After the winter-that-wasn’t, spring came early around here. The giant tree outside our window transformed from bare to flowered, to completely green, seemingly overnight. I went for a run in Forest Park this week and was shocked by all the color. Everything is green. Flowers are blooming everywhere. The sun is shining. The weather is warm. It is 100% glorious. And to celebrate this spring delight, I knew we needed to go to the Columbia River Gorge to see the wildflowers in bloom. Unfortunately, we seem to have missed the peak by a week or two, but it was still pretty gorgeous.
I was really excited to get to drive on the Historic Columbia River Highway from Mosier to the Rowena Crest Viewpoint, where our hike began. I ran that road in the Columbia Gorge Marathon last fall, and I remembered it being really beautiful. But oh, how much more enjoyable it was while driving, rather than while running a marathon. It has some hills, folks. Thankfully, our car is more powerful than my legs, making it a lovely, pain-free, 6.5-mile drive through orchards and farm land. An absolutely gorgeous country drive, for sure.
We parked at the Rowena Crest Viewpoint (which overlooks that crazy curved portion of the Historic Columbia River Highway in the top photo on this post), and hiked the McCall Point Trail. In my research, every source said this trail was a different length, ranging from 2 to 6 miles. But the sign at the bottom of the trail said 1.5 miles to the top, so we’ll take that as the truth.
The trail winds and climbs through the Tom McCall Preserve, which is absolutely gorgeous. It has views of Mount Hood, Mount Adams, and the Columbia River Gorge, along with tons of wildflowers. I was expecting this to be a really easy hike, but it was a bit of a climb. But as we know, climbing means views. And views don’t get much better than snow covered mountains and the Gorge.
I had read that rattlesnakes were common on this trail, which, of course, led to a panic on my part. (Are you sensing a pattern in my fear of wildlife?) I’m afraid I spent most of the hike staring at the ground, watching and listening for any signs of a rattlesnake. We saw two snakes along the trail, but luckily, neither turned out to be a rattlesnake. I was shaking like a leaf after the first sighting, but I managed to keep it together for the second one. I was also racking my brain for the correct response to a snake, poisonous or not. I’m guessing yelling, “Snake!” and clutching your heart is not it. But seriously, how terrifying is this? My heart starts pounding just looking at this photo.
Just be warned, there’s quite a bit of poison oak along this trail, along with snakes and ticks. But I’d say it’s worth the risk. The views are spectacular, and the hike is short enough to fit in before the crowds arrive in the late morning. And it will get crowded, so get there early.
To get to the McCall Point Trail, take I-84 east of Portland to Exit 69 (Mosier). Turn right onto the Historic Columbia River Highway, and drive 6.5 miles to the Rowena Crest Viewpoint. Park along the road. The trailhead is clearly marked right before the viewpoint’s circle drive.