Dog Mountain Daze

The view from the trailhead bodes well despite the clouds

The view from the trailhead bodes well despite the clouds

Dog Mountain is a near legendary hike in the Columbia River Gorge.  If it is one tier down from Mount Defiance and Table Mountain on a list of training hikes for mountaineers, it may have more bang for the buck than any other peak in the gorge for its spectacular upper slopes, its tremendous views of the Cascades and the gorge that splits them, as well as the challenge of its trails.

Putting in the work

Putting in the work down low

The Dog Mountain hike isn’t an endurance fest, clocking in at less than seven miles round trip, but the uphill offers plenty of challenge.  I got a very late start after dealing with some business, so I was surprised to see only a few other vehicles in the lot.   According to high level research, no rain was in the forecast in Portland, but a lot of clouds were moving in uninvited.  Quickly, Jackie Chan and I got on the move.   The trail climbs immediately into a series of switchbacks, with a few nice views in a pleasant oak forest.

Junction city

Junction city

In a bit over half a mile, the trail splits.  Challenging myself, I took the route marked “most difficult”.  Silly monkey.    There were no views now as the forest tightened up under heavy leaf and needle.   The path is attractive, but sections where it climbs relentlessly make you forget about the lovely flora beside and above you.

Nice lush forest on the climb

Nice lush forest on the climb

A few raindrops found their way through the forest canopy to my arms.    When the pitter patter on leaves got heavy (a lovely sound when you are sheltered) I huddled beneath a giant maple, staying dry.  That gave us time to recharge metaphorical batteries with food and drink.  Jackie was finicky:  you can lead him to water, but….

Luckily the rain ceased and we started up another steep slope.   I used the My Tracks app on my phone to keep track of my distance and elevation, which I rarely do, but I was curious especially about the elevation gain.   It totaled about 2800 feet, which is very solid for a three and half mile hike, almost on a Mount Defiance pace.

Switchback showing a bit of the steepness

Switchback showing a bit of the steepness

I was very happy when the trails reconnected.  Shortly thereafter, after another unofficial rain delay, we broke into the open, gradually traversing a massive open slope.   Dog Mountain is famous for wildflowers, but it was a touch late in the season for the grand displays that must be here in May and June.

Jackie Chan the wonderdog approves

Jackie Chan approves of the view toward Hood River from the turning point up high

The trail splits again below the summit at a slight promontory.  This time I made the right choice and stayed left.  The views are so tremendous that I stop thinking about fatigue.

Looking up toward the summit

Looking up toward the Dog’s head

IMG_6905

Looking back at the trail from close to the summit

One hiker passed me at the end, where I was busy snapping pics (and yes, huffing and puffing).   We saw no other people up high.   The views were simply stunning, the world at our feet.    Simple tremendous views lie in almost all directions.

Little old Mount Defiance a hop and skip across the gorge

Little old Mount Defiance a hop and skip across the gorge

IMG_6900

Mount Hood peeking over the shoulder of Defiance

Fellow hiker soaking in the view from the top of the pup

Fellow hiker soaking in the view from the top

Lovely flowers above treeline

Lovely flowers above treeline

The upper slopes offer tremendous views of the Columbia Gorge, looking both east and west, along with a tremendous frontal view of the Mount Defiance escarpment.   To the north, there is a nice view of Mount Saint Helens. beyond some foothills.

Looking north to my favorite volcano

Looking north to my favorite volcano

I sat on a grassy hummock  for some time, absorbing the splendor.   It’s always bittersweet to leave such a perch.  But the sun was moving down.  Time to go.

Tiny glimmer of beauty high on the peak

Tiny glimmer of beauty high on the peak

Wind Mountain looks tiny from here

Wind Mountain looks a bit insignificant from this vantage; what a spot!

Curiously, on the descent, I encountered multiple groups of hikers descending.  I guess they didn’t want to get all the way to the top.  The rest of the descent (I took the alternate route) was smooth.  This is one of the more outstanding hikes to be had in the Pacific Northwest for an afternoon’s work.   Highly recommended.

Note: remember money for the tolls at the Bridge of the Gods or the Hood River bridge. 

About Josh Baker

"The world is big and I want to have a good look at it before it gets dark.” ― John Muir

Posted on July 18, 2013, in Adventure, Climbing, Hiking with dogs, Mountains, Outdoors, Peakbagging, Solo Hiking, Training hikes and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. Beautiful! I’ve wanted to hike Dog Mountain for years, but I can’t really justify the drive (I live close to Seattle). Thanks for letting me hike it vicariously through you. 🙂

  2. Looks like a beautiful hike…

  3. Stunning scenery! We miss out on this, those of us in Florida, and somehow the beaches just don’t compare in my eyes… 🙂

    • Well, we’re pretty jealous about the middle of March when people are bundled up in a driving rain here and you are at the beach in shorts! Thanks for popping by.

  4. This one is definitely going on my list. Too bad my daughter just left Portland . . .

  5. Looks like a beautiful hike with a little bit of everything including great views and wonderful wildflowers. Love the views of Mt. Hood, Mt. St. Helens, and the Hood River!

  6. I have been wanting to do this hike for years, and now I REALLY have to do it after your post! Thanks for sharing!

  7. That looks simply spectacular and worth the effort!! Love the shot of Jackie Chan at the overlook.

    • It’s a great spot. And yes, in reference to your other comment, I dropped my old Canon on some rock right at that viewpoint. Now it won’t zoom and focus as it should. I was thinking about upgrading anyway.

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