If you are looking for the ultimate getaway, the city that offers all the benefits of vibrant nightlife and cultural attractions, but still provides the chance to get outdoors, Portland is the city of your dreams. Whether you are moving here to live or visiting for a few days, a week or longer, you will want to check out Mt. Hood, one of the region’s most famous attractions!
Mt. Hood has a lot to do, whether you are into trail hiking, mountain climbing, snow sports or camping, the mountain and surrounding areas have something for everyone. Covering all the transport to the different areas is a bigger task than we can cover in this post. We will be discussing getting to the snowfields of Mt. Hood, but most of these options are available for other locations around the mountain and the lower towns and villages.
Let’s stop with the pleasantries and talk about how you can get to Mt. Hood.
Take a tour
If you want to really take in everything that the Portland region and Mt. Hood have to offer, a great way to do this is to take a tour. Shorter tours, such as one-day tours give you a great view of the area and a feeling for what’s around and then on subsequent days you can explore them in more depth.
- To book, check prices or dates for the Portland Flightseeing Tour to Mount Hood
Grayline tours offer a full-day round-trip from Portland to Columbia River Gorge and Mt. Hood. This tour provides driver/guide narration and visits Multnomah Falls, Hood River Valley and goes all the way up to Timberline Lodge near the top of Mt Hood.
There are a number of public transport services available to Mt. Hood from Portland. Which one is best will depend on how much time you have, your preference for a scenic route and other attractions on the way and whether you have accommodation at or near the mountain, or need to return to Portland the same day.
There are two shuttle providers that operate routes to Mt. Hood, Catbus and Sea to Summit.
Catbus’s route is the longer of the two services but is substantially cheaper. Getting from Portland’s Union Station to Mt. Hood Meadows will take about 2hr 45m. Start by taking a Greenline tram eastbound to Gateway/NE 99th Ave TC station, a TriMet fare will cost about $4 and this leg of the journey is about 15m. From here take the Columbia Gorge Express, operated by CAT Bus, it will take about 1hr 15m to get to the town of Hood River, a one-way fare is $10 and can be purchased online. From Hood River there is a second Cat Bus shuttle service, Gorge to Mountain Express, which will take you all the way through to Mt. Hood Meadows, this service is another 1hr 15m and is a $5 fare, cash paid to the driver.
The other shuttle bus provider is Sea to Summit. They have services to Timberline Lodge and to Mt. Hood Meadows. Sea to Summit operates specially equipped 4×4 vans, ensuring safe and reliable access to the best ski fields around Mt. Hood. Sea to Summit’s service has several pickup locations between Portland international airport and throughout the city, their service takes approximately 90 minutes each way and costs $89pp.
Oregon Breeze operates a daily bus service from Portland to Central Oregon that stops in Government Camp, near Timberline Lodge. A journey with Oregon Breeze takes about 1hr 45m, but they recommend you arrive 15m before your departure time. If you want to go to or travel from a government camp, or most of the mountain stops you will require a reservation. These buses are affordable at $41-$47pp and two hours end-to-end they’re one of the shortest public transport options, however, they only operate each afternoon so they are not suitable for day-trips.
The final public transit option is a mix of several modes of transport combined, this journey takes about 3hrs in total and therefore is not an ideal day-trip option, but is viable if you have accommodation on the mountain. TriMet offers buses and MAX light rail services from the city, take one of the many services that stop at Gresham Transit Center; MAX light rail fare is just $2.50pp. From Gresham Transit Center take the Sandy Area Metro all the way to Sandy Township, about halfway to Mt. Hood; this fare is just $1. In Sandy Township board the Mount Hood Express which runs all the way to Government Camp and Timberline Lodge, tickets start at $2 each way or $5 for a day pass.
For an option a little more flexible than public transport, shuttle buses, there are car services such as Uber, Lift and Taxi cabs.
Uber’s fare estimator provides $82.50 for a journey from Union Station to Timberline Lodge. If you want a more comfortable ride or need assistance UberX and Uber assist are available for $111.94. If you want to take a bicycle with you, enquire about Uber Pedal recently launched in Portland.
Lyft is also available in Portland and can take you to Mt. Hood. A Lyft fare from Union station to Timberline lodge will set you back $105-$120, $140-$150 for Lyft XL or $210-$235 for Lyft Lux.
Taxis are generally available in all the locations Lyft and Uber operate, however now information about availability or fares was obtainable. Taxi fares typically range around twice the price of Uber and in a similar range to Lyft Lux, so we would recommend expecting a fare of $200-$250 for the 90-minute journey.
