Respect History:

All About the Tilly Jane

and Cloud Cap Historical Areas


The Tilly Jane Ski Trail provides direct access to the Cloud Cap/Tilly Jane area, an officially designated historic district.  The area is immensely popular with backcountry recreational enthusiasts and as a result the north side of Mt. Hood is known as the backcountry side of the mountain.

The Tilly Jane/Cloud Cap area is part of , containing some of the oldest structures on Mt. Hood. The Cloud Cap Inn is entered in the national register both for its importance as the country's oldest high alpine lodge and for its architecture. The early development of this area is an interesting story of the grit, sense of adventure and love of the mountain of many of northwest Oregon's early settlers.

The Oregon Nordic Club is now managing Tilly Jane. Please see the Tilly Jane section of the ONC website for additional information regarding the history of the area, restoration projects and making reservations for use of either the Guard Station or the A-Frame cabin.

Why "Tilly Jane"?

Tilly Jane -- where did the name originate? Tilly Jane was the nickname of Mrs. William Ladd of Portland. Her husband, William, and C.E.S. Wood of Portland bought the Mt. Hood Trail and Wagon Road Co. in the Spring of 1889, renamed the firm the Mt. Hood Stage Co., and promptly began improvements that led to the Wagon Rd. (see below).

History of the Area

The Cloud Cap Inn was built in the summer of 1889 for use in the summer.  In February 1890, Will and Doug Langille skied to the Inn on homemade skis.  This trip was followed by many other successful winter trips and this early exploration enticed others to make the same journey.  The area quickly became popular for backcountry enthusiasts who liked the challenge of making it up the mountain under their own resolve.

Summer access was via horse drawn stage up the 1889 wagon road which is mostly used for skiing today. In 1905 automobiles were able to make their way to the Cloud Cap Inn.  In 1910 the Snowshoe Club Cabin was built for year round use.  The Snowshoe Club is just across the hill top from the Cloud Cap Inn. 

American Legion Climbs

The Amphitheatre and American Legion Cook Shed were constructed in the 1920s.  The Tilly Jane Ski Trail was used by American Legion climbing groups in the 20s and it is very possible that it was also used earlier by Native Americans and early settlers in the Hood River Valley.  High alpine meadows were often used by valley sheepherders and the Tilly Jane Ski Trail is dotted with open meadows that may have enticed them to make the trek. 

The Tilly Jane Guard Station was built in 1934 and initially it received seasonal use for backcountry access and fire protection. The Ski Warming Hut (also know as the Tilly Jane Ski Cabin) was constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the late 1930s.  A local historian, Mr. Lewis McArthur, stated that the local Crag Rats led the1920 American Legion sponsored climbers and that they favored the Tilly Jane Ski Trail because it provided immediate entry into the backcountry and a more direct approach to the mountain. 

Civilian Conservation Corps Project

In the winter of 1938-1939 Percy Bucklin, Bill Cochran, Harold Wells and Walter Applegren, members of the Crag Rats, marked a wider swath along the existing ski trail.  In 1939 the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) cleared out the Tilly Jane Ski Trail and they also built the Ski Warming Hut (which is also known as the Tilly Jane Ski Cabin).  The building of the trail fit easily into the CCC program, readily available labor and a moderate budget for equipment.  Single and two man falling saws and axes and wedges were used predominantly in the woods for falling trees and for limbing and bucking to clear the route.  What earth moving may have been necessary would have been done by hand using pick axes and shovels.

Tilly Jane Ski Trail (#643) Unique Element of the District

The Tilly Jane Ski Trail climbs 1900 vertical feet in 2.7 miles to reach the Recreation Area.  The distance by Cloud Cap Road is far greater - about 10 miles.  The trail climbs gently, without switchbacks, up a series of unique steps and flats to a broad ridge-top with a number of open parkland settings before it reaches the Cloud Cap/Tilly Jane Recreation Area.   

The Tilly Jane Ski Trail provides a direct link to the Ski Warming Hut, the Tilly Jane Guard Station, the Snowshoe Club Cabin and the Cloud Cap Inn.  Today as in the past, virtually all snow season traffic to the Cloud Cap Tilly Jane Historic Recreation Area, Cooper Spur, Eliot Glacier and parts beyond is via the Tilly Jane Ski Trail.  People have the option of descending the Tilly Jane Ski Trail, the 1889 wagon road, the 1924 road or if via more treacherous routes through the backcountry areas along the Tilly Jane creek. However, the Tilly Jane Ski Trail is cut wide for ski descent and is noted by many for its aesthetic lay and pitches developed by the early skiers who crafted it. 

Natural Integrity and Historic Setting Remain Unchanged

The trailís integrity is very high - it remains virtually unchanged since it was brushed out and widened in 1939. The sweeping, open vistas across Mt. Hood and nearby ridges and peaks are virtually the same as they were when past visitors experienced them. The old growth forest and open natural parkland on the ridge crest followed by the trail are intact except for the most visible feature - the clear cutting that was performed at the Cooper Spur Ski Area to create the 50-acre ski area.  Other than that there are no visible areas along the trail cleared by human intervention.  Instead, there is an overwhelming quiet and sense of peace that pervades the area.  This sense of peace connects us with the early explorers who heard the same birds and saw the same flora and fauna without any mechanical intrusions or visibly altered landscapes. The Tilly Jane Ski Trail is directly and closely linked to the Cloud Cap Tilly Jane Historic Recreation Area which is already listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  The trail deserves recognition as an historic important feature of the Cloud Cap Tilly Jane Historic Area on Mt. Hood.  the trail should be included in the National Register as a piece of Oregonís past, present and future for all generations to enjoy in its historic state.

Cloud Cap Inn

Built in 1889, the Cloud Cap Inn is the countryís oldest high alpine ski cabin. It was built on the site of the first "season long" public resort at timberline (1883), a tent camp hosted by Mrs. David Cooper, of the Cooper Family which gave its name to the distinctive ridge above the inn.

The inn, built at an elevation of 5837', was constructed of amabilis fir, cut from a site about 2.5 miles below the inn and hauled up the mountain by teams of horses. William Marcy Widden, a Portland architect drew the plans.

To read of the building of the Cloud Cap is to come acquainted with the stories of people whose names delineate many of the features on Mt. Hood: Capt. Henry Coe and Oscar Stranahan, who with David Cooper led some of the first explorations on the north side of Mt. Hood, the engineer Newton Clark, Dr. and Mrs. Perry Barrett, avid hikers from Hood River, or the Elliott Brothers and others who discovered Lost Lake, or James Langille, who was the construction manager.

For additional information and pictures of Cloud Cap, visit Mt. Hood History. For interesting drawings of what Cloud Cap might have been, see Mountain Architecture, by Thomas Deering.

Wagon Road

What is know known as the Wagon Rd. Ski Trail follows the bed of the historic wagon road built in 1889 to provide wagon access to the Cloud Cap Inn. Prior to 1889, the road from Hood River stopped at the Toll Bridge on the Middle Fork of the Hood River.

The road was a difficult one to build -- and a hard one to drive. Chinese laborers graded the road by hand, included an infamously steep 22% grade known as "China Fill" on a curve just below the inn. The grade was hard on horses at the end of the 6-hour drive up from Hood River. Early automobiles did not fare as well, often overheating and breaking down on the steep grade.

The Wagon Rd. Trail starts below Cloud Cap, and cuts down the mountain, intersecting the the Cloud Cap Rd. (#3512) in numerous places before connecting with Rd. 3511.


updated: 12/2010

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