Ride This : Circumnavigate Mt.Hood

Mt.Hood – stands at 11,249ft and you can cycle around the whole thing in a day. This is my 11th time riding this route around Mt. Hood, each time with minor variations but each as impressive and inspiring as the first. 


Mileage: 85Miles
Elevation 8,900ft
Terrain: Road 95% Gravel 5%
Ride Route: Two routes via NF16,, or this route via Dee,
Bicycle: Roadbike with 25c or pref 28c tyres

The ~85miles, 8,900ft ride, starts in Zigzag at the bottom of Lolo Pass Rd and makes a big loop around the mountain taking in amazing scenery and close-up views of Mt. Hood itself.

Pre Ride

If you drive here, the parking area at Welches Middle School or Subway restaurant can be a geat place to start. If you are a coffee person, I highly recommend Mount Hood Roasters , located here. You have to drive 4minutes more, up 26, but trust me, there is no other coffee place that comes close to a good cup on Mt. Hood.

There are two versions of this route, the main one I will describe is the one that routes via NF16 Vista Ridge, there is another that goes to Parkdale via the town of Dee. Both are around the same length +/- 5miles , but the NF16 version requires an extra 1000ft of climbing, but it’s worth it. The ride can be broken into 6 basic parts each with amazing views, different themes, and vibes. Lolo Pass, NF1810, NF16 -Vista Ridge (exclude for Dee version), Cooper Spur, 35up, and 26 down.

Lolo Pass

Lolo Pass is a smooth climb that zigzags upwards under powerlines, reveals wide exposed scenic valley views and gains a few thousand feet. The first few miles of Lolo are smooth car frequented, tree lined, and chip sealed paved. Then right around Muddy Fork (mile x) turns into a narrower unmaintained smooth road that climbs to the summit of Lolo where the PTC trail crosses. The upper part after Muddy Fork is much less traveled by cars. Just at the summit, the road splits 3 ways. The first right goes back down alongside Lolo Pass to Muddy Fork. The other two roads NF18 and NF1810 come out at the same place further around mt.hood, but NF1810  is a much more enjoyable ride.

LoloPass Rd
LoloPass Rd
LoloPass Rd



Make sure you take the correct road here, if you travel straight you will be on NF18, Take the road right, and as soon as you make the corner, it becomes gravel and you will see the PCT trailhead to your right and right in front of you is an amazing view of mt.hood on a clear day. (seen in the pictures below) At this point, you have 6.7 miles of gravel, the first section of gravel is the deepest, maybe  a mile long and not that bad. This section descends a little where you have to be careful then  rolls back up. From this point on  the gravel gets lighter to more of a thin sprinkling that still needs you to  keep your wits about you. for the next 6 miles. (for gravel riding tips here)

NF 1810
NF 1810


NF 18



Lava Fields on NF18
NF 1810
NF 1810 Gravel

NF16 – Vista Ridge (this section doesn’t apply to the Dee route)

Before the end of  Lolo Pass NF18  I turn East and climb up Vista Ridge / NF 16. This is a hearty initial climb but turns into rollers on the top with amazing views of Mt. Adams and Mt. Hood. The road is chip sealed and of various qualities along the way and can be as narrow as 10ft wide in places. Traffic is very low and there are some campgrounds near Red Hill, but I have only ever seen a handful of cars on this road, going slow. After summiting and cruising the amazing views, you will go through a few small sections of flat gravel, only a mile and a half of gravel in total. Then you quickly descend through Red Hill, this is a fast (45mph if you are drilling it), windy, fun decent; in parts only one lane wide, so be careful on your speed and cornering. This will deliver you to the small town of Parkdale on the North East side of Mount Hood.

NF 16 Vista Ridge
NF 16 turn off Vista Ridge


NF 16 Vista Ridge


NF 16 Vista Ridge
NF 16 Vista Ridge
NF 16 Vista Ridge

Cooper Spur Climb

Parkdale a small town known for its fruit farming and miles of orchards. It sits in a valley which reaches all the way down to Hood River and is surrounded by the mountain ranges to east and west. There are a few places here where food and water can be had. I normally stop at the local supermarket, which is right there as you enter the town and has decent sandwich wraps and all the regular sports drinks and waters. Definitely, stop here and grab a bite and some water before moving on to climbing Cooper Spur. The road up to Cooper Spur is fairly long at 5miles but not a steep climb (avg 4%). It’s a tree-lined climb and can be a welcome on a sunny day providing some good shade. The lower part roll through areas often frequented by wedding goers. After climbing 1150ft, at the pinnacle of the climb is Cooper Spur lodge, they welcome cyclists here and will help out with water, food or even beer! You are now at 3200ft and Cooper Spur Ski resort is just up the road. You will skip that climb and ride past onto some rolling but mainly downward sections to southbound Highway 35.

