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Timberline Lodge
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Timberline LodgeWhat’s to Love:   This could easily turn into another generic article on the iconic Timberline Lodge.  Built during the Great Depression, it has been in operation since 1937 and literally every aspect of the lodge has been covered by a multitude of articles, documentaries, Hollywood films, photographers, etc.  Even folks disinterested in the history or craftsmanship of the lodge are genuinely moved as they enter the lobby.  Can I possibly say something fresh and new about Timberline?

Mt. HoodI’ve had so many pleasant experiences up here, but I think I finally have a new angle.  Due to my focus on kids, I hope to present a unique view of Timberline for all my parent-readers out there.  Perhaps, you’ll see Timberline Lodge in a whole new light.  And, you’ll make the drive up the mountain for a night’s stay, skiing, snowshoeing, a joy-ride on the “magic mile” chair lift, dinner at the Cascade Dining Room, or simply to relax by the fire and enjoy the amazing “Cloud Cap Hot Cocoa!”  Woody Guthrie would be proud to hear me say, “This is YOUR lodge!”

If it’s not apparently obvious yet, I am completely biased about Timberline – my wife and I were married on the back deck on an incredible August day, and we continue to make seasonal pilgrimages.  Over the years, we’ve played in the snow around Mt. Hood getting cold, wet and tired.  On these trips, I always dreamed of NOT heading back to Portland (and work) and instead, seeking out refuge at the lodge – sitting around the fire with a bottle of wine or nice hot drink.  It’s like a mythical getaway perched up on the flanks of Mt. Hood.  However mythical it might seem, this is not an “exclusive” resort.  There is something at Timberline for the whole family.  If money is an issue, there are plenty of things to do for free, or at reasonable cost.

Timberline LodgeTimberline Lodge is a public building – it was built “…by the people for the people.”  You don’t have to stay overnight to enjoy everything it has to offer.  An adventure at Timberline usually starts by enjoying one of the many outdoor pursuits in this area whether it’s tubing, downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, visiting Hood River’s orchards, etc.  It doesn’t matter, because no matter what time of the year or no matter what you’re doing, Timberline Lodge and all its amenities are THE constant in this area.  This incredible community resource is always available to you and your family.

Take the drive up Timberline Highway and marvel at the stunning views of Mt. Hood.  Take a walk around the lodge and tour the “Ski Museum,” which has some delightful artifacts from the early pioneers of skiing.  You may opt for a board game by the fire, or some snowshoeing right out the front door.  Hungry?  Settle in for a casual snack, lunch or dinner at the Ram’s Head Bar, which is my personal favorite – I love sitting on the couches and admiring the view.  If you want pizza and beer, head to the Blue Ox Bar right off the main lobby.  Not for every budget, the Cascade Dining Room is fine dining at its best.  Leif Benson has been the executive chef there since 1979!  If you can’t afford dinner, the Cascade Dining Room has a great breakfast buffet (adults $12.95, ages 4-12 $7.95, and kids ages 3 and under are free!).  They also have a continental breakfast option for under $10.

Here is a new video of skiing with my 5 year old son.

Caveats:  Staying overnight might not be in the budget for every family.  However, it’s possible to get a room for under $125/night, which isn’t that much more than a Holiday Inn or Best Western.  For that price, don’t expect a lot of amenities just for kids.  Some of the lower-end-rooms (chalets) do not have TVs or phones, and certainly not video games.  This is a place to get away from all those distractions.  The rooms have hardwood floors, so it will be almost impossible to put your 6 month old baby down for playtime unless you bring a playpen.

I can’t imagine that it’s cheap to get food transported up here; therefore, that cost gets reflected back to the consumer.  Expect good food at prices that are about 25% – 50% higher than what you might pay in Portland.

While Timberline Lodge is spectacular covered in snow, be prepared for some rough driving conditions, especially on Timberline Highway (the access road off highway 26).  Putting on tire chains is not one of my favorite activities, but it’s absolutely necessary if the warning signs are lit-up.

WebsiteTimberline Lodge Also, you’ll want to check out “Activities for the whole family.

Distance from Portland:  It’s about 60 miles from downtown Portland, but you’ll want to give yourself 90 minutes to get up there.  Going up Timberline Highway can be very slow in bad weather.  Here is a Google satellite image of the area.  It was difficult to get the exact address in Google, but this will work:  27500 E Timberline Rd, Government Camp, OR.

