Mt. Hood Hikes for kids
There are thousands of pristine trails around Mt. Hood. However, many are steep, crowded, and too long for kids. Here are my picks for the best Mt. Hood hikes for kids this summer. Get out of the heat of the city and enjoy the mountain!
1. Trillium Lake
The quintessential Mt. Hood view is on display. Bring your kayak, grill up lunch you’ve caught yourself, or simply run amuk through trails around this crystal blue, icy cold mountain lake (there are rentals in nearby Sandy).
Less than a mile past the Timberline lodge turnoff, turn right – there are signs for Trillium Lake and GPS is correct about heading to Trillium Lake Road – but remember your Northwest Forest Day Pass. There’s also a $5 a day-use concession, though we tend to never end up turning down toward the campground. Day passes work for the day-use/picnic area.
You don’t ever have to hike which is the beauty of this hike — head in, park, and decide what your kiddos are able to do.
You can buy these forest service day passes at the General Store in Government Camp before heading down. If coming from Portland, Fred Meyer and Bimart in Sandy have them as does the Thrifty in Welches, which you’ll visit often when you forget to stop in Sandy.
2. Cooper Spur / Tilly Jane
For hardier hikers and kids who want to climb out of the trees, circle around Mt. Hood and up the 35 to Cooper Spur ski resort (bring a forest pass). Turn right and head up the hill, which is unpaved for 9 miles. While this hike is always rated “difficult,” the drive to the top is an adventure itself, and who says you have to venture up the ridgeline with little ones? Explore Cloud Cap and Tilly Jane, where you’ll find plenty of undiscovered spots for exploring forest and mountain without the crowds.
After all that dirt-road adventuring, you’ll be stunned to find it’s quite civilized at Tilly Jane, with a ski cabin to poke around and an amphitheater.
Simple woodsy walks are everywhere, and if you want to travel down the creek, through the greenery and flowers, you can eventually dash up the rocky hill past the timberline and onto a ridgeline trail (it’s a 5-minute scramble up to this glacial site, slightly more difficult, but 7 and 8 year olds can do it if they appreciate the challenge).
It’s bumpy and has the allure of adventure. Bring water. But unless you venture too far from your car, you’re never too far from your car. It’s like basecamp. With snacks.
3. Timberline Trails and West Fork Falls
Timberline is itself an iconic, must-see slice of Oregon history. As an added bonus, you can drive to whichever turnoff strikes your fancy, park on the side of the road, and hike all the way back down and finally into Government Camp.
Got a buddy there to drive you back up? Even better. As an alternative, just hit the lodge and watch the ski camps well into the summer.
While there are sunny stretches, there is also forest shade, and the trail difficulty for kids isn’t too bad as long as you realize you may have to hike back up the long stretches of downhill trails you take. The most difficult part of the trail is that the altitude may wear out kids and grown-ups alike. At roughly 6,000 feet, the unacclimated may want to stop for frequent picnics and mountain gazing on large outcroppings of rocks in the forest sections.
Parts of the Timberline trail system are on the Pacific Coast trail, which for my fame-obsessed kiddos, helps justify the hike (We’re hiking something famous!). It’s also a lovely, overgrown field of summer flowers growing up under the still ski lifts. It’s enough to make you yodel.
A great spot to avoid crowds is the West Fork falls hike. It’s obscure, but easy to get to, easy to hike, and ends with a waterfall (rewards for hiking rock!).
Turn up to Timberline, and take the left turnoff .2 miles in. After another .2 miles, go right. There are no signs. But a mile and a half later, you’ll end up at something with a sign — Westleg and Eastleg cross-country trails, where there is parking. The trail is obscured in the winter, but a pretty,easy hike to the waterfall in the summer.
You’re basically messing around the ski slopes, but you still have all the privacy of going “off” the beaten path here, while feeling you’re not taking the kids out into the wilderness.
4. Little Zigzag Trail for Littles and Waterfall Gazers
The trail is unchallenging even for tots. It ends at a waterfall. The trailhead sits close to Mt. Hood highway. Boom. Done. (Take your forest pass). Turn onto Kiwanis Camp Road (Road 39) and follow to the end. Take a stroller if you need to. Stop for a picnic at the table on the way.
It’s simple. It’s short. Grandma can come. Honestly, it’s not a trail. It’s a slightly removed parking lot.
And you’re rewarded with a stunning waterfall at the end. There are plenty of watering holes under the falls for kids to play and get dirty, and a bench where the temperature drops a good ten degrees with glacial waterfall-spray.
A word of warning: as you make your way down Kiwanis Camp Road, you’ll see a small lot on your left (a VERY long route to the beautiful Ramona falls, not for kiddos), and a second lot on the left for the Hidden Lake trail. This one is only a couple miles and shady, but all uphill, and its lake is more of a pond-ish swamp, infested with mountain mosquitos. It’s a great route. If you have a horse. Don’t hike it with small, whiny people.
5. Still Creek Trail
Need more hiking or biking? This old growth cathedral forest really shows off why you’re in Oregon in the first place. It keeps you safe from drizzle and can also protect you from snow up the mountain in the shoulder season. It’s a slow and fairly simple walk, but takes you close to the majesty of big nature nonetheless. Halfway through, you even get to study the forest from a dry boardwalk in the cedar grove.
It’s very close to the Zigzag trail. From highway 26 just west of Govy, head into the Camp Creek campground, west of milepost 47 (it’s between roads 30 and 32 and is marked with a brown “Camp Creek” sign). Circle around the campground toward the west end and park in one of two spots. It’s rarely crowded, and by that I mean it’s shocking to find it full. The bridge on your left is the beginning of the trail.
You’ll cross other trails but Still Creek is well marked. There is a fork in the road which gives you three dirt trail options — the middle leads to a lovely grove deep in the forest with a boardwalk to make the whole thing drier in the spring. This is a good turnaround for littles.
Passes aren’t required, making the whole thing just that much easier. I hate things that require multiple steps, don’t you?
Got a better spot for kids? Please comment and help each other out!