Timberline Lodge – built in 15 months!

Just 90 miles from downtown Portland, Mt. Hood’s Timberline Lodge offers year-round skiing.  But it was the lodge that brought us to Mt. Hood.  The whole afternoon and night we arrived it was raining Oregon’s “lovely” misty rain, the wind was raging, and I was so thankful for that huge fireplace inside.  And then in the morning, we woke up to this!

Mt. Hood from Timberline Lodge

Can I just tell you I have never seen the top of this mountain like this?  Ever.  Whenever I’ve been there in the winter it’s been covered in clouds.  It was SO glorious.  The mountain was continually making its own tiny wispy cloud — that one directly over the top of the mountain.  Dr. Science (aka Jeff) explained it to me — something about the air not being able to hold the moisture, I forget exactly.  What I do know is that I couldn’t stop thinking about that toy we had when we were kids, the one with the blue and white sand — the Magic Window.  Remember those?  And I couldn’t stop watching.  It was mesmerizing.

We’d never stayed overnight there before, but they were having a special for the lodge’s 75th anniversary, so we took advantage.  Timberline Lodge was built mostly by the Works Progress Administration (a federal agency created to help people unemployed as a result of the Great Depression find work).  They began work in 1935 with about a million dollars from the WPA.  I’m thinking that was quite a chunk of change back in the day!  They also received money from the Federal Art Project for furniture and art.  Nearly the whole lodge was built in just fifteen months, and in the fall of 1937 FDR and Eleanor Roosevelt came to dedicate the lodge.  It opened to the public in 1938, remained open to the public until WWII, and then it was closed.  It opened back up again, but it wasn’t being maintained, so the forest service revoked the operating permit in 1955.  Luckily for all of us, Richard Kohnstamm got permission to re-open it, and his family has been running it ever since.  This national landmark now gets about two million visitors per year!  You can read more details about the lodge in the Oregon Encyclopedia article here.

weathervane at sunrise

Timberline Lodge weathervane at sunrise

The Friends of Timberline Lodge have lots of interesting information, too. They explain how most of the materials used to build the lodge were local and some were even recycled.  This site notes that the bronze weather vane atop the lodge weighs an astonishing 750 pounds!  All of the blacksmith work was done onsite, and there are incredible wrought iron works throughout the lodge.  The Friends of Timberline refer to it not only as a lodge, but as a museum as well.  We spent quite a lot of time looking around, and I’d agree.  Many of the hallways and nooks and crannies have displays of different things — old mountaineering equipment, history of the ski patrols, old skis — all kinds of things.  There are also several carved wooden murals throughout the lodge.

Timberline room

Double bunk room (note snow piled outside window)

Our room was not too fancy — we didn’t call early enough to get one of the rooms with a double bed and its own bathroom, but the room with the twin bunks and the bathroom down the hall made it feel like a European lodge experience.  We were hardly in our room anyway. We camped out pretty much all afternoon, evening, and the following morning in the main fireplace area.  We had snacks (and we really didn’t see this sign until later, but we probably would have discreetly ignored it even if we had, since we’re budget travelers) and read books and played games and napped and just generally chilled. It was awesome.

It was a little noisy and a little crowded during the afternoon when we arrived, but in the evening and the next morning, it was very quiet with few people around.  We had some drinks from the bar — the special hot apple pie (hot beverage, not actual pie) was delicious and I highly recommend it.  Dinner at the pub upstairs was really tasty and they had some vegetarian choices.  It wasn’t inexpensive, but it wasn’t outrageous, either.  In the morning we had the brunch buffet at the main restaurant, and that was delicious.  There were lots of options, everything was excellent (especially those roasted potatoes and the whipped cream for the waffles), and it was only $15.00.  Enterprising travelers could eat there just before brunch ended and be full enough not to have to eat again until dinner!

ski lift

Ski lift just outside the doors to the lodge

Of course this area is known for its winter sports, not just for the cool lodge.  Timberline offers skiing and snowboarding, and the skiing lasts all year — the only year-round ski area in the USA!  There is also a new nordic and snowshoeing area at Timberline as well.  And there are lots of snowshoeing, cross country skiing, inner tubing, and other downhill ski areas just below Timberline on Hwy. 26 if you’d like a change of scenery.  If you’d like a change of seasons, summer is glorious here, too!  There’s an alpine slide and other fun activities at the Mt. Hood Adventure Park, as well as mountain biking, camping, and hiking galore.  And you’ll often be able to see the top of the mountain in summer — it just won’t have quite the same amount of snow on it.

After a long day of skiing, you might want to soothe your tired muscles in the outdoor hot tub, just relax by the fire with one of the aforementioned hot beverages, or play some games in the basement game room.  Staying at Timberline Lodge is generally not a bargain, and that’s why we’ve never stayed there before, but they do have some specials, particularly if you can go midweek, and anyone can go and visit the lodge for free anytime.  If you’ve never been, we’d highly recommend it.  Two million people a year can’t be wrong!

Here are some more Timberline photos for you.  Enjoy them and your week or your weekend!

Have you visited other historic lodges?  Share your experience in a comment below.


4 thoughts on “Timberline Lodge – built in 15 months!

  1. I L-O-V-E Timberline Lodge for several reasons. My great grandfather was part of the WPA team that helped build it, which made it special to my mom and therefore, special to me. My mom’s cousin is married to Stormin’ Norman, the man after whom the ski run was named! As an occasional skier, who feels like, at some point, skiing can be too much work, I love to stay at the lodge and then ski without driving to the mountain the next morning. We just ski out of the lodge! And there are several runs that seem to made just for me — big, wide open runs that just allow the occasional skier to enjoy the snow and the beauty and the fresh air. (Most importantly, there are runs that are made just for my son, as well, who is a much more adventurous and daring skier than I!) If you stay overnight, you have access to the pool in addition to the hot tub and some of my favorite memories include bringing a bunch of kids up to stay in the Chalet room and then swimming after skiing and having a snow ball fight in the pool. There are not many place in the world, I assume, that have a pool surrounded by snow!

  2. Great article Erin! Interesting area and magnificent workmanship! To truly appreciate its grandeur, a trip to see it in person, is a must!

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