The Owl Point, The Rockpile, and Red Hill hike at Mt. Hood National Forest is a moderate 5.9-mile out-and-back hike featuring stunning vistas of Mt. Hood, Mt. Adams, Mt. St. Helens, and Mt. Rainier.
The Owl Point hike itself is a great hike for families with slightly older children, but this route describes several other viewpoints as well, including the off trail route to Red Hill. You can avoid Red Hill though, and stay completely on signed trails for Owl Point and the other viewpoints, however, if you want. This hike features stunning panoramic views of the entirety of Mount Hood, as well as other peaks like Mt St Helens, Mt Adams, and Mt Rainier.
This hike follows the following trails: Vista Ridge Trail #626, Old Vista Ridge Trail #626A, "The Rockpile" spur trail, Owl Point spur trail, Alki Point spur trail.
From the Vista Ridge Trailhead, take the Vista Ridge Trail #626. Follow the trail for a bit, before soon reaching a T intersection with the continuation of the Vista Ridge Trail to the right, and the Old Vista Ridge Trail #626A to the left. Take this trail to the left.
The Old Vista Ridge Trail was restored by volunteers, and brought back into the official trail system in 2006. It is also newly signed.
Follow the Old Vista Ridge Trail, as it slowly and steadily makes its way uphill along the top of Vista Ridge. It stays in montane forest of mountain hemlock and silver fir, before you reach two unnamed mostly unobstructed viewpoints to the right along a cliff's edge. Take in the views of Mount Hood from both of them.
Moving on, keep following the trail until you reach the very first small grassy meadow along the trail. To add the off trail extension to Red Hill (shown in GPS track), break off here at the meadow, heading left (generally westward) from the trail. There is a faint hint of a path through the meadow and beargrass. Use a GPS and/or compass; the forest will look the same. Make your way through the forest, then make a sharp turn to the right, slowly ascending up the side of Red Hill, angling toward the lower east end of the summit ridge. Once the summit ridge is gained, follow it for the last bit to the top. The summit is covered in volcanic red pumice. Mt Hood can be seen from the top. Return back to the main trail the way you came up.
Back on the Old Vista Ridge Trail, keep going northward past the small meadow and, after the trail curves around and starts heading southeast, reach a sign for "The Rockpile." The spur trail for The Rockpile heads to the right, and the main trail makes a sharp turn again to the northeast. Take the Rockpile spur. Shortly, come across an unsigned junction, and make a right to get to the viewpoint. The other unsigned trail keeps going straight ahead, leading to another off trail destination: Katsuk Point. The Rockpile has fantastic views of Mt Hood from the top of a large boulder pile. Return back the way you came to the Old Vista Ridge Trail.
Back on the main Vista Ridge Trail, keep going further to reach another signed junction for Owl Point. Take the trail to the right signed for Owl Point, to reach the namesake viewpoint of this hike. The spur is slightly shorter than the spur to The Rockpile. From Owl Point, panoramic views of the entirety of Mount Hood, northeast all the way to Laurance Lake, will be had. This is by far the best view on the entire hike. Return back on the spur trail to regain the Old Vista Ridge Trail.
Back on the main trail, you can either head back down the way you came to end your hike, or you can make a short extension further to the Alki Point. This GPS track shows the track to Alki Point too. Keep northeast on the Old Vista Ridge Trail, and after a short ways further reach a sign for Alki Point. The views open up on the left side this time, giving you views north to Mount St Helens (left), Mount Rainier (center), and Mount Adams (right). You can also make out where the Columbia River Gorge lies, too.
You can even extend your hike down to Perry Lake, but this small lake is lacking in views, shallow, and otherwise not a worthy destination unless you really want to add extra miles to your hike. The Old Vista Ridge Trail beyond Alki Point down to Perry Lake is also not regularly maintained, and not official.
Limited parking is available at the Vista Ridge Trailhead, and the road is steep, rutted, and narrow, so get here early or risk not having anywhere to park. The trailhead parking area is narrow and carved into the side of a steep slope.