Are you ready to embark on an unforgettable spring adventure amidst nature’s vibrant tapestry? Look no further than Dog Mountain in the breathtaking Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. Renowned as one of the Best Spring Wildflower hikes in Washington, this trail promises an enchanting journey through the heart of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.
Dog Mountain Trail #147 is a beloved treasure for hikers in the pacific northwest. With its legendary yellow balsamroot blooms and awe-inspiring vistas, it has captured the attention of adventurers far and wide.
In this guide, I’ll delve into the essential details you need to make your Dog Mountain hike a reality in 2024. From permits and trail descriptions to insider tips on experiencing the beauty of the Columbia River Gorge, I’ll help prove that Dog Mountain deserves a spot on your hiking bucket list!
Complete Guide to Hiking Dog Mountain in Peak Wildflower Season
When spring paints the Pacific Northwest with vibrant palette, there’s no better place to witness nature’s artistry than on the slopes of Dog Mountain. This complete guide is your key to one of Washington’s most iconic hiking destinations during peak wildflower season.
General Information About Dog Mountain
Region: Columbia River Gorge
Distance: 6.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 3,000 ft
Time: 4+ hours
When to Go: Late May
Pass/Permit?: America the Beautiful & Seasonal Parking*
Dogs Allowed?: On-Leash
Date Completed: May 20th, 2023
Accessing Dog Mountain
When it comes to exploring Dog Mountain during the wildflower season, planning ahead is key to ensure a smooth and enjoyable experience. To reach the trailhead, make your way to the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area in Washington State. From there, follow the signs to Dog Mountain Trail. Keep in mind that this popular hike attracts a large number of visitors, especially during the peak wildflower bloom. To secure your spot and avoid any parking woes, it’s important to obtain a parking permit in advance.
Map to Dog Mountain Trailhead
Dog Mountain is located on the ancestral lands of the Cayuse, Umatilla, Walla Walla and Cowlitz tribes and the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde and Siletz Indians. We are grateful for the stewards of this land past and present. We are honored to be and recognize that we are guests on this land.
Getting to the Trailhead
Getting to the trailhead from Vancouver is as easy as following State Route 14 for 54 miles. The winding road leads right to the trailhead on the right.
The trailhead has a privy available for hikers. The privy is slightly up the trail so you do have to work for it!
Season to Visit
Dog Mountain is a versatile hiking destination that offers a different experience in each season. Whether you’re planning your visit in spring, summer, fall, or winter, here’s what you can expect:
Spring is the crown jewel of Dog Mountain’s hiking calendar. From March to May, the trails come alive with a riot of wildflowers, with the famous Yellow balsamroot taking center stage. The vibrant hues of lupines, paintbrushes, and other native blooms create a breathtaking display.
Expect cooler temperatures, and don’t forget to check for permits, as this season draws crowds of nature enthusiasts eager to witness the spectacle. More information on permits below.
As summer takes hold, the wildflowers gradually fade, but the reward is sweeping panoramic views of the Columbia River Gorge. Be prepared for warmer weather, and carry plenty of water, as the exposed sections can get quite hot.
The foliage transitions to vibrant shades of red, orange, and yellow, creating a picturesque backdrop for your hike. The cooler temperatures make this season ideal for those who prefer milder weather. Fall is also a quieter time on the trails compared to the spring rush.
While the trail may be less crowded, it’s essential to check weather conditions and trail access, as snow and ice can make hiking more challenging. Snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are also popular activities for those seeking a winter adventure.
No matter the season, Dog Mountain offers a unique and rewarding experience. Each time you hike this iconic trail, you’ll discover something new and captivating about the beauty of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area.
Parking Permits are required on the weekends during peak wildflower season(Saturdays, Sundays, April 29 – June 19 (Juneteenth) and Memorial Day).
Parking permits are needed for the trailhead on the weekends from Recreation.gov and are released 40 spots at a time. These permits need to be printed or accessible on your phone for park rangers to check.
If you do not get a parking permit, you can still get access to the trail by taking the shuttle to the trailhead from Stevenson.
More information on the permits can be found here.
To purchase a parking permit, you will need to purchase your pass at recreation.gov.
