Take a drive along the Columbia River Highway, and stop along the way to see a wonderful scattering of waterfalls. Some you will be able to see from your car, while others will require some venturing along wooded paths, but all are worth the time. Even if you don't have time to take them all in, which would require most of a day to do, you should at least make your way and make a point to see a few.
Wear sturdy shoes meant for walking along hilled and rocky paths. Strappy sandals and slippery soles will create for risky journeys along these paths.
Much of the beauty of the Salmon River Canyon and its surrounding peaks - the Salmon River, here, is a major tributary of the Sandy River (draining most western Mt Hood slopes) and is separated from Mt Hood, lying a few miles to the northeast by the longreaching Hunchback-Devils Peak massif - has been retained by the creation of the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness Area. The lower Salmon River gets a lot of attention from local fishermen. The first few miles of the Salmon river trail are popular with families introducing their children or new-to-hiking spouses to the pleasures of the outdoors. Just up the road from this trail is the more serious Salmon Butte trail. In 4.4 miles and 2840 vertical feet, the trail winds its way through deep forests to an old forest lookout site atop Salmon Butte, 4877 feet high. Views extend from Mt Rainier to the Three Sisters, but it is Mt Hood and the forested crannies and nooks of the Salmon River canyon that draws your attention. Tarry awhile. Have some lunch. You have earned it.
Lookout Mountain is the tallest nearby mountain around Mt Hood at 6525 feet high - still almost 5000 feet lower than the top of Hood. Lying just east of Hood, Lookout Mountain is separated by the awesome gash of the East Fork of the Hood River. Atop Lookout Mountain is the remains of an old forest lookout from where one can see from Mt Rainier to the north to the Three Sisters in the south. Far below, on the south side, the dense forests of the Badger Creek Wilderness Area extend. Two main trails will bring you to the top. The first, comes from the trailhead on High Prarie and follows an old forest road for 1.2 easy miles through meadows and forests. The second route is more ambitious, starting far below along the East Fork of the Hood River on Oregon Highway 35 (trailhead is between milepost 68 and 69). From here, the Gumjuwac trail rises 1700 feet in 2.4 miles to Gumjuwac Saddle. Then it is another 2.2 miles and another 1300 vertical feet to the top of Lookout Mountain. See William Sullivan's '100 Hikes in Northwestern Oregon' for more information on these and other options.
For the non-climber, there are a few trails which will take you above the encompassing Timberline Trail to closer and grander views - Cooper Spur trail, Yocum Ridge trail, the trails leading to McNeil Shelter, Paradise Park and Silcox Hut. Other spots - trail-less - beckon, as well - Barrett Spur offers more drama than can be found on the summit of Hood, itself. Meadows extend above the Paradise Park loop calling to the wayfarer and his corgi to explore. We slowly made our way up another thousand feet along a florally bedecked, sandy ridge to this viewpoint of the snowfields coming off the Zig Zag Glacier - alpinismus en extremis!! Is this Paradise?
A very popular hiking destination and maybe not really that off-the-beaten path is Elk Meadows, the largest alpine meadow on and about Mt Hood. A large meadow that is alive with wilflowers just after the snows melt in late June. As the summer progresses, grasses grow chest high. Camping sites abound among the fringing forest and the meadow is a popular destination for backpackers and dayhikers alike.
Most people access the meadow from the road going into Hood River Meadows - the cross country area for the Mt Hood Meadow ski resort. This trail goes over fairly flat forest land (huckleberries in late August), crossing Clark Creek and - more strenuously - Newton Creek. These creeks come off glaciers above and it is wise to note that afternoon streamflow can be considerably higher than early morning flow. It is about 1 mile from the road to the second stream crossing, then you will push up quickly a little over 1000 feet to just over 6000 feet high and then descend slowly into the Meadow on the north side. Snow will stick on top until July so you keep an eye peeled for tree blazes. Total mileage into the meadow is slightly over 2 miles.
On the NE border of the meadow there is an old lean-to shelter dating from CCC times. Don't count on camping here. Take a tent.
Another longer alternative, is to hike up the Tamanawas Falls trail off of Oregon Hwy 35, which goes off from a large car park just north of Sherwood Campground. After a little over a mile of hiking along a very pretty canyon - Cold Springs Creek - the Elk Meadows trail takes off on a long switchback out of the canyon, above the waterfall (the waterfall is about .4 miles further up and is a very gorgeous waterfall - a major destination in its own right). The trail then proceeds up the Cold Springs Creek canyon until it reaches Elk Meadow - the source of the creek after 5 1/2 more miles. The trail goes from about 2700 feet at the road up to the meadow at 4900 feet and does so gradually. There is one stream crossing that usually has log across, but ...
On the NW side of Mt Hood lie some of the most exciting landscapes with extensive flower gardens. The trail that many use is called the Top Spur trail which lies a few miles off of the road going south off from Lolo Pass. You will normally see a number of cars at the trail head, which gains the Timberline Trail in only a half mile. From there it is a gradual climb to the east where a superb view of Hood and the Sandy Glacier awaits. Sit and watch the waters tumbling deep in Muddy Fork of the Sandy River below. Another half mile and a well-known, unmarked side boot trail ascends steeply of the Timberline Trail to the right. It climbs up a rock wall and with the use of an occasional hand - or lift if you are a corgi:-0 - you come out to McNeil Shelter. Orginally, the Timberline Trail was to come up here, hence the off-trail shelter. From the shelter, an easier trail goes back down to the Timberline Trail or you can venture ever higher up to the beginning of Cathedral Ridge. Glaciers and the mountain are right there in your face. Occasional avalanches roar in the distance.
Take to the trails along the road up to Mount Hood. The winter is a spectacular time to go, if the weather is good and the roads passable.