I figured Lookout Mountain got its name just because it had big views of nearby Mount Hood. Turns out, it offers that and a whole lot more.
I’ve had this mountaintop on my radar for over a year, but somehow I never did stop there as an addendum to hikes in the Columbia River Gorge. Instead, it came to mind while I was thinking of options for a half-day trip before a storm rolled in last weekend. I was sold once a check of PhotoPills (my go-to planning app) indicated that the sunset and the Milky Way would fall into line just to the south of Mount Hood.
Heading up the trail to the summit, it wasn't Hood that caught my attention but rather the views of the central Oregon Cascades.
I spent the entire week glued to weather reports, ultimately pushing the trip back a day to go from a “mostly cloudy” to “partly cloudy” forecast and increase my odds of catching the night sky. The last-minute change left me without a hiking partner, but I was pleasantly surprised when my friend Colette agreed to make the trip with me on only an hour’s notice. We left Corvallis under sunny skies and arrived at the Lookout Mountain trailhead - an easy 1.5 miles from the summit - two hours before sunset.
Colette taking in the blue hour views of Mounts Adams and St. Helens
What we found at the top was enough to rocket this minor summit into my list of favorite places in Oregon. From the top, Mount Hood was seemingly close enough to reach out and touch and the remainder of the Cascades from Mount Rainier to the Three Sisters were easily visible against the horizon to the north and south. Not to mention the clear views over eastern Oregon and of the sunset on the western horizon.
Colette used the time while I was taking pictures to build this cairn, which I co-opted when the light over Mount Jefferson turned orange.
As the afternoon progressed into evening, we were treated to a nonstop show of changing colors from radiant sunset oranges over Mount Jefferson, to fading blue light in the lower valleys, to the flashing reds of the wind turbine lights that dot the eastern wheat fields, and finally to yellow glow from the lights of Government Camp and Portland.
The image I had in mind when I planned this excursion - albeit with a few more clouds than expected thanks to the approaching storm
As I was taking my final photos - the one I had originally envisioned of the Milky Way over Mount Hood - the approaching storm became increasingly evident. By the time we packed up our gear and began the hike down, clouds had covered most of the mountains west of Hood. The rain began in earnest during the drive home, around midnight. But that was okay with me - I had plenty of photo editing to keep me busy during a rainy day.
More info on this hike at The Outbound Collective.