At long last, we’ve crossed Dog Mountain off our hiking to-do list.
We’ve put this hike off for a year now, as we’ve been training for some sort of endurance event pretty much since moving to Portland, and therefore, couldn’t afford to spend a day hiking one of the steepest trails in the Gorge. This hike exploded on social media back in the spring/early summer as one of the most popular wildflower hikes in the area. Therefore, as the world’s largest crowd haters, we continued to avoid it until all of the wildflowers died. But now that we’ve hiked to the top and seen the skeletons of wildflowers past, I think we’ll have to brave it in the spring. It must be amazing.
But allow my legs to tell you, this trail is steep. It climbs about 3,000 feet in just over 3 miles. You’ll feel the burn. You can hike this as a loop or as an out-and-back. We chose to do the loop, taking the “more difficult” route up (the green line on this map), and the “more scenic” route down (the red line on the right), hoping to save our knees (and because we are insane). I can’t say that the “more scenic” route appeared any more scenic or less inclined to me, but I suppose there’s some sort of science involved in labeling the trails.
Adorably, at the top of the mountain, everyone was in groups of twos, quietly eating their lunches. This was probably my favorite summit experience, since we actually sat to enjoy the views for quite a while (thanks to perfect weather) as we ate our lunch (we packed these veggie wraps for maximum deliciousness). It was really funny to see people come up to the top and then collapse onto the ground in exhaustion. I particularly enjoyed this adorable couple with matching outfits and packs, so I creepily snapped their photo. Eric hopes they read this blog post.
The view from the top of Dog Mountain is pretty darn spectacular and deserves to be savored. The Columbia River Gorge may be Oregon’s greatest visual treat (I might say this about everything in Oregon), and this hike really capitalizes on the views. The beautiful Columbia River cuts through the gorge, dividing Oregon and Washington, and showcasing amazing tree-covered mountains. Unfortunately, Mount Hood was covered in clouds, but you would be able to see the top of it on a clear day.
The photo below gives you a good look at the crazy change in landscape once you move past the Cascades. The dark, tree-covered mountains in the foreground are on the west side of the Cascades. Above them is the Hood River Valley, which marks the edge of the Cascade Mountains and the transition to the deserts of Eastern Oregon (which you can see in the back left of the photo). What a wild world.
To reach the Dog Mountain Trailhead from Portland, take I-84 to Exit 44 (Cascade Locks). Cross the Bridge of the Gods (pay a $1 toll), and turn right onto WA 14. The trailhead is 12 miles ahead, on your left. Northwest Forest Pass required. Completely acceptable bathrooms just uphill from the parking lot. I recommend starting early, especially if you’re hiking on a spring or summer weekend, just to ensure you have a place to park.