Dog Mountain Trail with yellow flowers and columbia river

Best Columbia River Gorge Washington Hikes

If you’ve ever experienced the wonder of the Columbia River Gorge on the Oregon side, you’re in for a treat when you realize the Washington side offers hikes that compliment the beauty of the area. Columbia River Gorge Washington Hikes have dramatic cliffs, lush forests, and cascading waterfalls. 

This underrated section of Washington is one of my favorite places to hike. With a wide variety of terrain types and difficulty level of trails, there is truly something for everyone. 

After countless trips down to the Columbia River Gorge, I am happy to share some of my favorite trails in this guide. So if you’re ready for it, let’s explore the Columbia River Gorge, Washington-Edition!

Female Hiker in orange jacket heading to little Hamilton mountain lookout
Headed up to Little Hamilton Mountain

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The Best Day Hikes in the Columbia River Gorge, Washington

Before we dive headfirst into Columbia River Gorge Washington Hikes, let’s talk about what’s in the guide! This collection guide will cover all aspects of your Washington-side exploration. 

  1. Best Time to Visit Columbia River Gorge: Discover why the gorge is the perfect spot for year-round hiking!
  2. Top Columbia River Hikes: There are so many amazing hikes in the Columbia River Gorge, but here are my favorite Columbia River Gorge Washington-Side hikes. 
  3. What Else There is to Do: Columbia River Gorge Washington Adventures don’t end with hiking. There is so much to do! I’ve included a short list of what else you can do. 
  4. What to Pack/Wear: I’ll cover packing essentials for your Columbia River Gorge adventure from hiking gear to clothes. 

Let’s get into it by starting with the best time to visit Columbia River Gorge.

When is the best time to visit Columbia River Gorge?

A major draw to hiking in the Columbia River Gorge Scenic Area is that it is a year-round hiking destination. Most hikes along the Columbia River Gorge Washington Side are accessible any time of the year if you’re willing to hike in snow and rain. Everything just depends on what it is you’d like to see on your journey!

Silver Star Mountain Summit
Lookout on Silver Star Mountain

Spring (March to May)

Spring is an extremely popular time in the year to visit the Gorge, because of the amazing wildflower displays. Wildflowers in Columbia River Gorge are best seen at Dog Mountain and Catherine Creek. There is still some snow melt and patches that you can encounter at higher elevations, but it is a spectacular time to visit regardless. 

Summer (June to August)

Second to Spring, Summer is an amazing season to hike the Columbia River Gorge Washington Trails. Longer days make way for longer hikes and time on the river. Whether you’re doing a longer trek like Greenleaf Falls Trail or spending the day on the river at Dougs Beach State Park

Fall (September to November)

Cooler temperatures in autumn bring out some of the most beautiful fall colors along the Columbia River Gorge Trails. Some of the best hikes along the gorge for fall colors include Cape Horn Loop and Hamilton Mountain

Winter (December to February) 

If you’re searching for white capped peaks, secluded trails, and cool temperatures, winter along the Columbia River Gorge is a beautiful time to visit. 

Ultimately, the best time to hike in Washington along the Columbia River Gorge depends on your preference. If you’re up for large crowds, spring and summer have some of the best landscapes for wildflowers. If you prefer secluded trails, fall and winter are wonderful.

Female Hiker on the Beacon Rock Trail in the Columbia River Gorge
Beacon Rock Trail

Passes and Permits

When hiking in Washington there are two main passes and permits that you will need to access a vast majority of the trails: Discover Pass and America the Beautiful. 

Most of the trails on this list require either of those two passes but some don’t require any permits. Pay attention to permit requirements for each trail prior to getting to the trailhead.

Discover Pass

To access trails within Washington State Parks, a Discover Pass is required.

The Discover Pass has a $32 annual fee that provides unlimited access to all Washington State Parks. 

Purchase a Discover Pass here!

America the Beautiful Pass

America the Beautiful Passes are for all National Parks and Forests in the United States.

America the Beautiful Passes have an $80 annual fee and are absolutely worth the cost if you visit three or more National Parks a year. 

Purchase an America the Beautiful Pass here!

NOrthwest Forest Pass

An alternative to the America the Beautiful Pass is the Northwest Forest Pass which provides access to all National Forests in Washington and Oregon.

Northwest Forest Pass has a $30 annual fee. If you do visit National Parks in addition to National Forests, I would suggest America the Beautiful Pass. 

Purchase a Northwest Pass here!

