Arguably the most popular dayhike on the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge, the Dog Mountain Trail catapults hikers nearly 3,000 feet above the Columbia River to spectacular displays of wildflowers and summit views of Mounts Hood, Adams and St. Helens. The Dog Mountain Trail begins at the east end of the parking area, and immediately begins a steep ascent up the wooded hillside.
Less than a mile in, the trail splits: the “less difficult” trail veers right, and the “more difficult” trail leads left. Bear right for a more scenic route traveling past meadows and big views. The grade lessens slightly as the path climbs through forest and enters a hillside meadow covered with seasonal wildflowers. Take the short spur to a lookout point with spectacular views west over Wind Mountain and east toward Hood River.
Re-enter shady woods as you continue the climb past fairy slipper, Oregon grape, and starflower. The trail gets more crowded at the upper junction with the old trail at mile 2.1. Roughly half a mile later, the route reaches the lower portion of the summit meadow and the site of an old fire lookout with incredible views. From here, bear left and climb through the meadow. At mile 2.9, bear right on the summit spur trail to reach the top of Dog Mountain. Find a spot to relax and enjoy the view (a few secluded spots can be found on the north side of the summit).
The return trip drops down the backside of Dog Mountain, then contours southwest for a steady, shaded descent, offering occasional views westward over Wind Mountain and the Columbia River. (The crowds diminish considerably along this stretch). Look for glacier lily, candyflower, wild strawberry and sweet pea as you hike back to the trailhead.
Note: The parking area will be full by 10 a.m. on weekends, so plan to arrive early, or go later in the day. Pack plenty of water on warm days; there’s no water available at the trailhead. Watch out for ticks and poison oak.
-Mapped by Eli Boschetto, Bosco Mountain Photo