If you have really strong legs , you could also incorporate Cloud Cap route at this point. – Good Luck

Highway 35 South

This starts off mellow, a river runs alongside some grandeur cliffs, pretty views, but soon the grade goes up and becomes quite monotonous. It’s here that you are exposed to full sun, and often afternoon sun, so be prepared to focus and crank it out. This is by far the most unrewarding part of the ride, but it’s the price you pay for the awe of the other sections. 9.8 miles long and an average grade of 3.8% climbing 1,700ft it’s pretty relentless and unrewarding. You will climb past a few campgrounds and ski resorts off to the side of Hwy 26 topping out at an elevation of 4300ft. This section of the ride is quite bad on days which exceed 85 degrees, due to the exposure and the sustained climb. If your day is like this, make sure you fill a bottle at Cooper Spur Lodge prior to this section and stop frequently.

Parkdale / Cooper Spur
HW35 South
HW35 South
Parkdale / Cooper Spur

Highway 26 Westbound

After all that hard work comes to the reward – a sweet descent 12mile descent to where you started, complete with breathtaking views of Mt.Hood. If you are low on supplies or need water, you can stop at Government Camp at a public rest stop and gas station. The descent from here on back into ZigZag is nothing short of spectacular, considering you are riding alongside traffic. The shoulders are generally wide, clean and pedalling at 25mph+ is easy, amazing views of mt.hood around several corners await.

HW26 West
HW26 West
Descending more HW26 West
HW26 West – Government Camp Stop


Afterwards, I recommend grabbing a sandwich at a close-by place, called Wraptitude. Yes, it sounds rather odd, but makes great wraps and serves beer and has easy parking. Location here.

Route Details

Two routes via NF16, as described above, or this route via Dee, which has a small modification that removes 1000ft climbing and reroutes through Dee avoiding NF16 Vista Ridge. Both ways are great, NF16 has the edge in my opinion, but requires a little extra riding.

Circumnavigate Hood Riding Tips

  • Have a cue sheet or gps device (no cell service in many areas)
  • Carry at least 2 larger 20/24oz bottles, 3 if very hot.
  • Since there are sections of gravel and it is pretty remote with areas of no cell service make sure you have newer durable tyres 25mm or larger
  • Carry two tubes just in case and a self-adhesive tyre boot to repair sidewall cuts
  • Money for food and water in Parkdale, Oregon
  • Winter time ride? – no, not at all, snow, snow and snow.


8 thoughts on “Ride This : Circumnavigate Mt.Hood

Add yours

  1. Sounds like an awesome route – can’t wait to try it!

    Two questions:
    – How long does the NF16 route typically take you?
    – Do ever feel unsafe riding on Hwy 35 and 26?


    1. It is an awesome route, one I have ridden a lot and there are a few options to consider.
      – nf16 is an amazing road, steep at times but amazing and breathtaking. I can look at my data and see how long it takes for that stretch, im guessing 40 or 50 mins.
      – riding with cars, the good thing is the shoulders are really wide, apart from a skinny bit probably 0.1miles long on 35. I have never had a problem, if you are traveling clockwise around hood, you will be descending hwy 26 for the most part and this going pretty fast pretty easily.

      1. I just looked at my rides 1hr 10mins for NF16, I was sorta close 🙂 Also for consideration would be a slightly different loop, which is also really good, it starts in Parkdale and goes out of Parkdale ia 281, turns through Dee and up NF13 to Lost Lake, the descends down Lost lake rd, turns right onto Lolo Pass then left up and over NF16 back to Parkdale. That is an amazing ride and has much much less highway time. It really depends on your preference. For what it’s worth on the regular route, I really enjoy riding down Highway 26, they are amazing views looking at the mountain, its very open and a freeing ride feeling back down to the start, all with a nice way to finish the ride, on a descent. – Hope this helps. If not reply back and Ill try help some more.

  2. Thanks for the thorough response! I’m sure it can vary quite a bit, but approximately how long does the entire route take you?

    1. My time is typically between 5hrs and 5 1/2hrs ride time. And that’s at a pretty good effort, there is a large amount of elevation to cover. I can map out the Lost Lake alt ride for you if you are interested in that as an option.

    2. I just mapped this for you… It’s an amazing route also. Little bit shorter, but less cars, still epic views, and Lost Lake is nice if you have not been there before. The view of hood from Lost Lake is classic calendar material, On a mid summer day you can find a spot and go for a splash before getting back on the bike. Link to route here https://ridewithgps.com/routes/29071225

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