Mt. Hood Territory is a peak getaway

Sep 21, 2023

Let’s address the elephant in the room: The tallest mountain in Oregon, Mt. Hood looms majestically over the Pacific Northwest as one of the defining natural landmarks of the United States. But there’s so much more to this region outside Portland than just its famous peak. Think of Mt. Hood Territory, which encompasses the 14 communities of Clackamas County, as a solar system. If Mt. Hood serves as the dazzling sun, beckoning visitors with its awe-inspiring beauty, then the surrounding attractions are the planets orbiting it, each offering their own unique charm and sense of adventure.

From adrenaline-pumping mountain biking to petting alpacas at local farms, Mt. Hood Territory offers a wide range of activities as the temperatures drop and a crisp autumn breeze fills the air. And did we mention the region resides in Oregon Wine Country? That means you can end each day with a relaxing glass of vino as you bask in the beauty of the fall foliage that blankets the landscape. 

Read our guide to learn more about the numerous fall adventures that await you in Mt. Hood Territory. 

Get your bearings 

Drop your bags at one of the cozy lodges, vacation rentals, B&Bs, or hotels that dot the landscape of Mt. Hood Territory and put on your favorite flannel. Alder Creek Cabin, a log cottage nestled in the foothills of the Mt. Hood Scenic Area, Mt. Hood Tiny House Village in Welches and traditional branded hotels like Hilton Garden Inn each provide comfortable and convenient accommodations that are both close to Portland and a short drive to Mt. Hood.

Ease into the PNW state of mind by acquiring a Clackamas County Heritage Pass, which grants owners VIP access to participating museums and historic sites, discounts in gift shops and exclusive tours throughout this historically rich area at the end of the Oregon Trail.

With this pass—which is good for up to four people—you can gain entry to a large network of museums and cultural attractions that delve into the fascinating history of the region. The pass not only provides an educational experience while supporting historic preservation and education in Clackamas County, but also saves you money along the way.

Mt. Hood Cultural Center & Museum

Enjoy a VIP tour of Baker Cabin, a fully preserved pioneer log cabin that offers a glimpse into the lives of early settlers, before heading to Philip Foster Farm to experience life on a 19th-century farmstead. Visit the Mt. Hood Cultural Center & Museum to find out about the history of skiing on Mt. Hood. 

Seek outdoor thrills

There’s a reason why outdoor enthusiasts flock to Mt. Hood Territory each year, and fall is no exception. The cooler temperatures create optimal conditions for trekking across the more than 1,000 miles of pristine wilderness scattered across the region, leaving room for endless exploration, regardless of your skill level or experience. 

Head to Milo McIver State Park, a mixed-use area that borders the Clackamas River and Estacada Lake for well-marked trails, diverse habitats, river views, water recreation and even a highly regarded disc golf course. Riverbend to Maple Ridge Trail is a 5.5-mile relaxed loop with a minimal elevation gain that winds through lush forests and offers solitude during quieter times of the day. 

For those interested in shaded hikes, trail running and bird watching, Mount Talbert Nature Park is a 200-acre urban forest oasis close to Portland. The 3-mile Park Loop Trail presents a moderate hike with views of Mt. Hood, and you might even encounter some wildlife during your trek, including deer, western gray squirrels, pileated and hairy woodpeckers, white-breasted nuthatches and western tanagers. 

Wildwood Recreation Site is located along a bend of the Wild & Scenic Salmon River and encompasses 550 acres filled with old-growth Douglas fir, western red cedar and western hemlock. You can actually witness the ecosystems of the natural stream and wetland along the accessible interpretive trails and boardwalks. What really makes an impression is the underwater fish viewing chamber, along the 3/4 mile Cascade Streamwatch Trail which is filled with salmon returning to spawn in the fall.

Kayak to Williamette Falls

Yet as satisfying as the crunch of leaves under your hiking boots may be, you can cover even more ground by hopping on a two-wheeler and embarking on a heart-pumping mountain bike adventure. Sandy Ridge Trail System, with nearly 20 miles of gravity-fed singletrack trails, boasts carefully designed paths ranging from beginner-level trails to double-black-diamond courses.

A bucket-list trail for mountain biking enthusiasts across the country, the Timberline to Town Trail begins at 6,000 feet above sea level and drops 4,300 feet over 15 miles from the historic Timberline Lodge down to the town of Government Camp. Riders weave through scenic terrain—including alpine meadows, dense forests and rocky ridges—retracing the same precipitous path the early settlers braved when heading for the promised land of the Willamette Valley. Combined with the Timberline Bike Park, a lift-assisted trail system featuring sweeping curves between towering trees, visitors can climb the mountain via chairlift and then let gravity take them on an adrenaline-filled descent through the varied mountain terrain. 

The thrills of mountain biking last well beyond the drier summer season in Mt. Hood Territory thanks to an advanced drainage system that allows for year-round riding. Goodwynn’s sporting goods store, located near Sandy Ridge Trail System, offers rentals, as does Mobile Mountain Adventures, including the option of having your bikes delivered to you—and you to the trails; the cost of rentals includes complimentary drop-offs and pick-ups, making it a hassle-free to experience. Or you can hitch a ride on the Mt. Hood Express shuttle service that conveniently stops at various trailheads, along with bike trailers for riders to stow their equipment. 

