8 of the Best Wildflower Hikes Near Portland
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The cold weather is slowly moving away, the sun is radiating with warmth, birds are gleefully singing and the wildflowers are blooming with confidence. It’s officially springtime in the PNW, and there is no better time to get outside and enjoy the magnificent scenery. There are endless hikes near Portland that offer delightfully heady scents and beautifully colorful sights of blooming wildflowers. Some trails differ in length and difficulty, providing everyone with a hike that fits their needs. Here are 7 of the best wildflower hikes to be found near Portland:
1. Dog Mountain Trail
Elevation gain: 2,988 ft
Dog Mountain Trail is one of the more popular hikes near Portland, and for good reason. This challenging hike is an uphill leg-burner that will prepare anyone for their outdoor activities in the coming year. The trail makes its way through large moss-covered trees and, as it climbs to higher elevations, a stunning meadow with an array of wildflowers. Here you’ll spot golden yellow Balsamroot, vibrant red Indian paintbrush and stalks of purple lupine. You’ll also discover excellent views of the Columbia River and far off mountains, making this an ideal location for watching the sunset. Keep in mind that this trail has an elevation gain of 2,820 feet in just 4 miles, and the total hike will take about four hours, so bring plenty of water to stay hydrated.
2. Hood River Mountain Trail
Elevation gain: 967 ft
Location: Hood River, OR
Another beautiful hike near Columbia River Gorge is the Hood River Mountain Trail. This is a great option for anybody who’s looking for some spectacular views without a steep incline. The open trail will lead you on a mild 2-mile hike to the top where you’ll have panoramic views of Mt. Hood and Mt. Adams in the distance. This area is abundant with birds and bees feeding on a variety of wildflowers. Indian paintbrush, Carolina spring beauty, and western waterlily are a few of the flowers you’ll see. For most of the hike you’ll be out in the open, so be sure to wear a visor or hat to protect yourself against the sun.
3. Trillium Lake Loop
Elevation gain: 26 ft
Location: Mt. Hood National Forest
Trillium Lake is a gorgeous lake near Portland, and is perfect for anyone in search of a relaxing walk within a flower-packed meadow. Along this trail you’ll have some amazing spots to pause and photograph beaming Mount Hood reflecting off the calm water. The lake is named after the delicate three-petaled flower that can be found in abundance surrounding this area. Other flowers you’ll be sure to see are yarrow, huckleberry blossoms and lupine. This place is gorgeous, especially in bloom, so be sure to bring your camera here to capture the magic of nature.
4. Camassia Nature Preserve
Elevation: 190 ft
Location: West Linn, OR
You don’t have to venture too far away from the city to find magical pockets of colorful wildflowers. The Camassia Nature Preserve is a short trail that hosts over 300 plant species. Within this 27-acre preserve are some tremendous colors that show off in seas of blue, pinks, reds and yellows. Camas lilies, blue-eyed Mary, rosy plectritis and buttercups are just a few native flowers to be seen here. This is an ideal hike for those wanting beautiful wildflower photos without having to go far off into the mountains.
5. Tom McCall Point Trail
Elevation gain: 1,309 ft
Location: Mayer State Park, OR
You are bound to find amazing trails all along the Columbia River Gorge, and the one in Tom McCall Preserve is perfect for those who want to experience the wonders of springtime. Over 300 species of plants adorn the wide-open meadows with their unique essence. Imagine walking along the trail observing birds soaring over the fields full of golden-yellow glacier lilies and blue-hued lupines as the glowing Mountains in the distant show off their impressive presence.
6. Lake to Lake Trail via Lacamas Creek
Elevation gain: 544 ft
Location: Lacamas Creek Park, WA
Lake to Lake Trail will take you around Lacamas Creek Park where you’ll have a peaceful day hike by a glistening lake, bountiful wildflowers and a picturesque waterfall. The camas Lily is the most common flower to be found in this region, which begins blooming around mid-April. If you arrive after the camas lilies bloom, you’ll still enjoy a colorful array of plant life.
7. Silver Star Mountain
Elevation gain: 2,096 ft
Location: Gifford Pinchot National Forest, WA
Silver Star Mountain is a little over an hour drive north from downtown Portland and displays some of the most unique varieties of wildflowers to be found. Puffy white Beargrass, vibrant Tiger Lillies, charming Columbines and many more call this mountain home. The snow will sometimes stay all the way up until late June, so for a chance to see some special colors it’s best to arrive in Mid-July. The hike may be strenuous but once you reach the zenith you’ll have a five star, five mountain view (Rainer, Hood, Jefferson, Adams, St. Helens) that is worth every step.
8. Neahkahnie Mountain
Elevation gain: 1,100 ft
Location: Oswald West State Park, OR
Neahkahnie Mountain is 90-miles west of Portland, or a 1 hour 45 minute drive. If you’re looking to be near the Sea while enjoying the dancing wildflowers, then this mountain hike is a great option for you. You’ll walk along a flower-packed trail that leads to an expansive view of the Pacific Ocean. Flowers to be found here include yarrow, self-heal, foxglove, bull thistle, and plenty more. This is a great hike for those wanting a bit of a workout while enjoying the great outdoors.
Tips for Wildflower Photography
- Using a tripod will help you get a crisp, still image of a flower by helping make sure your camera doesn’t move. This also gives you the time to think about your composition instead of quickly snapping a handheld photo.
- Direct sunlight can create shadows and unwanted bright highlights on wildflowers. Some of the best opportunities for photos are during an overcast or cloudy day. You can create amazing pictures by using the sun as a backlight where the colors of other flowers are accentuated by the natural rays. For ideal lighting, it’s all about timing.
- Instead of zooming in with your camera, get as close as you can without disturbing other plants around. The closer you are to the flower the sharper your image will be.
- Go for different angles. Shooting from low down on the ground creates a completely new image and provides a beautiful bug's-eye view of tall wildflowers reaching for the sky.
- Reducing the depth of field helps single out a flower and makes a blurry background. You can do this on most cameras by adjusting the aperture priority setting which will show as an ‘f-stop’ or focal-stop. The lower the f-stop the more focus will be on a specific flower.
Hiking in search of wildflowers is incredibly rewarding for your senses. It may seem tempting, but remember to stay on the marked trails and not wander off into the blooming fields of flowers. Stepping on or picking wildflowers will hinder the chance of growth for the following year. As with everything in nature, It’s best to simply let the flowers be as they are. The best souvenir of a wildflower hike is an amazing collection of photographs. Once you have your photos don’t just keep them for yourself, share the beauty!
Featured image provided by Bill Automata.