Traveler Tales: Mount Hood National Forest
Explore the best kept secrets within Mt. Hood National Forest with Pacific Northwest native Kristy Dobie.
Traveler Tales is a series in which real RVers share their trips to national forests across the United States, including where they stayed and must-visit attractions you may not know about. Traveler Tales is brought to you by THOR Industries and the National Forest Foundation.
I’m about to let you in on a secret that Oregonians have been keeping for years: Crater Lake isn’t the only jaw-droppingly beautiful public land in Oregon. While half a million visitors flock to Oregon’s only National Park each year, they may be overlooking some of the very best scenic views that the Pacific Northwest has to offer.
Located about an hour east of Portland are snow-capped peaks, rolling hills, and a river view that gives even the most impressive National Parks a run for their money. Welcome to the Mount Hood National Forest and the neighboring Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area.
The Mount Hood National Forest has an impressive collection of campgrounds. On our recent Airstream adventure, my friend and I chose Camp Creek Campground as our basecamp. After getting Willa (my adorable 22’ Airstream Sport) cozy in her spot, our explorations began. We especially loved that some sites feature impressive stone fireplaces that have remained since the Civilian Conservation Corps constructed the campground in 1936.
Perhaps the best feature of the Camp Creek Campground is its proximity to all of the outdoor recreation in the area. In summer, schedule time to visit Mt. Hood Skibowl’s Alpine Village for a ride down their alpine slide. Mirror Lake, one of the more popular hiking trails in the area, is conveniently located next to Skibowl. After hiking 1.9 miles up an incline, you’re rewarded with picturesque mountain views from a backcountry lake.
In the evening, we decided to visit Timberline Lodge. This historic lodge has amazing architecture, jaw-dropping views, and delicious food. After we enjoyed dinner and drinks, we watched the Strawberry Moon rise from Timberline’s front deck before relaxing by their fires out back. Once it got dark, we headed back to the Airstream at Camp Creek to rest up.
If you have more than two days in the area, I highly suggest allowing some time to visit the Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area, too. “The Gorge”, as it’s known to locals, is the Scenic Area that is located along the Columbia River, between Portland and Mount Hood. It also happens to be one of my favorite parts of the entire state.
Hiking is very popular in this area. There is a wide variety of trails that range in difficulty. For a relatively easy 2.4 mile hike with a BIG payoff, visit Wahclella Falls. After hiking through a forested slot-canyon, you’ll arrive at an amazingly beautiful waterfall. Parking is very limited in this area, especially when the weather is warm, so arriving early is key!
As impressive as Wahclella Falls is, nothing steals the show quite like nearby Multnomah Falls. Multnomah Falls is the most visited natural recreation site in the entire Pacific Northwest, and with good reason! This 620’ waterfall features a photo-worthy bridge and lush green surroundings. Be sure to check Multnomah Falls’ website before planning a visit. During busy times of the year, they may require you to purchase a timed-entry permit.
For the most expansive views of The Gorge, you’ll want to gain some elevation. Take a drive to the Vista House or Portland Women's Forum State Scenic Viewpoint for wide-open scenes. Or cross the Bridge of the Gods to visit the Beacon Rock hike on the Washington side. Finish with upscale comfort food and instagram-worthy ice cream sundaes from SugarPine Drive-In.
The Columbia Gorge and Mount Hood National Forest have it all: biking, water sports, hiking, dining, scenic viewpoints, camping, and more. Make sure to allow time to visit this region on your next trip to the Pacific Northwest.
…Just don’t forget your camera!
Click around to get tips on how to plan your own National Forest trip.
Explore more of our nation's National Forests through Traveler Tales, a series where real RVers share the must-visit attractions and the best camping opportunities for RVers.
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