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Spring Hikes in the Gorge (that Aren't Dog Mountain)

Between the Eagle Creek Fire closures and Dog Mountain permits, where are you supposed to go hiking in the Gorge this spring? We've got some ideas.

Some of the most scenic hikes on the Oregon side of the Gorge are still recovering from damage from the Eagle Creek Fire or full since they recently reopened. There's nowhere to park at Dog Mountain (and you need a permit to hike there on spring weekends). With all these hikes and trailheads full, how will you get your wildflower fix, or get in shape for your big summer hikes?

Luckily there are a lot of locations in the Gorge where you can find what you need. Gotta see flowers? Need a workout? Practicing your photography skills? We've got a few ideas for you. 

Remember, no matter where you visit, it's important to follow Leave No Trace principles. Trails can handle plenty of visitors, as long as we work together to keep these areas as nice as we can — take only pictures and leave only footprints. 


Get Your Wildflower Fix

Columbia Hills State Park - Stacker Butte

Length: 5 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 1150 feet
High Point: 3200 feet

stacker butte_mafhoney.jpeg
Blooms at Columbia Hills State Park are as arresting as those at Dog Mountain, and with more trails to pick from, you're likely to leave less of an impact when you visit. Photo by MafHoney.

While the trail itself is a service road, at Stacker Butte you'll find one of the best floral arrangements nature has to offer. Bring a floral guidebook; you can expect to find balsamroot, lupine, and paintbrush, as well as phlox and desert larkspur. Once at the top, you'll be rewarded by views up and down the Gorge. Wildflowers and views in one hike? Not a bad deal. 

> Treat yourself to Stacker Butte

Rowena Plateau and Tom McCall Nature Preserve

Length: 3.4 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 1200 feet 
High Point: 1750 feet

Rowena Plateau and the Tom McCall Nature Preserve are gorgeous for wildflowers. Photo by austineats

If you can wait until May 1, put Rowena Plateau and Tom McCall Nature Preserve on your list. Just across the river in Oregon, this area has lovely views downriver, the flowers are stunning; even the road is a joy! It was originally designed for touring, so the grade and curves are optimized for a pleasant experience. 

> Enjoy Rowena Plateau and Tom McCall Nature Preserve

Lyle Cherry Orchard

Length: 5.0 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 1050 feet
High Point: 1100 feet

Dramatic views and lots of wildflowers await hikers at Lyle Cherry Orchard. Photo by Patricia Coulthard. 

Lined with camas, grass widows, larkspurs, glacier lilies, shooting stars, locoweed and balsamroot, Lyle Cherry Orchard boasts a myriad of wildflowers, and views to boot! This stunning preserve is owned by the Friends of the Columbia Gorge and tops out in an old cherry orchard with a few surviving trees. WTA has been hard at work here building new trail, so you have even more miles of wandering to enjoy here. 

> Discover the Lyle Cherry Orchard


Work Up A Sweat

Hamilton Mountain

Length: 7.5 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 2000 feet
High Point: 2400 feet


Views and a great workout -- what more could you want from a hike? Photo by jar.berg. 

While Hamilton Mountain offers a workout, it is also full of the best things the Columbia Gorge has to offer: easy access and parking, a well-maintained trail, wildflowers galore, two waterfalls, and views to knock your sweaty socks off. Try it, and you may discover your new go-to trainer in the Gorge. 

> Tackle Hamilton Mountain

Table Mountain

Length: 16.0 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 3350 feet
High Point: 3417 feet

Even if it's cloudy at the top, Table Mountain is a dramatic location. Photo by maxjames. 

This one's a commitment. Because the locally-known trailhead is now on private land and closed to the public, you'll access Table Mountain via the Bonneville Trailhead, making the hike twice as long as it used to be. It's a test of endurance, but the views from the summit make it worth it, as do the views along the way. 

> Test yourself on Table Mountain

Starway

Length: 11.0 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 2377 feet
High Point: 3977 feet


Starway is also a good fall destination, once the foliage has reddened. Photo by Anna Roth.

While it's not quite in the Gorge, views from the summit of Starway are stellar, and it's a heck of a hike to get to them. You also might need to borrow a car, since you definitely need high-clearance here. The road is pretty gnarly, but for a quiet route to a summit with views of five volcanoes, it's worth it.

> See what Starway's all about


Get the Shot

Mosier Twin Tunnels

Length: 9.4 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 730 feet
High Point: 540 feet


The views and the landscape at Mosier Twin Tunnels make is a don't-miss Gorge destination. Photo by CiscoKitty.

Lucky for hikers, the Historic Columbia River Highway, which used to have some of the most scenic views in the Gorge, has been transformed into a paved walkway. Now, you can hone your photography skills here on a low-key ramble, whether you're shooting macros of flowers or panoramic views of the Gorge. 

> Visit Mosier Twin Tunnels

Cape Horn

Length: 7.7 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 1300 feet 
High Point: 1500 feet


Cape Horn is a go-to spot in the Gorge. Photo by Carolina Cano.

The views here are absolutely incredible, and the trails are improved by WTA crews, so you can step surefooted while you're gawking at the scenery. Take note of the peregrine falcon nesting closure — this can be done as a loop in the winter, but it's gotta be an out and back during the spring. 

> Capture the best scenery at Cape Horn