Mt. Hood Express

While Mt. Hood Territory’s seven rivers and 40 lakes might not be fit for swimming beyond September, don’t let the change in seasons deter you from experiencing the excitement of paddling in the fall. Whether kayaking through the glistening waters at Willamette Falls or relaxing on the upper reservoir of the Clackamas River, there are plenty of outdoor thrills awaiting water enthusiasts. 

Support local by taking a 90-minute kayak tour to Willamette Falls through eNRG Kayaking. The second-largest waterfall in the United States by volume, this natural wonder was created during the outflow of the Ice Age Floods and continues to draw visitors from all over; a short paddle to the base of Willamette Falls via kayak or stand-up paddleboard provides the best vantage point of its power and beauty while learning about the geology and history of the area. 


Take in the foliage 

You don't need to over-exert yourself to enjoy the pleasures of leaf-peeping season. For a more relaxed approach to taking in the fall foliage of Mt. Hood Territory, take a drive to Jonsrud Viewpoint, widely considered one of the best views of Mt. Hood in Oregon, or through the Molalla River Recreation Area, where you'll witness nature's breathtaking transformation into a sea of vibrant oranges, yellows and reds. Jonsrud Viewpoint showcases a 180-degree view of Mt. Hood, perfect for Insta-worthy photos. One of the newer amenities provided is a color-blind adapted scenic viewer that enables colorblind people to see the fall colors vividly. Jonsrud Viewpoint is just the second location in the U.S. after Tennessee to offer this inclusive feature, making it an even more unique and accessible destination for all visitors.

Molalla River 

The Molalla River Recreation Area, meanwhile, offers a different kind of fall foliage experience, with its winding roads and dense forest creating a portal to a world of autumnal beauty that is lesser known but equally captivating for outdoor recreation. A “Wild & Scenic Molalla” outdoor recreation map can be obtained at all state welcome centers, the Molalla Chamber of Commerce and many hotels in the greater Portland area. Inside, you'll find information on various hiking trails and viewpoints in the Molalla River Recreation Area, allowing you to navigate the area with ease and make the most of your time.

As you drive through this forested canyon, you'll feel like you're entering a magical realm where every turn reveals a new stunning vista of nature's colorful palette. The 5,800-acre Table Rock Wilderness area in particular is a steep and rugged backdrop for visitors to find a quiet forest of Douglas fir and western hemlock trees, their branches adorned with the fiery hues of fall. Set out on foot on the Table Rock trailhead and see if you can spot the two species of endangered plants that can be found here—Oregon sullivantia and Gorman's aster—adding to the ecological significance and richness of the area.

Gallery Without Walls

Lake Oswego's Gallery Without Walls is another Mt. Hood Territory must-visit that is only enhanced by the vibrant fall colors. Featuring a diverse collection of outdoor artwork, this open-air gallery showcasing sculptures by local artists utilizes the area’s natural surroundings to create a unique and immersive art experience. Then, once you've admired the eclectic array of artwork, you can charter a ride on the Willamette Shore Trolley. This vintage trolley takes you on a made-for-Instagram ride where your conductor will guide you along the picturesque Willamette River with a backdrop of fall foliage, while providing interesting historical and cultural anecdotes along the way. (Regular tours are offered Memorial Day through Labor Day but you can charter a private ride anytime throughout the year.) 

Harvest trail

Oregon Trail pioneers used to call this area "The Promised Land" thanks to its fertile soils, rolling hills and optimal growing conditions, resulting in a seemingly endless supply of fruit fields, farm stands and u-pick farms. Thankfully, that's still true today. 

Dolan Creek Farm, Bushue's Family Farm, Yesteryear Farms, Fiala Farms and Liepold Farms are just a few of the family-owned farms welcoming visitors this fall, and all five are featured in the Mt. Hood Territory Harvest Trail passport program, which allows users to collect stamps at each farm during the month of October and earn rewards in the process.

Liepold Farms 

Complete a corn maze at Yesteryear Farms, take a photo with a giant wood-carved statue of Sasquatch at Fiala Farms, find a hidden animal on the nature trail at Dolan Creek Farm, ride on the pig train at Bushue's Family Farm or take a selfie with the goats at Liepold Farms on your way to completing the five activities needed to redeem your card for a Mt. Hood Territory Harvest Trail waffle knit beanie.

For every stamp card redeemed, a Thanksgiving meal will be provided to a local family through the Sandy Community Action Center, a local non-profit from the Sandy, Oregon, area. When you're finished collecting stamps, you can turn your focus toward fall favorites like hayrides and pumpkin patches at Frog Pond Farm or Wenzel Farm, whose Halloween Fantasy Trail walks visitors through a wooded path full of spooky sights and sounds, as well as a 40-foot castle with a tunnel maze, suspension bridge and elaborate holiday-themed décor.

