Friends of the Columbia Gorge | Hike Leader & Shepherd Manual

To ensure preparedness and safety for everyone on a Friends outing, all Hike Leaders & Shepherds must read this manual and sign an acknowledgement.


Hike Program History

Friends of the Columbia Gorge hikes have been a springtime tradition in the Pacific Northwest since our inception in 1980. Our first Gorge Hike Weekend was on the third weekend in June when experienced hike leaders from a variety of outdoor groups and clubs lead as many as a thousand hiking enthusiasts on dozens of hikes, bike rides, horse trips and rafting adventures throughout the Gorge.
These outings continued until the early 1990’s when Friends developed spring wildflower hikes which follow the spectacular Gorge wildflower display from east to west through the blooming season. Wildflower experts and native plant enthusiasts lead these increasingly popular hikes to popular vistas that overlook the Gorge.
In 2000, Friends added a new element to our hike program: hike shepherds. The next year, Friends added an additional hike season to highlight fall colors in the Gorge. The hike challenges were started in 2011 to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Scenic Area Act and have occurred every year since. In 2013, a new twist was added to the hike season with the introduction of our Play and Stay program, which is part of the Gorge Towns to Trails project.
Today, trained volunteers lead over 100 outings a year inspiring over 1,200 participants. People who participate in our hikes can’t help but recognize the Gorge as a national treasure, a gem to be protected and enjoyed for generations to come.

Role of the Hike Leader

The hike leader guides the hike and is responsible for the overall safety of the entire party. Leaders are strong, experienced hikers who know the route well and have communicated trail information ahead of time to the shepherd(s). Leaders educate on the trail and are willing to share their knowledge and expertise about the Gorge. Leaders are physically in front of the group at all times while hiking.

First aid & CPR certification is required.

Role of the Hike Shepherd

The shepherd acts as "sweep" and stays in the back of the hiking party to ensure all have a safe and enjoyable experience. Hike shepherds assist the hike leader as needed. The hike shepherd knows the trail either by scouting beforehand or receiving trail information from the hike leader's scouting trip beforehand.   
​First aid & CPR certification is required.


The Qualities of a Great Hike Leader & Shepherd & Pre-Hike Planning

Hike Etiquette and Hike Leader/Shepherd Expectations

  • Wait at all junctions to assure the group stays together
  • Carry a trash bag and set an example of being a good trail steward
  • Go the pace of the group. This means you may need to slow down your normal hiking pace.
  • Stay on the trail to minimize impact on landscape and to avoid poison oak and ticks.

How to Become a Hike Leader or Shepherd 

  1. Submit a completed Volunteer Interest Survey to let us know more about your interests and experiences (new volunteers only);
  2. Attend at least two Friends outings as a participant. View current schedule at;
  3. Attend a Hike Leader & Shepherd Training at least every three years, offered each spring and fall;
  4. Read the Hike Leader & Shepherd Manual entirely; sign Agreement at the end of the document;
  5. Co-shepherd (shadow) at least one outing;
  6. Get certified in basic First Aid & CPR* (required). Wilderness First Aid (WFA) is more extensive and can be taken in place of basic First Aid, though not required.
*Friends will subsidize fees to take a First Aid & CPR course. We expect that you will lead or shepherd three or more outings within the two years your certification remains current. Maximum allowance of one subsidy every two years, per person.
  • Basic First Aid & CPR
    • Friends subsidizes the full cost when you register for a Friends-sponsored basic First Aid & CPR course.
    • Friends will reimburse you up to $60 if you take an outside course. You must submit a copy of receipt and certification.
  • Wilderness First Aid + CPR
    • Friends subsidizes $60 of the fee when you register for a Friends-sponsored WFA + CPR course. Request discount code for registration.
    • Friends will reimburse you up to $60 if you take an outside course. You must submit a copy of receipt and certification. Note: if it does not also include CPR, you still need to get CPR certified.

Hike Program Guidelines

  • All hikes require online registration. Upon registration, a confirmation email with more details is sent within 15 minutes.
  • All outings are open to the public, except when noted as “members only.”
  • Hike distances listed are round-trip.
  • Children under age 18 are welcome only with parent/guardian supervision.
  • Hiking group size is no more than 20 except:
    • In a wilderness area of a “12 heartbeats” maximum restriction.
    • At the leader’s request to have a smaller group size.
  • Participants are responsible for their own safety.
  • Pets are not allowed unless designated a dog-friendly hike.
  • Please leave alcohol and other intoxicants at home.
  • Smoking is not allowed.
  • Do not litter and take only memories (and photos!).
  • Hike difficulty levels are categorized as:
    • Easy: Up to 3 miles | less than 700 ft. elevation gain
    • Moderate: Up to 5 miles | less than 1,500 ft. elevation gain
    • Strenuous: Up to 10 miles | up to 2,500 ft. elevation gain
    • Expert: Over 10 miles | steep trail | over 2,500 feet elevation gain

