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Dog Mountain Hike – Columbia River Gorge

Distance: 7.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 2,900ft
GPS Location: 45.699298, -121.708833

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Dog Mountain is a very popular hiking destination due to its ease of access from the Portland, Oregon metropolitan area and its amazing spring time wildflower display.  Located on the Washington State side of the Columbia River Gorge the trailhead can be found just a few miles east of the town of Stevenson.

Hiking Dog Mountain

dog-mountain-signDog Mountain hike, while relatively short in distance, can be extremely challenging for those who are unprepared for its unforgiving steep sections.  The trail climbs a mind numbing 2,900ft in roughly 3.5 miles and whoever created it never heard of switch backs.  Perhaps the most challenging part of this hike is how it starts.  Assuming you take the trail counter clockwise you will be immediately greeted with a steep climb that does not allow for any sort of “warm up” time.

When you arrive at the trailhead you will find a sign with a map of the area.  Dog Mountain trail can be done in a loop format though which way to go is up for debate.  Approaching the trail in a counterclockwise manner will present very steep sections for your ascent while the clockwise direction seems to be a little more mild.  However, take into account the fact that if you do go clockwise to avoid those steep sections on your ascent you will have to tackle them on the way down which can be equally as challenging.  Either way, brace yourself for a battle.

For the purpose of this write up we are going to assume you follow the trail in a counterclockwise manner.dog-mountain-junction

Starting from the parking lot you will go through a gate and head up a hill towards an outhouse.  Once you pass the outhouse the trail goes to a single track and will climb through a wooded area for quite some time.  You will eventually get to a junction in the trail that indicates two different approaches: easy and difficult.  Take the easy approach even though it adds roughly .2 miles your overall hike.

Continue hiking and after roughly 1.5 miles in you will come to a nice little viewpoint of the gorge.  Don’t be fooled though, you are far from the top.  You will continue hiking until you get to another trail junction which is where the “difficult way” meets up with you.  Here you will find what is the steepest section of the entire hike where the trail simply goes up. Keep hiking as you are getting closer to the top.

dog-mountain-trail-to-summitEventually the thick forested area will give way and you will come to a steep field of grass and depending on the time of year wild flowers.  You still have a ways to go from here but the views start to give way and the rest of the ascent goes by pretty quickly.  There is an actual summit to dog mountain as you keep hiking just follow the signs to the top. Views of Mt. Hood and Mt. Saint Helens will reveal themselves along with an amazing panoramic of The Gorge.

The descent is pretty obvious if you just follow the signs.  There is one junction where you will want to pay attention but other than that it is pretty easy to find your way back to the trail head.

The hike up should take an experienced hiker anywhere from 1.5 to 2.5 hours and the round trip hike should take about 3-4 hours.  Of course this all depends on your conditioning and hiking experience.dog-mountain-fall

Hiking Tips and Suggestions

The Dog Mountain Trailhead requires a parking pass which can be purchased on site for $5 with cash or a check.  They also honor a NW Forest Pass so long as it is clearly displayed.  It would be a good idea to bring sunscreen and if you have trouble with descents hiking poles or a walking stick would be helpful.  It should be noted that Dog Mountain is known to have VERY BAD tick exposure especially during the spring.  It might be a good idea to bring bug spray and if you have a dog make sure they are up to date on their flea and tick medicine.  In one instance our dog went on a hike here with Grandpa and came home with 6 ticks on her.  So make no mistake, there are ticks and there are lots of them.

How to get to Dog Mountain Trailhead

dog-mountain-viewsComing from Portland, OR it will take you just over an hour to get to the Dog Mountain trailhead.   Start by heading east on Highway 84 and continue until you get to Cascade Locks.  Take exit 44 for Cascade Locks/Bridge of the gods and cross the Bridge of the gods.  Note that there is a $1 toll for this bridge.  Once you cross the bridge take a right on Highway 14 east and continue past the town of Stevenson and then Carson.  You will find the trailhead on the left hand side of the road roughly 5 miles past Carson.  It is a large, dirt parking lot with a huge sign that says Dog Mountain.  If you miss it, you probably shouldn’t be driving.

Overall Opinion of Dog Mountain

Dog Mountain hike is a difficult one with many negatives including those creepy little blood sucking crawlers called ticks.  It is incredibly challenging in terms of steepness and unlike almost every other hike in The Gorge it offers no waterfall views.  If done on the right day and time of year, however, this hike is well worth it.  Dog Mountain summit offers some of the most amazing views of the Columbia River Gorge, period.  So long as nature plays along, you are in decent hiking shape and the conditions are right you will not find a more photogenic spot in The Gorge.

Other Resources

Dog Mountain Hiking Guide on Portland Hikers

Dog Mountain on Washington Trails Assoc.

Dog Mountain on Wikipedia

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