Lower Twin Lake is in the Mt. Hood National Forest and the hiking or snow-shoe/cross country trails are easily accessible via Hwy 26 or Hwy 35. If you plan on hiking the trail during the season when there isn’t any snow, you have plenty of time to hike to both of the twin lakes. However, if you’re planning on snow-shoeing the trail, during the winter months, you will have less time to explore due to the limited sunlight and the deep snow pack that will slow you down. The best place to start a snow-shoe trip to the lakes is by starting at the Frog Lake snow park, which is located off of Hwy 35. The snow park is well marked and you won’t have any problem following the blue diamonds that help you navigate the snow trail. Parts of the trail actually follows along the Pacific Crest Trail and when you get to a fork in the trail there is a very detailed sign that shows you exactly where you are and where you will need to go. If you decide to go straight, you will continue to follow along the PCT and end up at Hwy 35. However, if you take a right you will be led straight to the Lower Twin Lake. you can continue to follow along the edge of the lake and you will eventually end up at Upper Twin Lake. The elevation gain is pretty steep just past Lower Twin Lake and if you’re snow-shoeing, you will really feel the burn in your leg muscles but if you’re cross country skiing, you will probably need to take them off and hike most of the way to the top. Once you get to Upper Twin Lake, you will pass Bird Butte and eventually end back at the PCT at a place called the shoulder. You will either have to take a right or a left and since you will want to continue the loop back you your car, you will want to take a left and head back the way you came. The entire loop is 8 miles and you probably won’t be able to snow-shoe the trail during winter unless you leave very early in the morning and plan on using a head lamp at the end of the trek since it will probably be getting dark. If you don’t want to do the 8 mile loop, I would suggest that you just make your way around Lower Twin Lake and then head back. The views are awesome and if the weather is descent, you can get some pretty awesome photos.
One of the most grueling hikes in the Mt. Hood National Forest is a hike called Devils Peak Lookout. It provides over 3200 feet of elevation gain and is a 8.2 mile round trip hike. The hike is pretty much straight up and straight down. It’s also like doing heavy squats up and then heavy lunges down. The only rest time available is when you decide that you need to take a break. You can also expect to feel like you have 50 charlie horse running through your legs for at least 5 days. You literally won’t be able to walk normally for almost 5 straight days. If you don’t believe me, go ahead and make the hike and then you will. By the time you get half way down from the trail, you will start to really feel the pain shooting through your knees and quads. You can rest anytime you want but unfortunately, you are only putting off the inevitable. I usually rest about every mile or so and then snack a little bit in order to recharge. The hike itself is amazing with fantastic views along the way as well as spectacular old growth forest the entire length of the hike. The photo that I posted is just one of the millions of photo opportunities that you will find throughout the entire hike. There are several areas where you will be able to walk across some really small trickles of water but the best part is it provides the opportunity to cool down. I normally drench myself as much as possible since I’m usually sweating like a pig even though 90 percent of the trail is completely shaded from the sun. The name of the trail is actually called Cool Creek Trail but you don’t actually hike along or near a creek. I don’t think any of the small brooks that you will see actually pass as a creek. This is especially true since they pretty much dry up during the summer months. However, it did rain the morning I made the hike so I was able to find some trickling water at one of the spots. There is also a creek where you park but it’s called Still Creek. If you’re training for a serious climb, I would highly recommend this hike but if you’re only looking for a easy or moderate hike, I would recommend that you avoid this trail. There are plenty of other hikes available within the Mt. Hood Wilderness area. However, this hike has it all! Awesome views of Mt. Hood and Jefferson, salmon berries, Oregon grape and rhododendrons. You may also see several different species of alpine birds.