 Read full Hike Program Information & Guidelines

At the Carpool Meetup / Carpool Guidelines

  • Carpools generally leave between 8 & 9 a.m. from Gateway/NE 99th Ave Park & Ride.
  • Arrive 15 minutes prior to the scheduled departure time. The time indicated on the confirmation email is the departure time. Our hikers are encouraged to arrive early so you leave on time. Don’t wait around longer than 5 minutes after the indicated departure time.
  • Have hikers sign in as they arrive using the sign-in form. This is a “hold harmless” liability document.
  • Ensure all hikers are properly dressed and equipped.
  • Facilitate carpool arrangements, thank volunteer drivers and remind riders to contribute the suggested donation.
  • Know the number of cars and types so you can keep track (hint: note this on your printed roster)
  • Provide drivers with printed directions and suggest a restroom stop if one is unavailable at trailhead.
  • Provide your cell phone number to all drivers in the carpool.
  • Suggested carpool donation is $7-$12 per rider.
    • Western Gorge (Portland to Cascade Locks): $7
    • Mid-Gorge (Cascade Locks to Mosier): $10
    • Eastern Gorge (Mosier to Deschutes River): $12

Online Hike Program Documents

Please download, print, and understand all Hike Leader and Shepherd documents:

Before the Hike or Outing

The Outdoor Programs Coordinator will send out a Leader/Shepherd introduction email 3-4 weeks prior to your outing, which includes contact information and full outing details.

We highly encourage hike leaders and shepherds to have a phone conversation to prepare for the hike plenty in advance. This ensures that the hike will go more smoothly. Decide how tasks will be divided up and coordinate who will say what at the trailhead briefing. Discuss meet up locations/times, sign in process, flow of hike and talking points, lunch time and location, etc.

  • Scout the hike preferably two weeks out so you check on current trail conditions:
    • Verify driving directions and if there is road construction.
    • Designate a bathroom stop prior to trailhead, if one is not available at trailhead.
    • Know conditions and timing (driving and hiking) required for hike.
    • Plan places to stop for breaks, lunch and interpretive talks.
  • Check forecast for day of hike and alert Friends’ Outdoor Programs Coordinator if information should be included in the five-day reminder email sent to participants.\
  • Coordinate who will be meeting at the 1st and 2nd meeting locations.
  • Review roster ahead of time and note where hikers will be meeting the group. The roster will be emailed to you one to two days in advance (unless otherwise requested).

At the Trailhead

*Use the Trailhead Checklist & Trailhead Talking Points documents here* to set yourself and your group of for a successful outing. Be thorough!

  • Have all participants sign in on the customized sign-in sheet that is sent to you before your hike. This form is a liability waiver.Identify and introduce yourself, and your leader/shepherd who is present.
  • Welcome and thank everyone for being here today. Follow Trailhead Talking Points script for a guide on how to introduce this as a Friends' sponsored activity
  • Follow the Trailhead Checklist to ensure participant preparedness.
    • If you identify any person you believe is unprepared or does not posess the physical stamina appropriate for the hike ahead, take them aside and ask they leave. You must lead and act within the best interest of your entire group. One unprepared person can ruin the entire day for everyone.
  • Reiterate trail information and communicate your plans for the hike, for examples: if you plan to hike at a fast/slow pace, if you're going to stop frequently to identify plants, if you plan on having silent hiking time to appreciate the sounds of nature. It's best to let everyone know what to expect at the beginning of the day.
  • Unregistered hikers can join the hike if it does not exceed the maximum for number of hikers. Use it as an opportunity to teach them about Friends.

On the Trail

  • Stop in the first half hour for clothing changes, water break, and check in with group on hike pace and level of comfort
  • Count hikers several times throughout the day.
  • Communicate frequently with your leader/shepherd to monitor the group’s condition and watch for any physical changes to hikers (wobbly knees, dehydration, etc).
  • At lunch break, update hikers on the importance of Friends’ role in the protection of the Gorge, current updates, and ways to take action.
  • Inform participants to take restroom breaks 100 feet away from water and trail.
  • Supervise the group when passing through dangerous or precarious areas.
  • Stop at all trail junctions and regroup before continuing.

Post-Trip Follow Up

Submit all documents that participants have signed, either by email* or snail-mail, as soon as possible after your trip. 

  • Sign-in Forms (liability waivers)
  • Hiker Sign-Out form (liability release), if applicable 
  • Trip report:

Mail documents to the attention of Outdoor Programs Coordinator | 333 SW 5th Ave, Suite 300 | Portland, OR 97204

*if emailed, after confirmed receipt of information, you agree to shred the documents as they contain personal information of participants 


  • Withdrawing from an outing cannot be completed online. Contact Outdoor Programs Coordinator at 971-634-1265 or
  • No refunds are given for fee-based outings.
  • We rarely cancel our outings due to weather. However, we would do so if the weather is threatening (ex: thunder & lightning or snow) or if the trail is deemed unsafe.

