Portland, OR: Mount Defiance

Make a weekend out of this 18-mile trip that boasts a string of waterfalls, summit views, and lakeside camping in the Columbia Gorge.

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Just an hour from Portland, Oregon, lies a wonderland of rugged cliffs, old-growth forests, and as many waterfalls as there are bends in the trail. Sample the best of it on this challenging 18-mile.
On day one, follow the Mt. Defiance Trail from Starvation Creek State Park, nine miles west of Hood River (leave a shuttle car at the Herman Creek trailhead, two miles east of Cascade Locks). Keep your camera handy—you’ll pass three falls within a mile of the trailhead, plus dense patches of lupine. In another half mile, the route passes Cabin Creek Falls and Hole-in-the-Wall Falls—the latter a tiered, whitewater ribbon flowing down mossy, 100-foot cliffs. Then climb a forested ridge overlooking Wonder Creek to the rock-strewn summit of 4,960-foot Mt. Defiance. Expect serious steeps and switchbacks as you gain 4,500 feet of elevation in roughly four miles.
From Defiance’s summit, you’ll see a multitude of peaks. Mt. Hood, 20 miles away, dominates the southern view. From the summit, it’s 2.5 miles to tent sites at North Lake. Pitch your tent facing southwest for up-close views of Green Point Mountain.
Day two combines a descent of Nick Eaton Ridge, with great views of the Gorge, and a traverse above Herman Creek. Expect minimal foot traffic and an abundance of old-growth cedar and fir as you navigate the final ten miles, passing lush side canyons, chanterelle mushrooms, and cascading creeks, to the Herman Creek Trailhead.
-Mapped by Joe Kurmaskie

TO TRAILHEAD: Start: I-84 E to exit 55 (follow signs for Starvation Creek Trailhead). Go 0.2 mile to parking. End: I-84 E to exit 44 (toward Cascade Locks). Merge onto US 30 E/WA-na-PA St. In 1.5 miles, continue on SE Frontage Rd. In 1.3 miles, bear left onto NE Forest Ln. Go 0.4 mile to Herman Creek Campground (parking on right).


Trail Facts

  • Distance: 29.0
  • Miles from city center: 53



Location: 45.68795, -121.690102

From cul-de-sac lot, hop on the paved multiuse trail that parallels the highway.


Location: 45.687832, -121.694298

Bear right @ Y-junction. In 200 yards, trail passes Cabin Creek Falls.


Location: 45.6875, -121.6977

Hole-in-the-Wall Falls: This cascade was created by highway workers in 1938 to prevent nearby Warren Creek Falls from flooding the highway. Look closely: The water plummets 100 feet from a blasted hole in the cliff.


Location: 45.686733, -121.702728

Turn left for falls.


Location: 45.685501, -121.704002

Continue straight @ 3-way, hiking west. Ahead, pass Lancaster Falls, a skinny 25-foot cascade.


Location: 45.686153, -121.712372

Trail turns left, heading south. Steep ascent and switchbacks ahead (you’ll climb 4,500 feet in roughly 4 miles).


Location: 45.6553, -121.715797

Continue straight @ 3-way on Mt. Defiance Trail (Mitchell Point Trail leads to Warren Lake).


Location: 45.648708, -121.722603

Mt. Defiance (4,960 ft.): Savor stunning views from the tallest peak in the Columbia Gorge. Turn to the south to find incredible views of Mt. Hood.


Location: 45.64238, -121.73706

Continue straight @ 3-way, heading southwest on Mt. Defiance Trail.


Location: 45.636074, -121.744774

Turn right onto Wyeth Trail (Trail 411); follow to North Lake.


Location: 45.642639, -121.755691

Straight @ 3-way; cross Lindsey Creek. Camping: Turn left @ North Lake to set up camp; views of Green Point Mountain to the southwest.


Location: 45.659668, -121.752281

Turn left @ T-junction onto Green Point Ridge Trail (Trail 418).


Location: 45.64843, -121.76339

Turn right @ 3-way, and head west on Trail 412.


Location: 45.648029, -121.773201

Bear right @ 3-way; head northwest.


Location: 45.654102, -121.775383

Bear left @ Y-junction onto Nick Eaton Trail.


Location: 45.661961, -121.788147

Bear left @ Y-junction onto Casey Creek Trail; descend Nick Eaton Ridge.


Location: 45.656223, -121.81279

Turn right onto Herman Creek Trail and hike north. Ahead are three no-name cascades.


Location: 45.668449, -121.8153

Continue straight @ Camp Creek crossing.


Location: 45.67181, -121.820801

Creeklet dive-bombs 100 feet into a deeply cut, moss- and fern-covered side canyon.


Location: 45.68013, -121.830101

Pass primitive campsites @ Herman Creek Camp (no permit required). Keep straight @ 3-way. Ahead, chanterelle mushrooms grow in forest duff.


Location: 45.679771, -121.840301

Keep straight (SW) @ 3-way; descend switchbacks.


Location: 45.678822, -121.843201

Bear right @ 3-way; Herman Creek rages below.


Location: 45.681221, -121.842499

Turn left onto needle-covered trail past monster Douglas firs and big-leaf maples; orange tiger lilies bloom under power lines.


Location: 45.682671, -121.8424

Keep straight @ 3-way.


Location: 45.68388, -121.841301

Turn left near seasonal bathrooms.


Location: 45.682789, -121.844498

Pick up shuttle car from Herman Creek Campground to return to Waypoint 1.

Mt. Defiance Trail Sign

Location: 45.688789, -121.689506

Trail Junction

Location: 45.688366, -121.690353

Stay straight to stay on Mt. Defiance Trail. The trail on the left leads to Starvation Ridge.

Cabin Creek Falls

Location: 45.687736, -121.696098

Lancaster Falls

Location: 45.685574, -121.704796

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