[/caption] Burnt Lake is located within the Mt. Hood National Forest and offers great photo opportunities. The entire 6.8 mile round trip hike to Burnt Lake offers spectacular views throughout the entire hike. Plan on keeping your camera close at hand since the forest is teeming with great opportunities to capture an amazing forest scene with the fast moving Burnt Lake Creek following you almost the entire way. You many want to bring your tripod and photograph Lost Creek Falls as well. views of Mt. Hood are at about the 3 mile mark, with the forest surrounding the entire area. Burnt Lake is truly a photographers dream, with Mt. Hood seeming within touching distance and wild trout fishing for insects. There isn’t a beach to set up for your shots but there are some spots along the lakes edge that offer great opportunities. I took this particular shot near one of the few campsites that dot the lake. Mt. Hood is directly east of the lake so you want to be on the west side of the lake. The trail takes you around the small lake but parts of the trail are either too muddy or boggy if the water level is too high. The quickest way to get to the trailhead is by turning left, from Portland, at East Lolo Pass Road and then turning right at FS 1825. Take a right to cross the Sandy River bridge and then follow the signs to the Lost Creek campground. The trail then heads left on a 1.4 mile gravel road to the end. The hike is 6.8 miles roundtrip and the elevation gain is 1500 feet. It’s actually a pretty easy hike with hundreds of places to rest in the forest or along the creek. The quick hike to Lost Creek Falls is worth the extra 10 minute hike in the opposite direction of the trail. I decided not to bring my tripod with me since I knew that I wasn’t going to worry about photographing the waterfall and the sunlight was pretty good. However, I now regret not getting some great photos of the waterfall. In order to get the reflection of the mountain in the lake I just waited for the wind to die down and then kept a steady hand. I turned on the OS on my Sigma 17-70mm lens and made sure to attach my CIR-PL and warming filter. I was able to keep the ISO at 100 and then just played around with the white balance. The clouds were a little washed out so I did have to saturate the colors and darken the highlights using Adobe Photoshop.
[/caption] If you’re looking for an opportunity to view Mt. Hood while perched on a steep slope with forested trees vying for space, you will want to follow the snow shoe/x-country trails that take you along the White River West trail. Winter is the best time to visit since you are almost guaranteed to find yourself trudging through several feet of fresh powder. If you decide to go all the way to the top you will enjoy one of the most grueling days of your life. Not only is it steep but you have to navigate through the trees and the snow can be very deep. The top of the climb takes you smack in the middle of Timberline lodge on your left and the tallest chairlift at Mt. Hood Meadows on the right. There are several crevasses separating you from either of the two ski parks. The climb ends at about 6,500 feet and by the time your at the top, you’ve climbed close to 2,300 feet in elevation gain. You have a great view of Mt. Jefferson and the Three Sisters in the south and the overall view is pretty spectacular.
[/caption] Even the tallest fir trees can’t escape the huge snow storms that dominate the Cascade mountains. The best time to snow shoe along the forest of the Cascade mountains is on a sun soaked day just after a massive snow storm dumped several feet of powder. Once you get inside the forest, you can look towards the skies and try to find the perfect photography scene. I took this shot while snow-shoeing in the Mt. Hood forest. I was trying to get a good panoramic photo of the tree tops and the blue sky in the background without any clouds. I was very lucky on this photo so I made sure to set the focal length at 17mm and bent down as much as possible so I could frame as many trees as possible as well as the blue sky.
[/caption] A rare view of the snow covered trees with its reflection from the lake. Normally the Fanning is completely frozen after a good winter with only a few spots where the creeks meander along the lake. I was surprised by this opportunity to get a photograph like this. I normally end up trying to get some panoramic shots of the snow covered lake with the creeks slicing through the snow. However, this scene gave me a great opportunity and I ended up noticing that the trees were being reflected from the lake and luckily it was calm enough to get a pretty descent reflection since the water wasn’t moving too much. I’ve actually very gingerly snow-shoed over this very same area and never saw any openings like this. This is especially surprising since this winter has seen way more snow and cooler temperatures than the last two years. You can actually snow-shoe around the entire perimeter of the lake as well as cut through parts of it only if it’s covered with enough snow. Since the light was very unbalanced I made sure to use my tripod and bubble level in order to avoid any camera shake or blur. I was shaded from the sun by the forest but the lake was sun drenched. This created a really nice opportunity.
[/caption] Trillium lake offers a great place to view snow-capped Mt. Hood just after a snow storm. The lake is about 2 miles from the Trillium lake snow-park and it will take you about an hour to snow-show but even less time if you’re x-country skiing. There are several areas where you can explore and you may even spot some wildlife along the way or near the lake. The best times to visit is either during mid winter, after a big snow storm, or during Spring, when there is still plenty of snow on the mountain and the skies are clear. The lake can get pretty crowded during the summer months so I would try to visit on a weekday. There is an endless amount of trails beckoning you once you’ve reached the lake. You could spend days or weeks exploring the Mt. Hood National Forest if time and weather permits.
