Family hike at Lyle Cherry Orchard. (photographer: Kate Lindberg)

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April 4, 2018
 

Tips for Enjoying Gorge Wildflower Season

Lesser-known hikes and modes of travel

With more than 700 species of wildflowers, the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area offers a spectacular show every spring. Starting as early as February, the grass widows begin to emerge, followed by Columbia Gorge desert parsley in March. The bright yellow balsamroot and purple lupine begin to appear on south-facing slopes in late April and last, in some places, into the early part of June.

For good reason, wildflower hikes are very busy during the months of April, May and June, especially on weekends. Use these tips to avoid crowds, increase your chances of getting spectacular photographs, and ensure a more peaceful, scenic walk. And, please remember, never pick wildflowers so that everyone can enjoy their beauty.
 

When to hike the Gorge


Go Midweek: Visit Monday through Thursday, April to June to experience the peak wildflower season.

This tip is even more important for popular trails such as Dog Mountain, Coyote Wall, Catherine Creek and Tom McCall State Park, which are very busy on weekends during the spring. New this year, if you’re planning to visit the very popular Dog Mountain Trail System, each hiker will be required to obtain a permit on weekends from March 31 to July 1. Go here for more information.

Go Early: If visiting during a weekend, aim to finish your hike before 10 a.m. Then, you’ll have the rest of your day to visit one or more of the welcoming towns in the Gorge.
 

Where to find wildflowers


Go North: The south-facing trails of the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge have some of the best wildflower hikes. Plus, many of the hikes on the Oregon side of the Gorge remain closed due to the Eagle Creek fire. (Go here for a printable 11x17 map of all trailheads in the scenic area, highlighting trail closures.)

Go East: Explore hikes in the eastern Gorge, which require a little more driving time but receive fewer hikers. 

Here are five lesser-known wildflower hikes in Washington and the eastern Gorge:
  1. Hamilton Mountain Loop (Western Gorge, Washington), 9.4-mile loop, strenuous
  2. Klickitat Trail Swale Canyon (Eastern Gorge, Washington), 10-mile out-and-back, moderate
  3. Columbia Hills Historical State Park, Dalles Mountain Ranch (Eastern Gorge, Washington), 4-mile out-and-back, moderate
  4. Deschutes State Park River Trail (Eastern Gorge, Oregon), 22-mile out-and-back, easy (also mountain bike-friendly)
  5. Mosier Plateau Trail (Eastern Gorge, Oregon), 3.5-mile out-and-back, moderate
(Photo: Balsamroot in bloom along the Mosier Plateau Trail in the Columbia River Gorge. Photographer: Aimee Wade.)
 

How to get there: Consider public transit


Washington

During the summer months, the West End Transit (or WET Bus) will resume full service on weekends from the Skamania County Fairgrounds to nine trailheads and Gorge communities. Stay tuned for the schedule.

If venturing to the Dog Mountain Trail on the weekends, consider taking the Dog Mountain Shuttle. The shuttle will start at 7:30 a.m. from the Skamania County Fairgrounds parking lot located on Rock Creek Dr. in Stevenson. The shuttle will run every 30 minutes with the last return trip from Dog Mountain Trailhead leaving at 4:30 p.m. The fare is $1 each way.

Note, even if you take the shuttle, you will still need a hiking permit on weekends from March 31 to July 1. Go here for more information.

Oregon

Starting Memorial Day Weekend, the Columbia Gorge Express will resume full service on weekends from Portland’s Gateway Transit Center to Rooster Rock State Park and Multnomah Falls. New this year, the bus will also take passengers to Cascade Locks and Hood River. Stay tuned for the route and schedule.
 

Are you Ready, Set, GOrge?


Before you leave, visit ReadySetGorge.com for trail suggestions, updates on conditions, maps, car-free itineraries and more.

Ready, Set, GOrge! is a campaign developed by the U.S. Forest Service, Friends of the Columbia Gorge, Travel Oregon, Oregon Department of Transportation and other partners to improve the visitor experience in the Gorge. It’s a free resource that anyone can access before or during their visit to the Gorge.
 

March 20, 2018
 

Hiking Season is Here!

Before you leave home, get Ready, Set, GOrge!

The days are getting longer, wildflowers are blooming, and songbirds have filled the early morning silence. As you plan your annual spring pilgrimage to the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, be sure to first stop at ReadySetGorge.com, where you’ll find tips to plan your hike (Ready), check trail, weather and trail conditions (Set), and find ways to help protect the Gorge so that future generations can enjoy it, too (GOrge!).

In light of the trail closures on the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area between Troutdale and Wyeth due to damage from the Eagle Creek Fire, hikers can use the resources at ReadySetGorge.com to find new places to explore. Check out this list of great options. And, anticipating congestion at trailheads such as Dog Mountain on weekends, hikers can use ReadySetGorge.com to consider the most ideal times and days of the week to explore their favorite spots. 

The Eagle Creek Fire impacted less than 17 percent of the Gorge. That means there are still plenty of paths to explore—many of which have waterfalls, wildflowers, natural history and jaw-dropping views of the Columbia River. Plus, fewer crowds. What will become your new favorite destination?

Ready, Set, GOrge! is a campaign developed by the U.S. Forest Service, Friends of the Columbia Gorge, Travel Oregon, Oregon Department of Transportation and other partners to improve the visitor experience in the Gorge. It’s a free resource that anyone can access before or during their visit to the Gorge.

Photo: Balsamroot and lupine bloom at Columbia Hills State Park on the Washington side of the Columbia Gorge. (photographer: Debbie Asakawa)