60 miles E of Portland, 46 miles S of Hood River

At 11,235 feet, Mount Hood, a dormant volcano, is the tallest mountain in Oregon. Located fewer than 60 miles east of downtown Portland, it is also the busiest mountain in the state. Summer and winter, people flock here in search of cool mountain air filled with the scent of firs and pines. Campgrounds, hiking and mountain-biking trails, trout streams and lakes, downhill ski areas, and cross-country ski trails all provide ample opportunities for outdoor recreational activities on Mount Hood.

With five downhill areas and many miles of cross-country trails, the mountain is a ski bum's dream come true. One of the country's largest night-skiing areas is here, and at Timberline you can ski right through the summer. Because even those with a moderate amount of mountain-climbing experience can reach the summit fairly easily, Mount Hood is also the most climbed major peak in the United States.

One of the first settlers to visit Mount Hood was Samuel Barlow, who in 1845 had traveled the Oregon Trail and was searching for an alternative to taking his wagon train down the treacherous waters of the Columbia River. Barlow blazed a trail across the south flank of Mount Hood, and the following year he opened his trail as a toll road. The Barlow Trail, though difficult, was cheaper and safer than rafting down the river. The trail is now used for hiking and mountain biking.

During the Great Depression, the Works Progress Administration employed skilled craftsmen to build the rustic Timberline Lodge at the tree line on the mountain's south slope. Today the lodge is a National Historic Landmark and is the main destination for visitors to the mountain. The lodge's vista of Mount Hood's peak and of the Oregon Cascades to the south gets my vote for the state's most unforgettable view.

Don't expect to have this mountain all to yourself, though. Because of its proximity to Portland, Mount Hood sees a lot of visitors throughout the year, and, on snowy days, the road back down the mountain from the ski areas can be bumper to bumper and backed up for hours. Also keep in mind that you'll need to have a Sno-Park permit in the winter (available at ski shops around the area) and a Northwest Forest Pass to park at trail heads in the summer (available at ranger stations, visitor centers, and a few outdoors-oriented shops).