Winding along narrow shelf roads, through alpine forests, and past some of the prettiest views in northern Oregon, Bennett Pass Road is a jewel of the Mount Hood National Forest. The amazing views of Mount Hood will be treasured memories for years to come. In the mid-to-late summer, wildflowers bloom along the many hidden hanging meadows and high prairies. Droves of butterflies can swarm around your vehicle on sunny summer afternoons making you think you're in a fairy tale. On very clear days, you can see from Mount Hood and Mount Adams to the north and all the way down south to the Three Sisters and maybe even Diamond Peak. Views to the east span hundreds of miles of high desert and the Oregon Outback.
Trail Difficulty and Assessment
2WD Vehicle with High Clearance
The shelf road at Waypoint 6 can be intimidating for those not used to so much exposure. There are occasional ruts and rocks that earn this trail its rating between Waypoints 6 and 11.
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The hardest part of the trail that you
cannot bypass - you have to drive it.
The hardest part of the trail that is
purely optional - you can bypass it.
Dirt and/or rocky road. Potential rocks and/or tree stumps less than 8" tall and/or vertical ledges less than 9" tall and/or near vertical ledges or waterfalls less than 12" inches. Good tire placement likely. Can be steep but with good traction. Read More about our Rating System
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.
1. Trailhead (0
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 (0.1
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 (1
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 (1.2
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 (1.7
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 (2.4
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 (4
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 (5
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 (6.2
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 (9
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 (9.2
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 (11
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 (11.1
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.
Dispersed camping is allowed along the trail. Several of the spur roads at the start of the trail have camping sites although highway noise makes these spots less desirable. Toward the middle of the trail, there are several campsites with astounding views of the surrounding mountains. Badger Lake Campground and Windy Campground are both near the trail.
From Government Camp, head east on US 26. Take the right turn onto Oregon Highway 35 toward Hood River and Mount Hood Meadows Ski Area. After about nine miles, take the exit for Mount Hood Meadows and Bennett Pass Trailhead/Sno Park. The trailhead and staging area are to the right at the pit toilet.
Incredible views of Mt.Hood, can also see Mt. Adam’s and St. Helens. Quite a few campsites. Trail is rocky and narrow in points. Pin striping was unavoidable at one part of the trail toward the end. Made in through in a Highlander on 31’s and a stock ‘99 Grand Cherokee.
Made it all the way through in my 98 Tacoma with winter tires. Astounding views and not to much traffic. The road was a little more tore up than I expected so I had to crawl about half of the trail, but I did Not find it necessary to air down. Douglas did a stellar job mapping the trail and the way point descriptions were on point!! 10/10 experience. Can’t wait to camp up there!
Took my stock Tacoma up only to waypoint 9 and didn’t have a problem. Some areas seem sketch while driving on the side of a drop off but the views were amazing. Was looking for camp spots and there’s plenty but not much for big groups. I can’t imagine how people do it when there’s snow.
Road is open for the first couple miles but right as you pass the corner lookout where we camped it was preety snowy and very slippery I would say it’s not passable but knowing one of you you can hah but beautiful time not a lot of people
The Trail is currently open.
There is a cone at Waypoint 6 making it easier spotting the narrowness of the shelf road. We took the JT through it with 1-2 feet clearance on both sides. Smaller vehicles should not have a problem.
The end is tricky and narrow, there is a sharp turn right after the vista half way between 11 and 12 where the trail gets very narrow again.
We arrived at the trailhead around 2pm and made it all the way though at 5:45, so plan carefully!
It’s absolutely stunning. The views are incredible and nothing short of breathtaking.
Started the trail backwards from the North end. Was stopped between waypoint 9-10 after the shelf road and back under tree cover we ran into a few snow banks. One of them snapped a front axle while trying to get through. :) The views of Mt. Hood are amazing off the shelf road. Can’t wait to complete this trail.
The trail is now open for the season. There is likely still snow on the trail at this point but in a few months everything will dry out. Be cautious on the shelf road section if you encounter snow there.
No snow on the ground as of 11/1, trail was clear of all trees. Started at Bennet Pass snow-park, detoured to Badger lake, backtracked, and then continued all the way to Lookout Mountain.
Awesome views of Mt Hood with a full sun day
This trail is now open after the closure due to fire danger and the windstorm that happened several weeks ago. More information is here: https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/mthood/news-events/?cid=FSEPRD811247
The trail is now open for the year. However, please be mindful of local closures due to COVID-19 and local snow conditions. While the trail is open, it may not be passable until the snow melts a bit more, especially for less built rigs.
Bennett Pass typically melts out enough to pass the shelf road at Waypoint 6 around the beginning of June although some years it can be earlier or quite a bit later.
Trail was absolutely amazing, and at the same time terrifying. I went with a good friend of mine, we were in stock 2002 Jeep Liberty and a stock 2017 Subaru Outback. Because of all the rain and snow, it quickly turned into a mud bath. I actually thought one of us was gonna get stuck because we were both on standard road tires.
The view is amazing. For me, the road isn't fun to drive due to the drop off that seems WAY too close and some of the washouts along the narrow shelf portion of the trail. If you don't have any issues with heights or long back outs should you come into contact with oncoming traffic have at it. Luckily you can get great views all over the Mt. Hood NF so this one is just so so for me and I won't likely do it again.