Recommended Ages:  This is one of those destinations that will satisfy practically everyone in the whole family.  Don’t expect a bunch of activities planned just to keep the kids busy.  However, older kids will have fun just exploring the lodge, skiing, snowshoeing, hiking, and smaller children will love playing around the fireplaces, playing some ping-pong and/or shuffleboard, or exploring the terrain around the lodge.

Parental Stress Factor:  Low stress!  Parents take their kids to Timberline Lodge, because they want to unwind and relax.  There is plenty of room to let the kids explore and have fun.

Physical Difficulty: Despite being built between 1935 and 1937, the lodge does have an elevator for getting up and down floors.  Getting in and out of the lodge during heavy snow could be a big challenge for someone with physical limitations.  If you have specific questions concerning handicap accessibility, please contact Timberline.

Family Fun Factor:  Medium to High – Timberline isn’t a Disney-style resort.  This is a place to take the family to relax.  Certainly, if you’re going to be doing some snowshoeing, skiing and/or hiking, the fun factor can be extremely high for the whole family.

Pet Friendly:  No pets allowed.

Weather Considerations:  I know quite a few people who live in Portland and have never been to Timberline Lodge!  When I hear it, it’s hard for me to believe, but a lot of Portlanders are afraid of driving in the snow and/or ice.  If you don’t want to take the chance of hitting a snowstorm, I would wait until summer.  Summertime is actually the perfect time to visit the lodge, if you’re not into winter sports.  During summer months, the weather is pretty stable and sunny.

Cascade Dining RoomInsider Info:  Got chains?  Bring ‘em!  I’ve been up here so many times without chains, and I finally met my match this time.  The access road off 26 is steep enough to cause cars to turn around on their way up.  On this trip, our tires were not getting much traction, and I was about to pull over to put on our chains.  Fortunately, a plow came around our car and laid down gravel for us the rest of the way to the lodge.  If the highway warning signs say “chains required,” and your car doesn’t have studded snow tires or your tires are worn, make sure to chain up, or you may not make it up to the lodge.

Most likely, you’ll park in the lower lot, which can be quite a slog up to the lodge, especially if there is a lot of snow.  I’ve seen many people totally unprepared for this walk (i.e., high heels, t-shirts, etc.).  In winter, make sure you and your kids are bundled up and have snow boots ready to go!  Most likely, you will not want to be wearing dress shoes or sneakers.

Kids 6 and under ski for free at Timberline!  If you’re planning on teaching your young kids to ski, I recommend getting a ticket just for the “Bruno” ski lift, which is the bunny hill ($23).  For an infinite number of runs, this is very reasonable, and it will provide a low-stress environment to teach and learn.  If you’re not into skiing but still want to experience the mountain, I recommend purchasing tickets to ride the “magic mile” chair lift.  This will bring you WAY up on the mountain for some spectacular views without having to worry about skiing.  Here are the rates.

Hot Tub at Timberline LodgeFamily Tips:  I don’t think the lodge was built with the type of sound-proofing present in many hotels today.  As I sit and type in my room, it’s fairly noisy outside at 10PM.  I hear heavy footsteps, a baby crying that is on the other end of the corridor, people talking, and doors opening and closing.  Don’t let this deter you from staying at the lodge!  I recommend bringing a fan to help deal with the noise.

If you’re planning on staying overnight, your best bet might be to come with another family or several!  Chalet rooms (starting at $105 – $115) have bunk beds and can sleep up to 10 people.  Older kids could all sleep in the same room, or families could just share the room and split the cost, which would be very inexpensive.  Here are their room rates.

Here is a page with all their room types.

In rough weather, you can pull right up to the front of the lodge to drop-off kids, grandparents, and anyone else who might not want to walk from the lower parking lots.

Shuffleboard TableThe “Barlow Room” right off the main lobby is an excellent place to let kids run around a bit.  Head over the front desk and ask for the ping pong gear.  Also, ask them for a little salt/sand for the killer shuffleboard table!  My son and I played shuffleboard for probably an hour or more.

If you’re on a limited budget, you may want to bring your own snacks and enjoy them by the fire or outside on the deck in the summertime.

Technorati Tags: Timberline Lodge, Government Camp, pacific, northwest, lodges, skiing, Mt. Hood, activities, lodging, year round skiing, public, ski resort

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1 Comment


  1. School is closed tomorrow (Monday, December 15th) perfect day to head-up to Timberline for some skiing!!! At least 3 lifts on the lower mountain will be open.

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