Wine time

The Willamette Valley, Oregon's oldest wine region, encompasses two-thirds of the state's wineries and vineyards, many of which fall inside Mt. Hood Territory. The region is renowned for its elevation and soil composition, making it an ideal location for grape growing. Download the Mt. Hood Territory Wine Trail mobile passport before embarking on your grape-filled adventure. This convenient app will guide you through 16 of the region's best boutique wineries, offering exclusive discounts and an interactive map to easily find the wineries nearest you.

Located just 20 minutes from downtown Portland, Pete's Mountain Vineyard & Winery embodies the essence of Oregon Wine Country. The property has a near-perfect micro-climate, located above the fog line of the Tualatin and Willamette rivers, allowing for optimal grape ripening and flavor development. Savor premium local wines like Pinot Noir and chardonnay in the cozy ambiance of its Northwest-inspired tasting barn while taking in sweeping views of Mt. Hood and the Willamette River.

Pete's Mountain Vineyard & Winery 

Open by reservation only, Villa Catalana Cellars produces fewer than 500 cases per year, allowing it to meticulously craft each bottle and ensure the highest quality. The estate, as well as the tasting room, was inspired by a 12-century Romanesque church in Catalonia, Spain, transporting guests to old-warm charm and elegance while simultaneously housing a rare plant conservatory where a collection of unusual tropical plants flourish.

This love of gardening inspires the winemaking process at Villa Catalana, which seeks out small, specialty vineyards throughout the Pacific Northwest that produce high-quality grapes. Consider ordering a delicate Pinot Noir or a robust Syrah or Cabernet Sauvignon as you relax in the Mediterranean feel of the tasting room, surrounded by lush greenery and the sounds of nature.

Christopher Bridge Wines 

Using the wine trail app as your guide, you might also find yourself at Christopher Bridge Wines in Oregon City, where you can try wines from 10 types of grapes grown on its 20-acre Satori Springs Estate Vineyard. The current lineup of wines includes flagship staples like Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris vintages, plus an array of other European varietals like Ehrenfelser, Kerner, Muscat and Sauvignon Blanc.

Depending on when you visit, you might be able to attend a wine celebration in the area. Sept. 23-24 marks the arrival of the St. Joseph's Grapestomping Festival in Canby—a tradition dating back to 1983, when there were fewer than 30 wineries in Oregon. Stomp the day away (yes, in your bare feet) while enjoying live music, local food vendors and plenty of wine tasting.

Another annual tradition is Wine Country Thanksgiving, held this year from Nov. 25-27, in which more than 150 wineries host tastings and cellar-stocking events. Many of the wineries in Mt. Hood Territory participate in this tradition where you can experience the festive spirit of the season while sampling some of their finest wines, as well as the chance to visit wineries that otherwise might not be open to the public.

See the animals

Spend enough time exploring Mt. Hood Territory's farm loops and wine trails, and you're bound to come across some of their furry and feathered inhabitants. From alpacas at Marquam Hill Ranch to donkeys at the Oregon Donkey Sanctuary, there are plenty of opportunities to get up close and personal with a variety of adorable and unique animals.

Alpacas at Marquam Hill Ranch 

Nuzzle and feed snuggly friends at the Alpacas at Marquam Hill Ranch, where these gentle creatures graze peacefully in the scenic countryside. The farm hosts events throughout the year, including markets, ranch tours and even alpaca yoga, where these endearing animals are known to join in the practice (or at least contribute their calming presence). The farm's shop also stocks yarn, rugs and dryer balls made from fiber produced by the alpacas, along with items like socks, scarves, hats, gloves and rugs.

Another place known for its four-legged friends is Fir Point Farms, a country store famous for its amazing breads, homemade cinnamon rolls, apple cider donuts and, you guessed it, tree-climbing pygmy goats. Stop by the farm from Sept. 30-Oct. 28 for the Harvest Festival, a free event featuring u-pick pumpkin patches, hay wagon rides, bounce houses, a corn maze and an animal petting zoo. In addition to the goats, Fir Point Farms also houses miniature pigs, turkeys, chickens and miniature horses that gladly welcome the feed cups visitors can purchase.

Sitting on 40 acres, Frog Pond Farm houses approximately 80 animals, including alpacas, bunnies, camels, ducks, emus, sheep and tortoises. Don't be surprised if you're welcomed by a piglet, emu or llama upon arrival. Open daily from Sept. 18-Oct. 29, fall activities here include touring the farm and scouring the pumpkin patch for your favorite one.  

If it's pumpkin-picking you're after, you can combine this timeless seasonal activity with donkey interactions at the Oregon Donkey Sanctuary. The third-annual "Pick some Pumpkins, Pet some Donkeys" fundraiser is scheduled for Oct. 14-15, as participants meet the donkeys, enjoy refreshments like cider and popcorn, enter raffles and, of course, pick pumpkins from the ripe fields. Yet while the farms are open all year, the animals are less fond of the colder months. Be sure to visit during the fall to catch them at their liveliest. 

Ready to go? Start planning your trip to Mt. Hood Territory now and imagine yourself there with these videos

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