or connecting it with some of the other 44 Trails can turn this into a seriously epic outing.

– Sean Vergillo
the hood report

Ski Bowl

Just down the street (literally) from Mount Hood, adjacent to the Village of Government Camp, is Ski Bowl–a 1,500 vertical-foot, ski lift-assisted bike park. While the small resort may not top any recent “consumer” lists, Ski Bowl is no slouch, proving its worth as host of two of seven Northwest Cup DH races this year. With new additions and upgrades appearing year after year, coupled with Portland riders’ deep desire for gravity-assisted trail, Ski Bowl maintains a slow-but-steady course in becoming something truly great.

the hood report

High Prairie and Cooks Meadow

While Knebal Springs, 8-Mile, Cedar Creek, 15-Mile, and Surveyor’s Ridge dominate the 44 Trails network, each representing epic rides in and of themselves, there is some disconnect that, when (not if) remedied, will create even more and longer options than what currently exists. High Prairie offers a fantastic descent ending at a fork at which riders can choose the Cedar Creek or Knebal Springs side, yet there is no great way to begin at High Prairie other than slogging up forest road or doubling back on High Prairie itself. While lower Cooks Meadow is ride-ready, extending it further will link High Prairie to the rest of the network for one of the most epic routes in the Hood River Valley. Construction is underway now for the Cooks Meadow extension and other connector trails, and you can check progress and/or contribute to the 44 Trails Association effort, here.

The Hood Report

Where And When To Stay

In terms of timing, although many lower-elevation trails (Post Canyon, Sandy Ridge, Syncline) are open much sooner than higher trails (44 Trails, Gunsight, Timberline), in order to get the best bang for your buck, by mid-July every trail in The Hood Report should be up and running riding.

When summer’s in full-swing, Mount Hood is as busy (perhaps busier) than any mid-winter white pow weekend, so you’ll want to dial in your accommodations quick-like. Luckily, outside of procrastinating your own planning, there is no shortage of lodging anywhere along the Mount Hood Highway, capable of accommodating the highest rollers down to the most budget-minded bikers.

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To create an overall picture and scale of the mountain biking in the Mount Hood region, we use Mount Hood proper and the Timberline Lodge as the epicenter. The City of Hood River has the highest concentration of amenities, bike shops, provisions, and pubs which may appeal more to those relying on the conveniences of a larger infrastructure or just want a little more night life. While the city of 7,000 people lies on the northern-most reaches of our destination map, approximately 40 miles of trail in Post Canyon are less than 15 minutes from the door step.

Off-Camber Activities

For those who enjoy a sprinkle of non-biking activities, travel with the whole family, or just want to give the legs a break, within the same 30-mile radius containing hundreds of miles of singletrack, there’s also hundreds of other things to do and see:

  • Shred brown pow just minutes away from where the kids can shred white during a week-long Summer ski/snowboard camp on Mount Hood’s Palmer Glacier.
  • Between lifts runs on Ski Bowl, join the fam for a run on the alpine slides, zip line, indy kart raceway, or try any number of activities at the Mount Hood Adventure Park.
  • Head down to the Columbia River and take a lesson or two in the sport that Hood River is most famous for–kiteboarding.
  • Take the 50-mile drive from Hood River to Portland through the incredibly-scenic Columbia River Gorge, chock-full of hiking trailheads right off the highway. Pro tip: take the Washington side out and the Oregon side back for the complete experience.
  • A lot of people fish here, so there’s that, too. In fact, the same guy who will shuttle you to the top of Post Canyon guides fishing trips on The Gorge.
  • Get weird in Portland.
  • And finally, please come, but don’t forget to go home!
the hood report

With 200 miles of singletrack including two shuttle services and several self-shuttle options, networks to keep things close and backcountry epics to just get away, breath-taking views, a bike park, and enough off-the-bike activities to keep everyone smiling–all within a hour’s drive at most from wherever you’ll call home–the Mount Hood region has all the ingredients to cook up your next bike-cation.

For all trail detail, make sure to visit our in-depth ride reports (see “related” section below) on Hood-area riding, and thank you for sharing The Hood Report.

A huge thanks to my friend Kris Siewell (aka @StumptownRider) for input on post-ride bites and beverage!

the hood report
photo: StumptownRider, Kris Siewell