[/caption] After a big snow storm hits the Pacific Northwest you can sometimes get lucky and have a few days of sunny skies which offers some great photo opportunities. There is no better way to get Christmas card ideas than to head out to the Cascade mountains and snowshoe around some of the snow parks. The trees are plentiful and almost beg you to take their picture. The only thing to do is take a bag of lights and create your own private Christmas tree in the National Forest. This photo was taken in the Mt. Hood National Forest after a big snow storm the day before. The weather changed to sunny blue skies with high wispy clouds. I wasn’t using a tripod since the light was pretty bright and I decided that it would be too much work to carry my tripod since I relied on my poles to keep me from getting stuck in the 5 feet of fresh powder. sometimes I just make the necessary adjustment but when I’m on a roll and only stop for a few seconds at a time, I like to just rely on my IS and make sure to review the histogram and keep a steady hand. Too get this photo I set the ISO at 100 and the white balance at -1.3 since I was looking almost directly into the sun. It was about 12:05pm and the glare was pretty intense due to the sun and snow covered platform. I attached my CIR-PL and warming filter and set the camera mode at Program/Normal. The aperture was at F-9 and the shutter speed was at 1/166 second. I was using my Canon 18-55mm kit lens and set the focal length at 32mm.
[/caption] A great hike deep within the Mt. Hood National Forest that offers spectacular views of Ramona Falls, the Sandy river, Mt. Hood as well as Ramona creek and several granite cliffs is the Ramona Falls trail. The trail to the waterfall is a moderate 7 mile hike that offers a loop so you don’t have to double back. There are also some awesome views of the forest as you wind along the Sandy river. I took this shot last September near the end of our hike. It was about 5:35pm and I believe the sun set around 7:00pm. The sun was at about a 90 degree angle in the upper left and there was several sun spots shining through the clouds above. I waited for a few minutes to get just the right amount of sunlight creasing through the clouds as it shined below. I chose this photo since you can see the silhouette of the trees as well as the forest. The rolling foothills in the background offer a nice added feature. The clouds were moving pretty fast so I took as many photos as I could hoping to capture the sun piercing through the clouds. I was using my Canon T1i along with my Canon 18-55mm kit lens. I attached my CIR-PL and my warming filter in order to saturate the sky and warm the clouds. I was using my tripod, bubble level and remote switch since the lighting was so low that there was no way to avoid camera shake or blur from the movement of the camera. The camera was in Program/Normal mode so the aperture was at F-8 and the shutter speed at 1/160 second. I set the ISO to 100 and kept the white balance at 0 due to the low light.
[/caption] One of my favorite hikes near Mt. Hood has got to be one of many trials that face the west part of the mountain. the views are spectacular and there is a lot of peace and solitude. There aren’t any paved roads, only narrow and windy gravel roads that take you to around 4000 feet elevation gain. One of the most scenic trails is the Timberline trail which takes you around Bald Mountain. At this part of the trail you can get some of the most spectacular photos of the mountain. The Mt. Hood national forest surrounds the mountain in the foreground and the birth of the Sandy River is directly below, along with the dozens of amazing waterfalls pouring out from the glaciers clinging along the mountains flanks. The photo shown here was taken just below McNeil point and you can see one of the waterfalls that helps form the Sandy river on the upper left. Muddy fork travels directly below which becomes part of the Sandy river. At this particular spot you are in the middle of two relentless creeks on both sides. You are basically on an island that only allows you to go straight up if you are trying to avoid the water. However, I did have to jump across the muddy creek, which can be very dangerous if the water level is high. I usually spend a few minutes looking for the safest spot to jump since I don’t want to break any of my equipment. You can also see another waterfall on the far right of the photo. I took this shot when I noticed how picturesque this photo looked with this Foxglove in the foreground of Mt. Hood. I was using my Canon EOS Rebel T1i along with my Tokina 12-24mm wide angle lens. On this day the haze was particularly bad and the glare from the sun was pretty intense. I made sure to attach my UV, warming and CIR-PL filters in order to soften the sky and bring out the colors of the vegetation. I set the camera to Program/Normal mode which put the aperture at F7 and the shutter speed at 1/125 second. I set the ISO to 100 and the white balance to -1 step due to the brightness of the sun. I was trying to get as much in the frame as possible so I had the focal length at 20mm. I didn’t want to have any blur in the corners of the photo so I ended up having to crop each of the corners. Since I was looking up for so many of my shots, several parts of the photo looked somewhat blurred. This was mostly due to a combination of things…. The field of view was huge, there were several subject in the photo and each subject was either close or farther away. It was like trying to take a 3D photo. Hiking in this part of the Mt. Hood national forest is best during late Spring or Summer. You will still find some snow and the flowers are amazing.