The Mount Hood National Forest is located 62 miles (100 km) east of the city of Portland, Oregon, and the northern Willamette River valley. The Forest extends south from the Columbia River Gorge across more than 60 miles (97 km) of forested mountains, lakes and streams to the Olallie Scenic Area, a high lake basin under the slopes of Mount Jefferson. The Forest encompasses some 1,067,043 acres (4,318.17 km2). Forest headquarters are located in Sandy, Oregon. A 1993 Forest Service study estimated that the extent of old growth in the Forest was 345,300 acres (139,700 ha).
The Forest is divided into four separate districts - Barlow (with offices in Dufur), Clackamas River (Estacada), Hood River (Mount Hood-Parkdale), and Zigzag (Zigzag). In descending order of land area the National Forest is located in parts of Clackamas, Hood River, Wasco, Multnomah, Marion, and Jefferson counties.
The Mount Hood National Forest is one of the most-visited National Forests in the United States, with over four million visitors annually. Less than five percent of the visitors camp in the forest. The forest contains 170 developed recreation sites, including:
Other common recreational activities in the Mount Hood National Forest include fishing, boating, hiking, hunting, rafting, horseback riding, skiing, mountain biking, berry-picking, and mushroom collecting. A portion of the Pacific Crest Trail passes through the National Forest on the flanks of the mountain. Mount Hood is a popular destination for mountain climbers.
Several nonprofits lead free hikes into the National Forest to build support for further protection from logging and off-road vehicle use, including Bark and Oregon Wild. Mount Hood National Recreation Area was established within Mount Hood National Forest on March 30, 2009. The recreation area comprises three separate units.
There are nine officially designated wilderness areas within Mount Hood National Forest that are part of the National Wilderness Preservation System. One of them lies mostly in neighboring National Forests and another lies partially on land that is managed by the Bureau of Land Management (as indicated). Acreages are as of 2011.
- Badger Creek Wilderness at 29,057 acres (118 km2)
- Bull of the Woods Wilderness at 36,731 acres (149 km2)
- Clackamas Wilderness at 9,181 acres (37 km2)
- Lower White River Wilderness at 1,743 acres (7 km2) not counting 1,063 acres (4 km2) on BLM land
- Mark O. Hatfield Wilderness at 65,822 acres (266 km2)
- Mount Hood Wilderness at 63,177 acres (256 km2) includes the peak and upper slopes of Mount Hood
- Mount Jefferson Wilderness at 104,523 acres (423 km2), though only a small part (its northernmost tip) of the wilderness is located in the Mount Hood National Forest; most of its acreage lies in neighboring Willamette NF or in Deschutes NF
- Roaring River Wilderness at 36,768 acres (149 km2)
- Salmon–Huckleberry Wilderness at 62,455 acres (253 km2)
- The Olallie Scenic Area is a lightly roaded lake basin that also offers a primitive recreational experience.