In Oregon’s Mt. Hood National Forest, the summer sun dries out the backcountry ski trails, opening them up for mountain biking along ridges and through old-growth forest with views of 11,000-foot mountains. Take advantage of the skiing infrastructure and overnight in one of the five rustic cabins of the Cascade Hut System. Each 16-by-16 hut (they go for about $100 a night) contains eight beds equipped with sleeping bags, a stove, and a cabinet stocked with pasta, soups, Clif bars, and pancake mix. “You can stay on the trails for days with just your bike,” says Kirt Voreis, a Bend, Oregon, resident and former pro racer. There are more than 140 miles of trails, including a tough four-day loop that circles Mt. Hood.
Start in the town of Hood River and pedal through the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area to the Surveyor’s Ridge Trail, a 13-mile stretch of open-air singletrack. Steel yourself for this brutal day – by the end you will have climbed a whopping 6,100 feet. Sleep at the Surveyor’s Hut, which, at 4,100 feet, has the best overlook of all the huts.
From the Surveyor’s Hut, take the flat but twisty and technical Gunsight Ridge Trail along the spine of a ridge, with nothing between you and Mt. Hood except the Douglas fir-filled valley. Stay at the Barlow Hut.
This is a day of long climbs and steep downhills. You’ll start with a five-mile ride up Barlow Road, part of the historic Oregon Trail, and then bomb down the Pioneer Bridle Trail, with sloped turns and creek crossings, before the big 2,500-foot climb (on paved roads) to Lolo Pass and its hut.
It’s all downhill back to Hood River on fire roads that look out on Hood River Valley’s farmland.