I have been riding the mountain and close by roads for going on years now. My first time circumnavigating mt.Hood, Oregon was 2012 for an original route written by Velodirt. Since then I have really enjoyed exploring the area and variations on the roads.
This summer I didn’t have too many miles on my legs thanks to covid19, but I decided to take on this old classic again simply because I know its a fantastic ride and I needed that mindspace of 5 hours on the bike. That, we can all relate to.
I made a few modifications to the route, thinking I would capture some nice views, with beautiful valleys and still ride fully around the mountain. I also overlaid an awareness of heat and some planning for water stops. Covid19 changed things regarding store stops or public water fountains.
I rode around the mountain in an anti clockwise direction, which provided good light and kept me off the highway in the highest heat of the day. The ride can be broken down into some basic sections.
Alpine esk climbs
Starting in Welches, there are a couple of options to go up and around the south side of the mountain. Some backroads or riding on the shoulder of the highway. In the past I have done both, and to be honest I have a little bit of preference for the lush views, forested valleys and snow cap mountain that you see from the highway. The backroads way is ok, but it eliminates the views and the cars. If you head out early enough, (which you should on this ride, for temps and because its a long ride) there will be low traffic, the shoulder is 4 sometimes 7feet wide and you are always on the best side for turnoffs, stops and picture taking of amazing views into the valley and to the top of the mountain.
This section is a long climb and the road surface provides some efficiency, but you will climb 2700ft in 12miles, which is not steep but its a good amount of upness, so sit back and take in the views. Near the crest of this first climb section is a gas / snack station, you shouldn’t need it, but if you do its there but its on the other side of the road, so be careful crossing.
On the way up you will go past several historic markers of the Oregon Trail, Keep going and a few more fluctuations in elevation, roller – ish hills, but you are near the very top. Head towards 35 North – Hood River . A nice place to check out the scenery and take a quick break is White River snow park (mile 19). In summer theres a moon like rock surface with good views of the mountain.
Fair warning, theres a lower trafficked section of Hwy 35 that has a very small shoulder, probably about 1/2 a mile long but worth some caution. This area is around mile 16.
You will pass several ski areas, the last one being the turn off to Mt. Hood Meadows, and as you crest the ski area its time to forget about that climb and relax on the way down to the next section. Check in for a nice 10miles of descending running alongside the East Fork Hood River, headed towards Hood River with a few campsites along the way. Pretty chill.
Into the trees…
and up to Cooper Spur summit. It’s not a massive climb of 530ft and its fairly gentle windy road up through pine trees with a great high desert smell and toasted pine needles. At the top is the home of a lodge and ski area. The lodge has a small restaurant, even a bike rack and are very friendly, should you need water. Don’t chill too hard though, you are only 34miles in.
Fruit farms glore
Dropping out of Cooper Spur and down the hill you head to the single stop sign town of Parkdale, Oregon, which makes for a good mid way stop. Theres a brewery there with an outside area which you should probably save for another time, theres a small public park with a water fountain (disabled in covid times) and there is a small supermarket that has inexpensive fresh sandwiches and drinks. You will roll out of the West side of town, theres only one road, so its not confusing. As you probably notice descending down from Cooper Spur, this area is fruit farm central. Pears and apples serve Parkdale well.
Climbing Lolo Pass rd
Out of Parkdale and after a brisk trip through the backroads of Dee (a small working community), you are headed in the direction of Lost Lake but will turn off before getting there. Lost Lake, a popular campground resort / lake and worth a ride to on another bike ride) Lost Lake road winds around the North side of Mt. Hood and puts you at the very end of Lolo Pass rd, which is perhaps one of the most bestest awesome roads ever.
As you turn left off of Lost Lake Rd you will be blown away with a sweeping view of a small section of valley where West Fork River runs through. This view is brought to you by wood farming, but thank you. It looks amazing.
I have to say, the next mile is. bit of a bugger, it comes right after the bridge and kicks up to a 11% grade, a short section comes without warning, but then it all mellows out. Lolo Pass rd is 14miles long in total, with the exception of the very bottom part it is mostly under the canopy of trees. The last section is gravel, its not too far and is of a small size gravel thats easily ridable on a road bike.
As you are deep suffering on that gravel climb, don’t forget to look back near the top. In an instant the suffering will go away and you will be reaching for your phone. At the very top you will notice and pass the main trail head for the PCT. Don’t stop though, they are hikers and will convince you that cycling is expensive and unnecessary.
Winding down the valley
The hard stuff is out of the way. You will be pleasantly surprised that its all down hill from here. Congrats you just covered about 8,000ft and 71miles, now is time for a nice downhill and some good sweeping views. Enjoy the last 11miles of your ride.
By the numbers
84miles, 8,500ft elevation gain
Mainly road but 8 miles of uphill light gravel
Many photo opportunities
3 service stops if needed, Government Camp, Cooper Spur and Parkdale, all marked on the map
Road bike recommended