OverviewThe Tilly Jane ski trail is the only access trail to the climbs on Mt. Hoods Northeast side during the winter months. In summer and fall there is a road that leads up to Cloud Cap Inn, and the Tilly Jane Campground. But the road is gated when the first snows arrive, and usually does not open back up until all the snow is gone from the road, usually late June or early July.
So if you're heading up to do any of the North side climbs on Mt. Hood in winter or early spring, this is the approach trail you have to take to get to those climbs.
Getting ThereFrom Portland drive east on interstate 84 for about 60 miles to the town of Hood River. Head south at exit 64 on Oregon route 35. Along the way you will pass the ranger station in the town of Mt. Hood. After 23 miles, turn west (right) on Cooper Spur Road. After 2 miles, turn left on FR3512, Cloud Cap Road. Continue toward Cooper Spur Ski area and at the end of the plowed road, you will see a small sno-park and a gated road. Park here and the trailhead will be on your left. There is a sign at the trail head with a map, and other information about the area.
If you are coming from the south, Just follow Oregon 35 from it's junction at US 26 and head North. Just as you pass Sherwood campground, you will see a road on the Left labeled as Cooper Spur Road. take this road up hill until you get to the sign on your left to Cooper Spur Ski Area. From there it's the same as coming from Portland.
Route DescriptionThe trail starts at the Sno-Park, and head up gently at first through a wooded area. At about a 1/2 miles the trail meets with another trail that starts at the top of the runs at the Cooper Spur Ski Area. (As an alternate route, you can start from the ski area and ascend that direction as well) Follow this trail up a ridge where the trees open up and you begin to enter a burned area that was part of the Gnarl Ridge fire that burned up most of the Tilly Jane area in the fall of 2008.
From here you have views of the Mt. Hood National forest to the southwest. the trail continues up along this ridge for another 2 miles through mostly burned timbers and snags. If you scout carefully, you can discern many nice fall line ski runs through the burned forest.
After those 2 miles you will encounter the Tilly Jane Ski Warming Hut, which was built in 1939 by the CCC.
This shelter is open to the public and features a nice wood stove, stocked wood, and if you make reservations with the Friends Of Tilly Jane, there is a locker with pots and pans, lanterns and candles for you to use. This shelter makes a nice base camp for the area, if you intend to ski around the area for a weekend.
From here there are many trails that lead to various routes and campgrounds, including the Timberline trail , Cooper Spur, Eliot Glacier/Sunshine route, and The North Face.
In the winter there are also lot's of options to ski back down rather than taking the Tilly Jane Trail. The 1889 Wagon Road is the old road track that led up to the Cloud Cap Inn before the much better graded Cloud Cap Road was built. But at the bottom of this trail you have to skin out for 2.5 miles back to the parking lot. although most is somewhat down hill, snowboarders will want to use their poles to keep momentum up.
Essential GearThis is essentially a ski trail, so you should consider bringing skis or Splitboard with climbing skins (or appropriate Nordic gear). But, there are also many people that hike the trail and area on snow shoes. Be especially observant of them when you are heading down the trail, because sometimes they will be in the middle of the trail. Skiers are not so much the issue since most of the time the skin track is off to one side of the trail.
If you are going for an overnighter or multi day trip, bring your sleeping bags, cook stove etc. with you. There is of course the warming hut you can stay in for free (A small donation box is in the hut, and donations are encouraged), but there are several other cabins in the area, including Cloud Cap Inn, Operated by the Crag Rats, The Tilly Jane Guard Station operated by the Oregon Nordic Club, and the Snowshoe clubs cabin behind Cloud Cap Inn. These Cabins are not open to the public for free. But if you contact the clubs that operate them, some are for rent on weekends etc.
In winter use common sense and use you layering systems just like any other winter trip, and bring your 10-12 essentials, food, water, and beer.
Misc.NW Forest Pass is required in the summer at both the Tilly Jane Trail Head and at the Tilly Jane or Cloud Cap Campgrounds.
Oregon Sno-Park Pass are required in the winter time at the Tilly Jane Trail Head and at the Cooper Spur Ski Area.
Also, If hiking this trail in the summer months or when there is no snow, the US Forest Service would like for people to stay on the beaten trail path. They are trying to minimize erosion caused by people because of the Gnarl Ridge fire from a few years ago.
HistoryThe Following is an excerpt from "Mount Hood, A Complete History" by Jack Grauer.
"There is a Tilly Jane Creek and a Tilly Jane Camp. They where both named for Tilly Jane Ladd, Wife of William Ladd, who in partnership with Colonel C.E.S. Wood, bought the Cloud Cap Road, and the Cloud Cap Inn from the Cooper-Coe-Stranahan partnership in 1889. The Ladds probably visited the area, prior to 1889, but perhaps not.However this gives a clue to when Tilly Jane Creek and Camp where named.
Long after the era of the Cooper tent camp, The Tilly Jane area was a popular place to camp. The Tilly Jane Guard Station was built on the north side Tilly Jane Creek in 1924, the time when the Hood River American Legion began to run their famous north side summit climbs. The trail into the creek canyon emerged on the south side to a side hill where they built the American Legion Cookhouse in 1924. Below and to the west, they built benches in an amphitheater style where people could sit and eat. In the evening, Legionaires conducted and early program before the climbers went to bed. These functions attracted crowds by the hundreds. Bus Gibson recalls a pre-climb evening after World War II, when about a thousand people partied in the area. Meanwhile, the hundred or so climbers lay in their sleeping bags, desperatly trying to get a little sleep before the cruel march up the mountain began.
Just east of the Legion Cookhouse, is the A-frame shelter built by the CCC in 1939. This building, about 24'x48', had a kitchen and dining hall on the ground floor and sleeping area above in a loft. The pit toilets were unique in that they where built into the structure, flanking the front entrance.
The Tilly Jane Ski trail runs past the door of the a frame on it's 2.5 mile route for a drop of 1900 feet to the Cooper Spur Ski Area. The trail was brushed out in the winter of 1938-39 by Percy Bucklin, Bill Cochran, Harold Wells, and Walter Applegren. Cross country skiers find the twisting trail a challenge."