Awesome, simply wonderful views. Would have been a confusing trip without your pictures/ directions. Can't say enough about that! Great. Job.
The trail was mostly dry but had some puddles and was drizzling on and off. As we are new to trail riding, this was perfect. Challenging but doable for a newbie. So fun. Want to go back on a clear day to see now views and check out badger lake. About 3.5 hours with stop for lunch and pics ending back at 35. Went easy, not rushing. Loved it.
The trail is now open for the season although there is still a lot of snow around. Be careful on the shelf road section as it is a north-facing slope. If you encounter snow and ice, be very cautious with proceeding.
The trail is now closed for the season to 4x4s. This allows snow mobiles, cross country skiers, and snow shoers to have access to winter recreational resources. Additionally, the closure protects winter ranges for deer, elk and several other species. Please respect the closure to conserve our resources.
While still technically open for a few more days, the road is all but impassable now. Someone nearly went off the side a little ways before Waypoint 12 last weekend. Now that people have driven on the road in the snow, there is likely significant ice buildup at Waypoint 6.
We drove Bennett Pass this past Saturday during some phenomenal Fall weather (70 degrees and bluebird skies) for our first time ever. We followed the downloadable GPX tracks from this page, and it made the journey incredibly easy and worry free. The road itself was very unique along the shelf road and delivered some absolutely stunning views of Mt. Hood. Overall it's a very doable road in dry conditions, and our stock hight 80 series Land Cruiser loaded down had no troubles whatsoever. I can see the trail getting much more difficult and potentially impassible after a heavy rainstorm or snow though.
Overall a great road with even better views! It makes me proud to live locally and know we have areas such as this that are available.
Loved it! It is one of the most beautiful off-road trails I've ever driven. The mountain and valley vistas are spectacular! When you're done puckering from driving on some particularly narrow sections, you take a moment to glance around and BAM, there's Mount Hood! There are some pretty awesome camp sites up there too.
We drove it in our VW Atlas, and had the bottom gently kissed by a few loving stones. The rutted part was very challenging, because there were also downed logs that pretty much limited you to one line. I would never do this trail in the snow or when it has been particularly rainy, even if I had a capable rig like the Albino Rhino.
Our Atlas has a 1.5" leveling lift kit installed along with -1" rims (17x8") and beefier tires (235/75R17). The suspension isn't exactly built for some parts of that road. At ~10.2" of clearance and our long wheelbase, I think the level of difficulty (rated 3-5) is the upward limit for the Atlas. Others with less clearance and shorter wheelbase may do just fine. We saw a Mitsubishi Delica up there (4wd van imported from Japan; right hand drive). I would love to see a Mini Countryman give it a go!
If you're trying to get up to the High Prairie Loop (and Lookout Mountain), the Lookout Mtn Road is much less punishing and is also featured on this website. I LOVE trailsoffroad! This was my first real off-road trail attempted, and all of the photos and guidance gave me confidence. THANK YOU
Check out my public flickr page for some pics: https://www.flickr.com/photos/164818908@N03/
Trying a photo:
Met with light slush fall at an empty Bennett Pass Sno Park lot around 1p, we were soon being followed by a stock Audi Allroad and stock F-150. The Audi turned around at Waypoint 3. The F-150 continued past Waypoint 6 where we decided it was too wet to attempt the "Terrible Traverse" at Waypoint 6 in our stock XC90. We walked out the shelf road to the blind corner. Just before the blind corner there was a small wash-out in the road, making the shelf road barely 1 rig wide. Combined with the slushy snowfall and usual camber of this obstacle, we decided that it was not safe to proceed and didn't want to end up in the treetops. From Waypoint 1 thru to the terrible traverse at Waypoint 6, we encountered many downed trees which had been graciously cleared (to the full width of the road). We encountered some water puddles in the road at some spots, but the bottoms were firm. There are plenty of fallen branches and small round rocks in the road ruts which should be navigated with caution in a stock vehicle. Overall pleasant drive, but better during dry clear conditions.
4x4 Snow trip last night with 12 rigs. Took Bennett Pass to Badger Lake with plenty of challenges along the way. Ran into a white knuckler portion halfway on the trip. Only two rigs were willing to give it a try. Fortunately, we made it safely. Good time had by all playing in the snow.
Had a wonderful time on the trail with Matt and his family. This trail has to have some of the best views in northwest Oregon! Absolutely stunning.
From the Community
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Douglas Van Bossuyt
Mapping Crew - Oregon
Douglas grew up riding in the back of pickups in Oregon and California. He comes from a long line of overlanders and adventurers dating back to the Mayflower and the Oregon Trail. During a stint working in Colorado, Douglas fell in love with the offroad scene and immediately gravitated toward the Toyota crowd. His first 4x4 was a 1988 Toyota 4runner nicknamed Goldilocks. After a year of running many of the iconic trails throughout the front range in the fully stock Goldilocks running on bald tires, it was time for an upgrade. Goldilocks went off to a new home and the Albino Rhino came home. The Albino Rhino is a built 1986 Toyota 4runner ready for any adventure anywhere at any time.
During the week, Douglas works on systems engineering and architecture problems in California. Douglas also enjoys backpacking -- especially in the central Sierras in California -- scuba diving along the Oregon and California coasts, and riding his motorcycle on the Pacific Coast Highway. Most weeknights you can find Douglas under his truck in the driveway performing maintenance or fixing the latest trail damage.
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