As Mt. Hood is far removed from the city, it makes sense to have the flexibility of your own vehicle. The right vehicle option will depend on the season you visit and your confidence in mountain driving and inclement weather.
If you live locally or have brought your own vehicle to Portland, driving to the mountain is an easy choice to make. The journey is between 90-minutes and two hours and will cost you $15-$20 for gas.
When you have come to a city without a vehicle, getting around can be hard. If you are a confident driver the most convenient option is to have a vehicle. Renting a medium-sized SUV from a rental provider will set you back $105/day (Expedia). If you are visiting in winter make sure you are confident with snow driving and that you rent a vehicle with 4×4 or AWD.
Options such as Turo and Getaround also operate in Portland. These are peer-to-peer car sharing services and are much cheaper than commercial rentals. Luxury vehicles and large 4×4’s range from $150+ depending on the year model you prefer, while more basic cars suitable for spring and summer visits can be had from as low as $28/day.
If you are visiting in Spring or Summer a motorcycle might be an option. The cheapest motorcycle rentals start at $45/day when using a peer-to-peer service such as Twisted Road.
Motoquest provides the cheapest commercial rental option for motorcycles, basic bikes start from $100/day in fall and winter, or you will be looking at $140/day in spring and summer.
If you are going to be in the town for at least a few days or longer, consider joining one of the car-sharing operators. Free2Move and Zipcar operate fleets in Portland and you can use their apps to locate a nearby vehicle any time you need one.
A journey from Portland to Mt. Hood by car takes between 90 minutes and two hours. Though it is only 70 miles from the city, the journey can be slow with seasonal traffic and depending on road conditions. To drive to the mountain you want to get onto the Mount Hood Scenic Byway and follow it to your destination. You can get to the Byway by following I-84 East through Columbia River Gorge, or on Highway 26 East, both will connect with the Byway (Travel Portland).
For the avid cyclist, there is also the option of using pedal power. This option should only be considered for seasoned riders as the easiest route option will still climb over 3,300ft in elevation.
In our review of bicycle rentals in Portland, Everybody’s Bike Rentals was one of the cheapest and has a great range of options. E-bikes are available from $60/day, make sure you are still willing to pedal assist as they generally won’t make the full ride under their own power. If you want the adventurous route coming back down, an MTB with suspension for $75/day may be worth looking into. If you plan to stick to the road and sealed tracks hardtail MTBs and road bikes start from $45/day.
There are a few different route options, distance, ride time and elevation are taken from Google. For the most serious rider, riding from Portland to Government Camp is a 5hr 50m undertaking, the journey covers 56.3 miles and follows US Route 26 East with a few detours to the Springwater Corridor trail, this route climbs a total of 4311ft in elevation.
Physically shorter, but with greater elevation, another serious route is to ride from Hood River to Mt. Hood Meadows. Take the Catbus Columbia River Gorge Express (bicycle friendly) to Hood River Township and ride from there. This journey will take 4hr 37m to cover 36.2 miles along State Route 35 North and climb 5,436ft.
The easiest cycling option is to follow the public transit route given above to the township of Sandy, Trimet and Sandy metro allow cyclists on-board. From the township of Sandy, the journey is a substantially shorter 28.5 miles taking a more modest 3hr 20m from Sandy to Government Camp. This journey also follows US Route 26 East with a few detours to the Springwater Corridor trail but only climbs 3,343ft in elevation. This is a great option if you want most of the scenery and less effort.
The intermediate option is to take the Catbus Columbia River Gorge Express (bicycle friendly) to Hood River Township and then the Gorge to Mountain Express from Hood River to Mount Hood Township. Riding from Mount Hood Township to Mt. Hood Meadows is a more manageable 3hr 21m journey covering 21.7 miles and climbing 3,819ft.
None of these journeys are for the light hearted and we recommend watching the weather closely regardless of the time of year you choose to visit.
Mt. Hood is certainly the pride of the region, a standout attraction to visit if you have the opportunity. Mt. Hood offers year-round skiing most years and great scenery, hikes, and climbs any time of year. However you choose to get to the mountain, it definitely should be put and then ticked off your bucket list.
Always check weather, road closures and alerts before departing. The weather can change at short notice, even in summer. In addition, the heat in summer can be as dangerous as the cold in winter. Always check for current information, alerts, conditions and trail closures.