Additional Permits

There are a couple trails along the Columbia River Gorge that require special permits. Trails like Dog Mountain in Washington and Multnomah Falls in Oregon require special permits at different times of the year. 

These permits are accessed at


Let’s get into the trails!

Hike #1: Dog Mountain

Female and Male Hiker with their dog in yellow wildflowers

Length:  6.5 miles

Elevation Gain: 3,000 ft

Difficulty: Strenuous

Pass/Permit: Seasonal Parking Passes & Northwest Forest Pass

Extremely popular in Spring, Dog Mountain is bursting with wildflowers making it one of the best Columbia River Gorge Washington hikes. While the Columbia River Gorge is a vastly underrated part of Washington, the Dog Mountain Trail is the poster-child for spring hiking. 

Hike #2: Hamilton Mountain

Length:  7.5 miles

Elevation Gain: 2,000 ft

Difficulty: Hard

Pass/Permit: Discover Pass

Columbia River Gorge in early spring

Hamilton mountain located on the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge is an all-season favorite, offering breathtaking overlooks from lower and upper Hamilton Mountain. Along the same trail as Rodney Falls, this trail is a true favorite amongst gorge hikers in Beacon Rock State Park.

Hike #3: Rodney and Hardy Falls

Length:  3.5 miles

Elevation Gain: 1,200 ft

Difficulty: Moderate

Pass/Permit: Discover Pass

Upper Rodney Falls

Rodney and Hardy Falls is a scenic spot with cascading waterfalls and luscious forest. As an all-season destination for hikers on the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge, Rodney Falls is nothing short of a great Pacific Northwest hike. If you’re looking for a bigger challenge, Rodney and Hardy Falls are connected to the infamous Hamilton Mountain Trail.

Hike #4: Catherine Creek Loop

Length:  5.5 miles

Elevation Gain: 1,400 ft

Difficulty: Moderate

Pass/Permit: None!

Catherine Creek Arch along the Cathrine Creek loop Trail

Catherine Creek Loop is the perfect spot for an all-season adventure or wildflower viewing in spring! As one of the top Washington-side hikes in the Columbia River Gorge, you will find yourself on this trail time and time again.

Hike #5: Cape Horn

Length:  7.0 miles

Elevation Gain: 1,400 ft

Difficulty:  Moderate

Pass/Permit: None

Columbia River Gorge from Russell Lookout

Cape Horn Loop is an all-season adventure for hikers looking for vistas of the Cascade Range from the Washington Side of the Gorge. This trail is accessible year-round and offers forested trail, amazing lookouts, and waterfall features. It is definitely one of the underrated Washington Columbia River Gorge hikes. 

Hike #6: Silver Star Mountain

Length:  6.3 miles

Elevation Gain: 2,100 ft

Difficulty: Hard

Pass/Permit: Discover Pass

Women hiking with a blue backpack and her dog on Silver Star Mountain Trail in Columbia River Gorge

Silver Star Mountain offers amazing wildflowers and panoramic views of the Cascades. While best visited in spring through fall, Silver Star Mountain is also known for its snowshoe route making it a year-round hiking destination. This trail will definitely NOT disappoint. 

Hike #7: Cook Hill Loop

Length:  8.0 miles

Elevation Gain:  2,900 ft 

Difficulty: Hard

Pass/Permit: None

Cook Hill Best Columbia River Gorge Washington Hike

Cook Hill Loop is an under traveled hidden treasure in the Columbia River Gorge Scenic Area. While challenging, this loop trail offers phenomenal views of Mount Hood and the Columbia River Gorge, making for serene viewpoints. If you’re looking to avoid crowds in the Gorge, this trail is for you!

Hike #8: Beacon Rock Trail

Length:  1.5 miles

Elevation Gain: 580 ft

Difficulty: Moderate

Pass/Permit: Discover Pass

Female hiker on trail with railings looking over Columbia River Gorge

Beacon Rock is without a doubt one of my favorite trails in the Gorge. This short and spicy trail has nonstop amazing views of the gorge as you climb up a lava tube along bridges and wooden pathways! It is so cool!

Hike #9: Hardy Ridge

Length:  6.8 miles

Elevation Gain: 1,800 ft

Difficulty: Moderate

Pass/Permit: Discover Pass

Evergreen trails on the top of Hardy Ridge

Hardy Ridge is a wonderful trail if you’re looking for a forested trail and small crowds. Located in Beacon Rock State Park, the views are similar to that of Hamilton Mountain! 

