Trail Report: The Wildflowers of Dog Mountain
A Gem Along the Columbia River Gorge
With spring and summer arriving late in the Pacific Northwest, our hiking adventures this time of year typically lead to places where the wildflowers are most spectacular. With the promise of distant mountain views and yellow balsamroot flowers covering the upper portion of the mountain, we recently tackled Dog Mountain.
A popular hiking destination, we elected to visit Dog Mountain on a weekday. Stevenson, Washington is about 3.5 hours away, and the hike takes 3-6 hours. We made the journey on a Monday and parked down the highway from the trailhead because the main parking was filled. We were on the trail at 11:30 am.
The trail begins steep and continues in that fashion all the way to the top. With inclines between 10 and 25 degrees, this hike is considered one of the more difficult in the Columbia Gorge. A total elevation gain of 2,820 in just under 4 miles makes for a decent workout. We were in no hurry, so we trudged ever upward taking pictures of our forest surroundings.
At the half-mile point the trail forks, and a sign indicates one route to be “difficult” with the other route being “more difficult.” We chose the more difficult path, which is steeper and just a bit shorter, with plans to descend the other route.
We were graced with the shade of the forest canopy, and lots of small flowers adjacent to the trail, including ghostly pale Phantom orchids. We took frequent breaks and shared knowing smiles with other hikers enduring the same rigorous trek.
At long last, the forest began to thin, and glimpses of mountains and the Columbia River came into view. The thick yellow swatches of balsamroot were coming into view as we continued, and the strain of the ascent seemed to dissolve as we found ourselves surrounded by a sea of wildflowers.
The wind was brisk, and the sun was bright outside the shelter of the forest. The landscape was a beautiful carpet of color.
Finally, atop Dog Mountain, we rested, hydrated and snacked. From the mountain’s lofty height, we could see the peaks of Mt. Hood, Mount St. Helens and Mt. Adams.
Sweeping views of the Columbia River, the mountains of Mt. Hood National Forest, and the Cascades were within sight. Birds danced on the breeze and butterflies lit on nearby blossoms.
We spent 2.5 hours getting to the top and 2 hours getting back with a short detour of a side loop. Hikes with spectacular views like Dog Mountain make them worth the effort. The opportunities to visit and enjoy natural areas like this are an inspiration for more exploration and adventures to come!
Things to Keep In Mind
This is one of the most popular hikes in the gorge, and the parking lot fills quickly. It’s so popular that the Forest Service has begun requiring permits to hike here on Saturdays and Sundays between March 31 and July 1. The permit costs $1.50 and can be purchased in advance online. Permits are limited to 165 people per day with personal vehicles. However, parking is still not guaranteed with a permit.
A weekend shuttle service is available for $2 which includes the permit fee and no limits on the number of people allowed per day. If you do choose to drive and park yourself, a parking fee of $5 is additionally required. A Northwest Forest Pass or Interagency Pass will cover the parking fee as long as the pass is displayed in your vehicle. You may also purchase a parking pass on location.
Bring plenty of water with you.There is no water available on site. We each brought 2.5 liters and drank almost all of it. We also recommend bug repellent and sun protection.