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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.