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Take A Hike: Mt. Hood – Cooper’s Spur

Here in Portland there are two seasons, summer and rain. Every year as the summer dwindles down, there is always one last hurrah of a weekend full of beautiful weather. As I’ve become resigned to the inevitable onset of another damp, chilly, rainy season, my thoughts go to how I spent last year’s last, great weekend.

During the first week of October, we did a fantastic day hike called Cooper’s Spur on Oregon’s famed Mt. Hood. In my five years here in the Northwest, I would say this ranks as possibly one of my favorite day hikes.

Portland and Mt. Hood by Truflip99
Portland Skyline and Mt. Hood

Cooper’s Spur is the highest point on the mountain that can be reached by trail. The hike begins at Cloud Cap Trailhead which is about 2 hours east of Portland. From Portland, take Interstate 84 to Hood River, and then take Highway 35 south until you see the signs for the Cooper’s Spur Ski Resort. Then you follow a very bumpy Cloud Cap road for 9 miles, 3 of them unpaved, to a seasonal gate at Inspiration Point and Tilly Jane Junction.

A word of caution as this road contains 18 waterbars (pdf) that could cause damage to your vehicle if it sits too low to the ground or you take this road too fast.

Past the Tilly Jane Junction and the last 3 waterbars, you finally reach the trailhead at the Could Cap Saddle Campground.

Cooper’s Spur is a difficult, out and back hike that is 6.4 miles round-trip and has an elevation gain of 2800 feet. The hiking season is July to November and the hike is not suitable for small children or anyone in poor health.

Make Sure To

  • Bring water
  • Bring food – You can burn a lot of calories on this hike. You’re going to need to refuel at some point.
  • Bring layers of clothing – The temperature can vary greatly depending on the elevation, weather, and time of year.
  • Northwest forest pass – Required for parking the car at Cloud Cap or Tilly Jane, or a daily parking permit available at the self-issuing station at the trail head. Bring $5-10.
  • Fill out a Wilderness Permit at the self-register at the trailhead (free).
  • Bring respect for the mountain – Boy Scout rules apply, leave it cleaner than how you found it!

From the Trailhead

Follow the Timberline Trail left up a hill and stay to the left. Enjoy the forest while you can, because soon you will be above the treeline. Turn Right at the sign for Cooper’s Spur and Tilly Jane.

Cooper's Spur Sign

Head up this trail and see the rocky spur in the distance off to the left of Mt. Hood.

Cooper's Spur Mt. Hood

About 100 yards up is one of the attractions of the Cooper’s Spur trail, the shelter.

Cooper's Spur Shelter
Cooper’s Spur Shelter – Mt. Rainier In the Distance

This interesting landmark has existed for over sixty years through the mountain’s harsh winters and numerous avalanches that have destroyed other similar shelters.

After checking out the shelter continue on up the trail and take a look around.

Cooper's Spur
Mt. St. Helens (far left), Mt. Rainier (center), Mt. Adams (right)

On a clear day you can see for miles and the beauty is spectacular!

You really start gaining elevation from this point onward. You enter a series of switchbacks on the north face of Mt. Hood’s tundra zone. Hopefully, you brought your water! There are plenty of places to soak in the view. As a matter of fact, it’s beautiful in 365 degrees.

I took a moment to contemplate stuff.

Yoga headstand on Mt. Hood Cooper's Spur

Then, I pretended that I was an eagle!

Yoga on Mt. Hood Cooper's Spur
Eagle Pose on Mt. Hood

Keep on scrambling up the slope and see another attraction of this hike, Elliot Glacier.

Elliot Glacier Cooper's Spur Mt. Hood
Elliot Glacier

Keep on going just a little further! You might have to scramble through a boulder field if there is snow covering the trail, but you’re so close! It will be worth the effort.

Once on top of the spur, have a friend take your picture. You’ll want to prove that you were here.

Cooper's Spur Mt. Hood
Getting My Picture Taken

Soak in the view and check out the other volcanoes:

Mt. Adams

Mt. Adams from Cooper's Spur Mt. Hood
Mt. Adams

Mt. Rainier

Mt. Rainier from Cooper's Spur Mt. Hood
Mt. Rainier

Mt. Jefferson

Mt. Jefferson from Cooper's Spur Mt. Hood
Mt. Jefferson

The summit of Mt. Hood

Mt. Hood from Cooper's Spur
Mt. Hood from Cooper’s Spur

We stopped here and called it a day. If you continue onto the summit from here you will NEED:

  • helmet
  • ice axe
  • crampons
  • rope

Reaching the summit from Cooper’s Spur is doable but dangerous. You will need to climb over loose rock, gravel, and sand. A fall can result in death and it wouldn’t be the first!

Epilogue

The decent went really quickly. It probably took us less than half the time it took us to climb. We didn’t stop as much to soak in as many views. We were interested in getting off the mountain before nightfall, and we had visions of beer waiting for us at a yet-to-be-determined post-hike celebration.

On our way back to Portland, we stopped for that celebration at Pietros Pizza in Hood River. If you’re inclined, I would also recommend Full Sail Brewery.

Hopefully, I’ll be able to get in one more great hike before this year’s rainy season stays for good. It’s already looking pretty grey outside!

Enjoy your fitness, get outside, see beautiful scenery, smell clean air, and laugh with friends. Enjoy Your Health and Your World!

Cooper Spur Trail #600B (pdf)

The Take A Hike Series:

Take A Hike: The Redwoods
Take A Hike: Columbia River Gorge – Dog Mountain
Take A Hike: Crater Lake
Take A Hike: Goat Lake Wilderness
Take A Hike: John Day Fossil Beds

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