Hike #10: Table Mountain via PCT

Length:  16.4 miles

Elevation Gain: 4,300 ft

Difficulty: Strenuous 

Pass/Permit: Northwest Forest Pass/America the Beautiful

Table Mountain via PCT looking over Columbia River Gorge

Table Mountain in the Columbia River Gorge is a challenging but extremely rewarding trek. Passing Lake Gillette and Greenleaf Pond on the way up, Table Mountain has sweeping views of the gorge that can’t be seen anywhere else. Be sure to begin at the Bonneville Trailhead as this is the only way to avoid walking on private property.

Hike #11: Coyote Wall Loop

Length:  6.5 miles

Elevation Gain: 1,800 ft

Difficulty: Moderate

Pass/Permit: None

Rugged Cliff edge on the Coyote Wall Trail in the Columbia River Gorge Trail

Coyote Wall Loop allows you to explore wildflower widows, waterfalls and beautiful vistas of the Columbia River Gorge Oregon-Side. While available year-round for hiking, it is best known for spring hiking and wildflower viewing. I would argue that it is equally as beautiful as Dog Mountain.

Hike #12: Lyle Cherry Orchard Trail

Length:  5.0 miles

Elevation Gain: 1,200 ft

Difficulty: Moderate

Pass/Permit: None

Lyle Cherry Creek Trail with meadows looking over the Columbia River

Lyle Cherry Orchard Trail offers hikers an escape amidst the remains of a historical cherry orchard with panoramic views of the Columbia River Gorge. If you’re looking for a unique family-friendly hike in the Columbia River Gorge, the Lyle Cherry Orchard Trail is a fun and relaxing trip with amazing payoff.

Hike #13: Spirit Falls

Length:  0.7 miles

Elevation Gain: 433 ft

Difficulty: Hard

Pass/Permit: None

Spirit Falls waterfall

Spirit Falls is a hidden gem Columbia River Gorge Washington Hike. This extremely tough trail leads down to a vibrant blue pool with a cascading waterfall. While short, this trail is not suitable for children.

What else is there to do in Columbia River Gorge?

Other than hiking, the Washington Side of the Columbia River Gorge has a variety of other activities for visitors to do. 

  1. Water Activities: Boating, wind-surfing and kiteboarding on the river.
  2. Wineries: There are a number of beautiful wineries including Cor Cellars and South Hill Winery. 
  3. Breweries: Grab a post-hike beer at one of the breweries along the Gorge. One of my favorites is Everybody’s Brewing.
  4. Art/Museums: Visit an art gallery or museum. I really enjoyed the Columbia Gorge Interpretive Museum.

You can truly make your trip as adventure packed or relaxing as you wish!

What to wear on Columbia River Gorge Washington Hikes

Proper attire is essential for a comfortable and safe hiking in the Columbia River Gorge. Here’s everything you should consider packing for your adventure:

Female hiker in a orange jacket hiking on a bridge along the Hamilton mountain trail


The Gorge’s weather can change rapidly, so dressing in layers is crucial. Begin with moisture-wicking base layers to keep sweat away from your skin, add insulating layers to trap warmth, and finish with a waterproof, breathable outer shell to protect against rain and wind.

Here are some of my favorites for each category:

Hiking Boots

Sturdy, waterproof hiking boots with good traction are a must. My favorites are Oboz Bridgers!

Wool Socks

Opt for wool socks to keep your feet dry and reduce the risk of blisters. Darn Tough socks are the only socks I will hike in.


A day pack is necessary for most of the hikes on this list for carrying essentials like water, snacks, extra clothing, and first-aid supplies. I currently use the Osprey Tempest, but a great beginner daypack is the Gregory Maya

For a complete list of hiking essentials, check out my Ten Essentials of Hiking Guide.

It’s important to check the weather forecast and trail conditions before heading out to ensure you’re prepared. Proper attire will make your Columbia River Gorge hiking experience safe and enjoyable!

Pack It Up

When it comes to Columbia River Gorge Washington Hikes, there is no limit to what you can see. From waterfalls, to visitas, and forests, there is something for every hiker.

I have added all of the hikes listed in this post to an AllTrails List for easy searchability, access the Best Columbia River Gorge Washington Trails Here.  

If you have any questions about hiking in the Gorge, feel free to comment on this post and I would be happy to answer any questions! 


Happy Hiking, Outdoor Bestie!

Columbia River Gorge Washington Hiking Guide Pinterest Pin
The Best Hikes in the Columbia River Gorge Washington Side Pinterest Pin

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