On Top of the World at Timberline Lodge

Oregon’s Mt. Hood is one of our favorite American destinations for a number of reasons—reliable summer skiing, easy access from Portland, and unbeatable panoramic views from the top. Although these reasons are enough to keep us coming back, one of the best parts of venturing to Mt. Hood is a chance to stay at the historic Timberline Lodge.

Timberline Lodge is a majestic mountain hotel recognized as both a National Historic Landmark and as a member of the Historic Hotels of America. Built between 1936 and 1938, the lodge was funded by the Depression-era Works Progress Administration (WPA) and employed hundreds of artists, craftspeople, and laborers. Constructed of locally-sourced timber and stone, the building’s grand scale and setting on the flanks of Mt. Hood are still impressive today.

Patio Chairs

The most stunning room in the lodge and a natural gathering place is the central headhouse, housing a massive six-sided stone fireplace rising 90 feet in the cavernous room. The headhouse really is the heart of the building, as the guestrooms and fine dining restaurant are found in the two wings which spread to either side.

Looking beyond the grand scale of the lodge, you can quickly see that Timberline is special for all the small details. During Timberline’s construction, the Federal Art Project of the WPA employed skilled artists and craftsmen to completely decorate and outfit the lodge using a consistent aesthetic throughout. Textiles, woodcarvings, artwork, furniture, and metalwork were all custom built around Timberline’s three themes—Native American motif, pioneer, and native flora and fauna.

Some of the original furniture and textiles remain while others have been faithfully reproduced and replaced over time. The guestrooms are completely outfitted according to the same themes, providing small but cozy rooms with original touches that make you feel like you have gone back in time. For an in-depth look at the art and décor, the U.S. Forest Service maintains a post on the lower level of the lodge and offers free tours pointing out many of the unique architectural details.

As overnight guests at Timberline, we take full advantage of all the lodge has to offer. We enjoyed meals in the more casual Ram’s Head Bar (located on the mezzanine on the upper floor of the headhouse), as well as the fine-dining Cascade Dining Room (for both dinner and their fantastic breakfast buffet). We also enjoyed the outdoor pool and hot tub after a day on the slopes. Beyond the obvious amenities, staying overnight also gives us the chance to experience Timberline once the day trippers head home. There’s a nice quiet that settles over the lodge and evenings are a great time to hang out in the headhouse and enjoy the space without any crowds.

Timberline offers the only summer skiing in the continental United States, and that is a big draw for us whenever we find ourselves in the Pacific Northwest. The lodge makes a great base for a ski day being only a few steps from the Magic Mile chairlift. Magic Mile carries both skiers and sightseers (the latter only in the summer months) up to 7,016’ for fantastic views. When enough snow persists into the summer season, skiers can descend back to the bottom of Magic Mile via a few different trails. From the top of the Magic Mile, skiers can continue to the Palmer chair, which at a top altitude of 8,540’ offers access to reliable summer snow on the perennial snowfield. The Palmer Snowfield is home to a number of summer race programs, but there’s still space for recreational skiers to share the slopes, even on the busiest of days. (We lucked out this year beating the ski camps by a week, and had the place all to ourselves!)

We are always excited to have the chance to visit to Timberline Lodge and its ski area. The lodge is a one-of-a-kind spot with its setting literally right at the timberline, its grand scale, rustic and timeless furnishings, and unique historic touches scattered throughout the property. Add in the option of summer skiing, some delicious après-ski dining, and super comfortable guest rooms, and we know we’ll continue to return for years to come.

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