This hard-working trail about an hour outside of Portland is a favorite for many as its broad summit meadow provides stunning views of the Columbia River Gorge nearly 3,000 feet below. Sure, you won't be alone on this trail, but it's well worth the trip, especially in early summer when the wildflowers are in full bloom, cloaking the mountain in yellow balsamroot splendor.
Begin at the well-marked trailhead on the east side of the parking lot and immediately begin a steep ascent to a junction at 0.75 miles. The trail splits, and we suggest you head right on the less difficult route. Both are steep and finish at the same place, but the less difficult route offers better views and a more enjoyable trail experience.
Soon after, the views begin to open up and you'll hit a nice lower viewpoint at just under 2.0 miles. Take a breather and push onward. At about 2.5 miles, the trail rejoins the alternate (more difficult) route that you bypassed earlier and begins a steep traverse of switchbacks northeast towards the summit.
At just under three miles, you'll hit another signed junction, this time for the summit loop trail. Either way gets you to the top. As a side note, this was once the site of an old fire lookout known as Puppy Dog Lookout. See if you can find the old concrete foundation.
Choose either left or right and soon you're on a fairly direct route to the top. Once you arrive, soak up those views and enjoy a well deserved snack and rest. Mount Defiance is just across the Gorge to the south. Head back the way you came, or consider changing things up and trying the steeper route on your way down.
Permits & Tips
Northwest Forest Pass required. Toilet at trailhead. This hike is extremely popular, so expect company and come early in the day to get a parking spot. Stay on the trail to avoid trampling vegetation and accidentally wandering into poison oak.
How to get there
From Portland, head east on I-84 to exit 44, Cascade Locks. Take the Bridge of the Gods across the Columbia River into Washington (this bridge has a $1.00 toll for cars).
Turn right (east) onto WA-14 and continue east for another 12 miles to the trailhead at milepost 53. The parking lot is a large pullout on the north side of the road, clearly signed.