Running Around Mt. Hood

Running around Mt. Hood is one of the most spectacular runs in the Northwest. It is also quite a challenge, 40 miles with 10,000 feet of elevation gain, many remote sections and few bailout options. The page is intended to provide general information for those planning on taking on this run.

When To Do This Run

Click Current Conditions Link for latest info on run conditions

Much of this run is above 5000 feet and the high point is at 7300 feet (near Cooper Spur). The other problem you face is crossing the streams. They can get pretty big earlier in the summer. Because of all this, this route opens up pretty late in the year. August is a good bet and some years it is possible to run in late July. The season typically extends through the month of September (depending on the weather).

General Route Information

The map below shows the route for the run. There is always much debate for the direction you should do this run in. I've only run it once and I ran it clockwise. I actually think it is safer to run it counter clockwise. This way you get the sometimes tricky white river crossing over early. You also run along the better maintained and marked PCT for the second half.

Route finding is reasonable but non trivial. In a few areas there are side trails (particularly near Cairn basin). There are also a number of creek crossings and it can sometimes take a while to find the trail on the opposite side (look for flagging tape).

Water is generally plentiful. You cross quite a few streams on this run. I'd bring two water bottles but you probably do not need a large CamelBack. Of course you need to bring purification tablets or filter or take your chances.

Maps and Reference Information

This is going to be a long day. Make sure you bring your 10 Essentials along.

You need to bring a map for this run. I would recommend the Green Trails maps 461 (Government Camp) and 462 (Mt Hood). Both maps are needed - the run does not fit on one map.

The loop. This oblique image created by my friends at ultrafreaks using Delorme Topo USA

You definitely want to check the weather before heading out on this run. Mike Burke, I still haven't forgiven you for dragging us out in that rain, cold and sideways falling snow in 2000!

I'd suggest checking the link for Government camp or the National Weather Service Northwest forecast.

Just for fun you may want to check out the camera links at Government Camp or Timberline lodge.

It's a good idea to check with the ranger before heading up to find out if there are any trail closures or other info. The Sandy office appears to be the best bet 503 622-7674 They also have a website at

Mileage Splits and Time Estimate

The table below gives split distances for running CCW (recommended) and CW. Typically it takes from 11 to 13 hours to do this run (assuming very experienced runners). For some reason, over the years, I've gotten quite a few e-mails from folks wanting to know the fastest this course has ever been run. This course used to be a race (before it became a national scenic area) and on August 28, 1982 27 year old John Coffey set the all time record for this course by completing it in an incredible 6:24:33!. For more info click on the scanned UltraRunner articles: page 1, page 2 or peruse through the All Time Records list.

Mileage and Splits
Landmark CCW CW
Timberline Lodge
Exit. PCT
Cross White River
Jct. Umbrella Falls Tr #667
Cross Clark Creek
Jct. Newton Creek Tr #646
Jct. Gnarl Ridge Tr #652
Cross Lambertson Spur (7320 ft)
Cloud Cap
Elk Cove Tr #631
Wy'east Basin
Cairn Basin (stone shelter)
Cross McGee Creek
Get on PCT
Muddy Fork Crossing
Ramona Falls
N. Jnct Paradise Loop
Jnct Paradise Park Tr #778
S. Jnct Paradise Loop #757
Cross ZigZag River
Timberline Lodge

Mileage above is from Around Mt Hood in Easy Stages
Lowpoint 3200 feet (after Ramona Falls when)
Highpoint 7350 feet (before Cloud Cap) Total Elevation Gain ~10,000

Elevation profile. Profile for running CCW, created with TOPO!™ ©1998 Wildflower Productions ( TOPO!™ calculates the distance as 38 miles. Click for larger image.

Driving Directions

Everyone starts this run at Timberline lodge. (As an aside, I've thought it would be neat to start this run at Cloud Cap. The advantage of this would be stopping to get food at Timberline when you are part way through the run. Of course the drive is longer to Cloud Cap).

Timberline Lodge is located 6 miles up the hill from Government Camp. Take HWY 26 out to Government camp and then turn on to Timberline HWY. For those of you coming in to from out of state, click here for more detailed directions from the airport.


Last time I ran with Mike and Bob it was so miserable I didn't take pictures. However, Scott McQueeney went out on a beautiful day and has a nice set of pictures.

Lately the ultrafreaks gang ran it and put some of their shots up on the web as well. Take a look at Mt Hood Photos. Notice how full the rivers were for this crossing (and this is labor day 2001).

NOTE: This page contains running information for experienced ultra runners. Experience ultra runners are people who have already completed 50K, 50Mile or longer ultramarathons. The advice on this page is not directed towards hikers or typical 10k recreational runners. No guarantee is made about the accuracy of maps or information on this page. This page is only intended as a starting point for your own research on places to run. Always check route information yourself and be prepared.