What to Wear on a Friends Outing: Layers!

  • Long sleeves and long pants are best, along with sturdy hiking shoes or boots.
  • It’s always good to have a rain jacket. It’s the Pacific Northwest; it can always rain!
  • Layers!  A typical hike is:
    • Cold in early morning at the trailhead (fleece, jacket, gloves, etc.)
    • Then climbing uphill and heating up.  Stop to shed a layer or two.
    • Stop for lunch, usually at the turn-around point. Sweaty; get cold; put a layer back on!
    • Then downhill. Also later in the day. So you might want a light layer to be comfortable.
  • And remember, it can rain or turn cold (or hot) any time. The weather is unpredictable and can change suddenly. Be prepared for anything!

What to Bring on Every Friends Outing: The "10+ Essentials"

Hike Leaders and Shepherds are expected to bring the "10+ Essentials" with them on all Friends-sponsored outings. Weather changes quickly here and it can be very windy because of the dramatic landscape. The more prepared you are, the better the experience the entire group will have on trail. 

  • Navigation - Printed hike description, compass, & map – we recommend the National Geographic Columbia River Gorge trails map
  • Insulation - Extra clothing including rain and wind gear because it’s the Gorge!
  • Hydration - Extra water, water filter or water purifying tablets
  • Nutrition - Extra food (don't forget electrolyte replacements)
  • First Aid Supplies
  • Illumination - Headlamp or flashlight with extra batteries
  • Fire - Matches and fire starter
  • Repair kit & tools - Knife, multipurpose tool, and duct tape
  • Sun protection - Sunglasses, hat, and sunscreen
  • Whistle 
  • Emergency Shelter - Blanket or bivy
  • Trash bag - "Pack it in, pack it out"

Optional but recommended items include:

  • Hiking poles: even if you don't need them, a participant might
  • Tecnu (poison oak wash)
  • Wildflowers of the Columbia Gorge field guide
  • Garbage bag for leaving the trail cleaner behind you
  • Dog leash and waste bags if taking your four-legged hiking partner

Medical Emergency Protocol

Stop. Slow down and think. In an emergency situation panic can set in and distort decision making. Proceed with the training you have received.
Follow these steps for an ill or injured person:
  1. Survey the scene. Do not put yourself or others in the party at risk to reach the victim.
  2. Reassure the victim and make them as comfortable as possible.
  3. If a spinal injury is suspected, do not move the victim unless safety requires it.
  4. Determine if any participants have special medical training. Get all others away from the scene.
  5. Keep at least one person with the victim at all times.
  6. Note the time of injury. Use emergency runner card to record the full details.
  7. Ask the victim if they have any allergies to food or medicine.
  8. Administer any first aid needed – appropriate to your level of training – and keep assessing the individual’s physical and mental condition.
  9. Call 911. If a cell phone does not work, send 2-3 people (including at least the hike leader or shepherd) to find the nearest cell coverage. Be sure that those hiking out have car keys and all carpool riders or arrangements otherwise.
  10. Complete an Incident Report and submit to Outdoor Programs Coordinator.

Non-Emergency Dispatch Phone Numbers

  • Hood River County | 541-386-2711
  • Multnomah County | 503-823-3333
  • Wasco County | 541-296-2233
  • Clark County | 360-693-3111
  • Klickitat County | 509-773-4545
  • Skamania County | 509-427-9490

Lost Person Protocol

  1. Attempt to make voice contact by using a group yell.
  2. Blow whistle in three short blasts. Wait, then repeat.
  3. Begin search. Keep part of the group with the shepherd at the site where the lost person was last seen. The other group should hike up and down the trail and around the area yelling for the lost person.
  4. If the search is unsuccessful, leave two people at the location where the person was last seen and have the rest of the party seek assistance.

Emergency Communication Protocol

  • Contact Hike Communications Director Burt Edwards immediately after the incident at 703-861-8237 (cell).

Hike Leader & Shepherd Manual Acknowledgement Agreement

*This is required from all Hike Leaders and Shepherds*

By e-signing below, I acknowledge that I have received and read Friends of the Columbia Gorge's Hike Leader & Shepherd Manual.
  • I am aware that I am expected to follow the guidelines set forth in this manual.
  • I also understand preparation is key in providing the best possible outdoor experience.
  • If I have any questions about this manual or any other policy or procedure, I understand that I can contact the Outdoor Programs Coordinator at or 971-634-1265.


Use mouse and/or trackpad to digitally sign signature.

Signed, 1/23/2022