Bennett Pass (Mount Hood National Forest Road 3550) Road can be run in either direction although the shelf road described in Waypoint 6 is more easily navigated heading east in left hand drive vehicles. Jaw-dropping views of Mount Hood can be had in the vicinity of Waypoint 6 and between Waypoints 12 and 13. Driving Bennett Pass Road to the east will position your vehicle to have its front in photographs of Mount Hood while driving to the west will show your vehicle's rear bumper in photos.
The route runs through varied terrain including towering pine and fir forests, rocky shelf roads, thick and powdery dust, deep washed-out ruts, a fire burn scar, and talus road surfaces. On the shelf road segments, exposure of up to 300 vertical feet is possible although except for at Waypoint 6, the road is always at least 1.5 vehicles wide. In the forest segments, downed trees hem in the road at pinch points where it is possible to pop the sidewall on a tire with improper wheel placement. Turnouts are available sporadically but there are areas where oncoming vehicles may be forced to back up for some distance including on shelf roads.
Note that this road is seasonally closed (December 1 - April 1) due to snow and to allow other recreational users to have unfettered access to the area. Please respect this seasonal closure.
The shelf road at Waypoint 6 should be avoided if snowy or icy. The shelf road also is very narrow in one spot which may be difficult for full-sized vehicles to navigate.
The trailhead and staging area is at Bennett Pass Trailhead/Sno Park along the road to Mount Hood Meadows Ski Resort. A well-maintained pit toilet is available at the bottom of the parking area. On summer weekends, the trailhead is often full of cars for hikers and mountain bikers. The trail starts at the east end of the pavement.
2. Stay East at 3550-250
Stay east (left) at the intersection with 3550-250. The 3550-250 road goes a short distance into the woods and dead-ends.
3. Stay East at 3550-222
Stay east (left) at the intersection with 3550-222. The spur road 3550-222 branches into several stub roads that quickly dead end in the forest to the south of Bennett Pass Road.
4. Take Southeast (Right) Trail at 3550-630
Take the southeast (right) turn at the intersection with 3550-630. There are good views of Mount Hood on the north side of the road here.
5. Stay East at 3550-240
Stay east (left) at the intersection with 3550-240. The trail begins to get more narrow and rutted as you ascend into the forest and turn more toward the south. There is a good view of Mount Hood here and a small campfire ring although there is nowhere level to pitch a tent.
6. Shelf Road Obstacle
The section of shelf road around Waypoint 6 is the narrowest, most off camber, and most exposed shelf road of the entire trail. Watch your wheel placement. The views of Mount Hood here are spectacular and make for a great photo opportunity. There is one area where you can safely pass at the blind corner. This pull-out can hold 3-4 vehicles. At the rocky saddle, it is possible to squeeze one vehicle by another. Once you are back in the forest, there are more opportunities to pull off and let oncoming traffic pass.
During the snowy winter months, this is an unsafe section of road to traverse. There is significant exposure on the downhill side and the shelf road has enough camber to allow a vehicle to slip off the side of the road.
7. Turn Northeast at 4891
Turn northeast (left) at the intersection with 4891. Road 4891 continues to the south as a narrow shelf road. This is a good place to wait for your group to catch up if you have stretched out along the trail.
8. Stay Northeast at 4860
At 4860, stay to the northeast (far left). 4860, also known as Grasshopper Road, provides access to Badger Lake Campground. There is a short, rough spur road (4860160) at this intersection that heads south to Windy Campground.
9. Stay North at Unmarked Trail
Continue north (straight) past a small, unmarked trail on the left. The unmarked trail runs a short distance into the woods to a campsite.
10. Point of Historical Interest
At the Gumjuwac Saddle you will find a historical interpretive sign on the east side of the trail that indicates a French Canadian sheep herder by the name of Jack used to camp here. He wore gum shoes when out in the forest. Hence the name Gumjuwac Saddle and the nearby Jack Springs. A hiking and mountain biking trail crosses the road here. Another hiking and biking trail parallels the road through this area. On popular weekends, it is common to see foot traffic at this waypoint.
11. Stay North at Unmarked Trail
Stay to the north (right) at the unmarked trail in the fire scar area. The unmarked trial runs a short way to a campsite. Be careful in this section of the deep dust.
12. Trail End
The intersection of Lookout Mountain Road and 4420 with Bennett Pass Road marks the end of this trail. Proceed north (to the left) onto Lookout Mountain Road if you wish to return to Oregon Highway 35. Proceed east (to the right) onto 4420 to visit the restrooms and the High Prairie Trailhead.
13. Staging Area and Restrooms
The High Prairie Trailhead is a good place to take a break with the picnic benches, pit toilets, and ample (day fee required) parking. On popular summer weekends, this area is packed with cars that can spill down onto Lookout Mountain Road.