Oregon’s Timberline Lodge, built in the 1930’s, has become as much a symbol of the massive peaked mountain as Mt. Hood itself. Known to some as the cold, foreboding Overlook Hotel depicted in snowdrifts in the movie, The Shining, Timberline Lodge is a showcase of Oregon craftsmanship and a current-day destination for an exciting getaway on the mountain.
Timberline Lodge History
Mount Hood—beautiful in the best of weather and dangerous in the worst—was revered as a spiritual place by both the native people who named her Wy’east and the pioneers and settlers who farmed the Willamette Valley and could see the snow-capped white peak from their fields. Although it eventually became the hiking and skiing playground of the Portland well-to-do, preservationists loved the mountain's strong spirit and longed see it left untouched.
However, those who wanted to see ski lifts and a lodge on the mountain prevailed. They wanted a destination for visitors. But it wasn’t to be just any lodge. It had to be a rugged work of art combining the talents of many individuals. The vision was that it would become a powerful symbol of Oregon’s greatness.
Constructed between 1936 to 1938 by the Works Progress Administration (WPA), Timberline Lodge was built and furnished by local artisans during the Great Depression. The Lodge was officially dedicated in 1937 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Art on Display at Timberline Lodge
When you visit Timberline Lodge, be sure and tour the lower level where you can see the original rooms. You can see the workmanship of artisans who put their hearts and skills into creating textiles, carvings and ironwork for the iconic lodge. Oregon women even hand made copper ashtrays for the original lodge.
Walk through the 40,000 square foot lodge and look at the detail, the size of the massive log beams, and the art at every turn. Relax in front of the massive stone fireplace and perhaps, you will be joined by Heidi the St. Bernard, Timberline’s mascot.
The lodge offers a 45-minute guided tour with a U.S. Forest Service Ranger. During the tour, you can discover Timberline's history, including how the beautiful lodge was almost closed to the public during hard times.
Staying at Timberline Lodge
To stay at Timberline, after the day visitors, skiers, boarders and hikers have left, is a special experience. You can watch the reflection of the sunset turning Mt. Adams pink, relax in your historic guest room by the fire, or enjoy a craft beer in the historic Blue Ox Bar.
I enjoy wandering the lodge looking at the detail. The main stairway has hand-carved posts (made from discarded cedar utility poles) in the shapes of animals and birds. The posts are smoothed and polished by hands of thousands of visitors since the 1930s.
Much of the massive original furniture remains. And, the ironwork is stunning. The décor of Timberline is inspiration for much of what is known as Pacific Northwest-style architectural detail and furniture.
Since Timberline Lodge is a National Historic Landmark, you can expect your room to reflect the lodge's history. Timberline has 70 guest rooms ranging from spacious king fireplace rooms to European chalet bunk rooms. The rooms are comfortable and some can be called luxurious.
The Premier Fireplace Rooms, for example, feature king beds (some with additional twins). Each room is uniquely decorated with original handcrafted furniture and fabrics. Fireplace rooms also provide a sitting area and real wood-burning fireplace to complete that historic hotel experience.
Dining at Timberline Lodge
Timberline has a range of dining options. Cap off a day on the slopes with fondue in the Ram’s Head. Try a hand-tossed signature pizza and microbrew at the Mt Hood Brewing Co. If your stay is several days, you’ll want to try them all.
Save at least one evening for a special dinner in the Cascade Dining Room. Timberline Lodge is proud of their Proprietary Beef Program, available on menus throughout the lodge. At the Cascade Dining Room, you will have the opportunity to “taste Oregon,” with a seasonal, locally-sourced meal. They have a good local wine list and even feature branded wine with a beautiful Timberline Lodge label.
The evening we were hosted for dinner, we had difficulty deciding what to order from so many great options. After we ordered we were surprised with a lovely light Amuse-Bouche.
To start, we enjoyed an excellent Butter Lettuce salad with lodge-smoked bacon, buttermilk vinaigrette, hazelnuts, radishes and red onion.
My friend selected the Columbia River Steelhead with Puget Sound Manilla Clams, zucchini, tomatoes, beldi olives, fennel, broccolini, and calamarata pasta. Steelhead typically tastes more like trout than salmon and paired well with a local Chardonnay.
Having read about the local meat from Deschutes River Beef, I had to try a steak. The Cascade Dining Room has a rotating menu of beef cuts. That evening it was a marvelous Rib Eye with Maitake mushrooms, potato-onion purée, baby kale, zucchini and Pinot Noir demi glace. I paired the perfectly-prepared medium-rare grass-fed steak with the Timberline house red blend… excellent.
While these hearty entrees kept us from ordering dessert, they would have been perfect for a person who had spent the day hiking or skiing. Had I chosen a dessert it definitely would have included Oregon berries!
The dining room also offers what they call an “Alpine Active Menu” with dishes that specifically address common dietary restrictions such as Vegan or Gluten-free options.
More Timberline Lodge Offerings
You can hear special concerts in the outdoor courtyard in the summer, attend a wine dinner or even get married at Timberline Lodge.
In addition, they have a newer day lodge for skiers and boarders. Timberline is the only ski area in North America open all 12 months of the year. They have 3,690 vertical feet, more than anywhere else in the US Pacific Northwest. And, as they point out, the ski areas are near the top of an 11,245-foot volcano, the tallest mountain in Oregon. We were there in July and saw skiers and boarders coming in off the mountain and, on another summer trip, my granddaughters hiked up a short trail and threw snowballs!
The Timberline experience also includes hiking and mountaineering. You can walk the trails around the lodge or explore one of the many scenic trails in surrounding Mt. Hood National Forest. Timberline is a resupply station on the Pacific Crest Trail so you may run into backpackers.
When You Go to Timberline Lodge
Timberline Lodge is located about 60 miles east of Portland, Oregon and is accessed by the Mt. Hood Scenic Byway. In winter and early spring, prepare to use chains.
You can find out more about Winter Sports at Timberline and Accommodations at Timberline Lodge via their website. The Mt. Hood Territory website will give you more ideas about visiting this beautiful Oregon destination.