TIP: If you park at the trailhead prior to rangers checking permits, it is fair game.
The Forest Service requires a Northwest Forest Pass or America the Beautiful Pass to park at the trailhead. These permits help manage the crowds and preserve the natural beauty of the area.
So, before you embark on your adventure, don’t forget to obtain the necessary parking permit to ensure hassle-free access to this iconic trail and immerse yourself in the breathtaking display of wildflowers that awaits atop Dog Mountain.
What to Pack for Dog Mountain
The gear you pack for this trek should be comfortable and lightweight. I wouldn’t suggest using new gear unless you have to. But here are some gear recommendations for your trek:
Both of the day packs mentioned above have a large space for a 3L water bladder, on a steep trail like this, carrying enough water is a necessity. While the recommended amount of water per hour of hiking is 0.5 L, the more strenuous the hike, the more water you will need.
Comfortable clothing is going to key to a comfortable trek. Whether you’re more comfortable in leggings or pants or shorts, wear something you’re prepared to get sweaty!
I brought my trusty pup, Meatball, on this trek and here is some of the dog gear I brought with:
Thankfully I have never needed to use the medical kit for Meatball, but it is only when you don’t have it that you need it. This one I purchased from REI!
Water & Treats
Hiking Dog Mountain
A hike that truly lives up to its reputation as a 100 Classic Hike of Washington, Dog Mountain. Nestled in the scenic Columbia River Gorge, this trail offers a rewarding adventure for nature enthusiasts and hikers up for a challenge.
Check Out Another Classic in the Columbia River Gorge: Catherine Creek Loop
Beginning Your Trek
The trail begins at the Dog Mountain Trailhead where you’ll be greeted by towering trees and a sense of anticipation. As you set off, the path gradually meanders through a lush forest. The trailhead bathroom is after the first of many switchbacks. The initial section is steep and is preparation for what is to be expected for the remainder of the trail.
Old Trail vs. New Trail
After approximately 0.6 miles, the trail splits and offers a choice between two (literally) breathtaking destinations. To the left, labeled “more difficult” and to the right “difficult”. The choice is yours. The more difficult route is 0.4 miles shorter with the same elevation gain of 1,500ft as the difficult route.
The More Difficult Route
Opting for the more difficult route was no joke. Through lush forest, the incline was steep. At 6:00am the forest was peaceful and quiet. The terrain was consistent with a few small felled trees to step over.
If you continue with the “difficult route”, the trail gradually gains elevation and takes you through a variety of terrain and captivating landscapes. As you ascend, be prepared for a few challenging sections including traversing large boulders and navigating steep sections. I opted to go back down the “difficult” route.
The Difficult Route
If you go with the “difficult” route, you’ll experience diverse landscapes on your upward trek. The trail leads you through towering forest, tranquil meadows, and some rocky sections. Except for the occasional challenging stretch, the include is much more reasonable than the More Difficult Dog Mountain Route. This route also has some vistas looking over the Columbia River Gorge with meadows of wildflowers.
Converged Trail to Puppy Viewpoint
The two trails converge again for the last push. As you conquer the trail’s final push, marked by an elevation grade of around 30%, the reward awaits at the summit. Prepare to be captivated by sweeping panoramic views of the Columbia River Gorge, with the mighty Mount Hood proudly dominating the skyline. Take a moment to soak in the grandeur of this awe-inspiring vista and appreciate the beauty of nature that surrounds you.
One of the highlights of the trail is the abundance of wildflowers that blanket the slopes of Dog Mountain during the spring and early summer months. Brace yourself for a riot of colors, with vibrant lupines, balsamroot, paintbrush, and other floral species adorning the hillsides. This dazzling display creates a picturesque backdrop that will leave you in awe.
Puppy Viewpoint to Dog Mountain Summit
The trek continues onto Dog Mountain with two route options. The option to the left, which I recommend, continues through the meadows of wildflowers. This is where the Junction for the Augspurger Trail meets up with the Dog Mountain Trail.
While Dog Mountain is heavily visited, it is not visited for the summit.
