Throughout the school year when Eric teaches, we typically spend every weekend taking turns working and playing with the girls. So this summer, when Eric’s job is much less demanding, I wanted to make a point of spending more quality time together as a family. When we got a rare weekday off together earlier this summer, we searched for a family friendly hike on Mt. Hood and headed up the mountain to Twin Lakes. Boy, was I glad we did!
The hike was perfect. It was challenging enough to make me feel like I got a bit of a workout and had a breathtakingly gorgeous payoff at the end. The girls loved the hike—especially since they got to swim in a pristine lake on Mt. Hood. (What’s not to love?)
I’d recommend this family friendly hike on Mt. Hood in a heartbeat. Here’s all you need to know!
A family friendly hike on Mt. Hood
We initially drove up Mt. Hood to hike kid-friendly Mirror Lake, but our Oregon hikes guide book wasn’t wrong about it being a popular hike for families: Even on a weekday morning, the parking area on the side of the highway was overrun. So we drove a mere 6 miles farther up Mt. Hood and were rewarded when we hiked to Twin Lakes, instead.
We saw plenty of other families hiking on Mt. Hood as we readied the kids, Finn and our backpacks. Some families were even backpacking—they hiked their sleeping bags and camping gear just 2 miles to Twin Lakes, where they stayed overnight in the no-reservations camping area around the lake. (There are rules about where you can build a campfire and other restrictions, though, so make sure to read all the signage!)
Our girls loved the hike. They’re more used to forests full of enormous ferns and Doug firs, not the mountain’s drier climate with pines, so they loved exploring.
We weren’t quite prepared for the steady uphill climb to Twin Lakes, though. The hike is a mile and a half uphill, then a half-mile downhill to the first of the Twin Lakes. It’s not steep, so it would be easy enough for elementary aged kids, but both of our daughters rode in the hiking backpack and carrier most of the way up. (It didn’t help both kids were tired, since Kiwi has gone back to her sleep-hating ways. But that’s another post altogether.)
Yet any complaining and sweating were worth the payoff once we reached the beautiful Twin Lakes.
Scenic, pristine lakes on Mt. Hood
In her enthusiasm to get to the lakes, Peeper ran the last stretch of the hike downhill—and totally bit it when she tripped on a rock. (Warning to parents of little kids: The trails are well maintained but rocks and roots can trip little feet.)
Yet she stopped crying the moment we reached the lake, which is one of the two on this hike. (You have to walk a bit farther to get to the second of the Twin Lakes, which has a view of Mt. Hood and is less popular since you have to continue hiking to it.)
You can see why the lake made Peeper forget about her scrapes and bruises.
I suggested we eat the picnic lunch I’d packed, but Kiwi and Peeper couldn’t bother with peanut butter and tortilla sandwiches. They headed straight to the water.
The water isn’t nearly as cold as you’d think it would be on Mt. Hood. We swam, balanced on logs, watched some kids play with a little boat and threw sticks for dogs. On a hot day, we could have spent an entire afternoon playing at the lake, alternating between the sunny water and shaded woods that surround the lake.
No wonder this is such a perfect family friendly hike on Mt. Hood.
Twin Lakes hike on Mt. Hood: The details
Directions: Drive east on Highway 26 past Welches and Government Camp. Park at Frog Lake Sno-Park on the north side of the highway near milepost 62. The trailhead is on the far left of the parking lot, to the left of the restrooms. It’s a little under an hour and a half from Portland, Oregon.
Fees: You’ll need a Northwest Forest Pass, which you can buy at the Zigzag Ranger Station in Welches; you can also pay the $5 fee at the trailhead if you have exact change.
Features: Old-growth forests, wildflowers in the spring, views of Mt. Hood, mountain lakes.
Good for: Families, small children in carriers, elementary aged kids, dogs on leash, backpackers.
Must-know: There are bathrooms at the trailhead but not anywhere else on the hike. Make sure to pack out any garbage, including dog waste, as you hike up to Twin Lakes.
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