Climbers often stay in Portland and leave the city late at night for a climb. Portland offers easy access to hotels, the airport, rental cars and other accommodations. The drive to Timberline takes less than two hours (one hour if you’re a speed demon), so many climbers leave in the evening, arriving in time to organize and depart.
Others prefer to stay in Hood River, which is closer to the mountain but a smaller city without a major airport. Hood River is a beautiful town with a strong outdoor-lifestyle vibe. If it works with your travel plans, Hood River is a great place to stay!
Still others will stay at Timberline Lodge, while more expensive it holds a lot of history and is undoubtedly the most convenient lodging. A less expensive alternative, almost as close, is the Mazama Lodge owned and operated by a Portland climbing organization.
If you’d like a longer stay on Mt. Hood, you may also camp on the mountainside. If you choose to camp above timberline, be sure you are out of the ski area, be cautions of rock and ice fall, and know the avalanche conditions. Perhaps the safest (though not necessarily safe) place to camp is Illumination Saddle, about a 3-4 hour climb from Timberline Lodge. This small ridge between Castle Crags and Illumination Rock will deflect most falls to one side or the other, and the ridge itself isn’t likely to let loose.
Starting from Illumination saddle drop below Crater Rock and rejoin the main South Side Route, it should take 2-3 hours from the saddle to the summit. Follow all the other guidelines for a south side climb, but adapt your timetable accordingly. We also recommend packing up camp and stashing your camp gear on the Hogsback to be collected on the way back down. We think this is better than reaching the summit and returning to the (out of the way) Illumination Saddle to pack and collect your gear, at that point you’ll be tired and want to get to the car. Why not pack up and haul your gear while your legs are fresh and your adrenaline is pumping?