After immersing yourself in the vistas and savoring the sense of accomplishment, it’s time to retrace your steps back to the trailhead. You can take the Augspurger Trail back down or hike down the “Difficult Route” which is what I chose to do!
Commonly Asked Questions About Dog Mountain
To make sure all of our bases are covered for hiking Dog Mountain, here are the answers to some commonly asked questions about this popular wildflower trial:
How long does Dog Mount Hike take?
The duration of the Dog Mountain hike can vary depending on your hiking pace and route. On average, it takes about 3 to 4 hours to complete the round trip to the summit and back to the trailhead. However, this estimate may change based on if you take the “more difficult” route up or down, or the Augspurger Trail.
How steep is the Dog Mountain Trail?
The elevation gain on Dog Mountain is nearly 3,000 ft in just under 3.0 miles. This makes the trail extremely steep with some of the section averaging 30% grade for long sections of trail.
Do you need a permit for Dog Mountain Trail?
Yes, if you are hiking Dog Mountain during peak wildflower season in the spring. The Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area has implemented a permitting system to manage the heavy visitor traffic during this time through recreation.gov.
Should you do the "difficult" or "more difficult" route?
The choice between the “difficult” and “more difficult” routes largely dependent on your personal hiking preferences. While I would suggest taking the “new” trail up, i.e. the difficult route, for a more gradual grade that include more vistas, I can honestly say I did not mind the old trial.
Most people took the new trail up.
Should Dog Mountain be a Classic Hike?
I am hiking all “100 Classic Hikes of Washington”. But the question is, Should Dog Mountain be a 100 Classic Hike of Washington?
Dog Mountain should absolutely be a 100 Classic Hike of Washington. The magnificent display of Washington wildflowers brings Washingtonians from all over the state to the trail for a peak at the sea of colors.
While most 100 Classic Hikes of Washington have been included for a historical or locally beloved reason, Dog Mountain has a wide-spread reach of hikers from all over the state. The hike has little to offer other than views of the Columbia River Gorge outside of wildflower season, no hike can beat it during wildflower season.
Let me know in the comments if you think Dog Mountain should be a 100 Classic Hike of Washington!
If you’d like to complete your own 100 Classic Hikes journey, you can purchase the book here.
What to do After Hiking Dog Mountain
After hiking Dog Mountain and immersing yourself in its natural splendor, there are several activities and attractions in the area that you can explore to extend your adventure. Here are a few options:
- Columbia River Gorge Scenic Drive: Take a leisurely drive along the historic Columbia River Highway on the Oregon side which offers breathtaking views of the gorge and its magnificent waterfalls. Make stops at iconic landmarks such as Multnomah Falls, Latourell Falls, and Horsetail Falls among others.
- Wine Tasting: The Columbia River Gorge is renowned for its vineyards and wineries. Consider visiting some of the local wineries to sample their award-winning wines. Take in the picturesque vineyard views and learn about the winemaking process.
- Fruit Orchards and Farm Stands: Take advantage of the region’s agricultural abundance by visiting the numerous fruit orchards and farm stands in the area. Depending on the season you can pick your own berries, taste freshly harvested fruits, or browse through local produce and artisanal products.
- Columbia Gorge Discovery Center and Museum: For those interested in learning about the region’s history and natural heritage, a visit to the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center and Museum is highly recommended. Discover the geological wonders, cultural heritage, and ecological importance of the Columbia River Gorge through engaging exhibits and interactive displays.
These are just a few suggestions to help you make the most of your time in the area after conquering Dog Mountain. Whether you choose to relax, indulge in local flavors, or continue your outdoor exploration, the Columbia River Gorge offers a wide range of activities to cater to every interest and create a well-rounded and memorable experience.
Pack it up
Remember to stay mindful of your surroundings and adhere to Leave No Trace principles by respecting the delicate ecosystem and preserving the pristine beauty of Dog Mountain for future hikers to enjoy.
Whether you’re seeking an invigorating challenge, a connection with nature, or simply a stunning hiking experience, Dog Mountain promises to deliver all that and more. Lace up your boots, pack your essentials, and embark on a memorable adventure that will leave you with cherished memories of this iconic Washington trail.