If you love the idea of luxury in the backcountry, take a gander to Barlow Butte Hut, one of the three Cascade Huts available for rental.
Located in the depths of the Mount Hood National Forest, the hut is great for group trips as it sleeps up to five people. Unlike many fire lookouts and cabins travelers can rent, this cabin comes with a generous number of amenities. Expect padded bunk beds with 0-degree sleeping bags, a propane heater, table and chairs, lanterns, a two-burner stove top, and basic kitchen supplies. There are even an assortment of board games to keep things fun once the sun goes down.
Part of the joy of sleeping out in the wilderness is, of course, making the trek out through the forest. The route to Barlow Butte Hut leads travelers on a four-mile round-trip through an old-growth forest. Weather permitting, hikers should be able to spot the White River Valley and beautiful glimpses of Mt. Hood. Total elevation gain from trailhead to hut is 600 feet, and it’s a great route for snowshoers or cross-country skiers.
Start your adventure up to the Hut along the northeast side of the Barlow Pass Sno-Park, where you’ll find a trail leading to Barlow Road. Continue until you hit an intersection, at which you’ll take the Mineral Jane Ski Trail. This leads through roughly 250 yards of old-growth forest, until the path veers left (avoid taking Devil's Half Acre, which leads to the right).
Here the trail starts to add some elevation changes as it widens and turns in Road 230. Go until you hit an intersection of Road 230 and NF-3560, where you'll take a left. Just 50 feet up take a sharp and somewhat obscure right on Road 221, which might be hiding under snow-covered branches. This leads you through the last mile that finishes at Barlow Butte Hut.
The Barlow Butte Hut can be rented for $185 per night, $345 for two nights, and $455 for three nights. Value for this amazing winter adventure? Priceless! You can reserve winter huts from Nov. 15 through April 30.
Note that it’s always a good practice to prepare for harsh weather. Pack extra supplies and make safety arrangements before heading out to locations like these.