Columbia River Gorge’s top 9 spring, or springlike, hikes.

Sure doesn't feel like February, mabey more like April. The warm weather forecast looks to continue into next weekend.

Take advantage of the unseasonably warm, springlike temperatures to hit the trail. Here are nine hikes previously praised by Oregonlive travel writer Terry Richard as spring-friendly.

Before heading out, be sure to check current trail conditions at the Mt. Hood National Forest and the Friends of the Columbia Gorge websites.

Catherine Creek

On the Washington side of the gorge, much of the land between Coyote Wall and Major Creek is part of the Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area. As trails are developed, most hiking above State Route 14 follows boot and bike tire tracks. You can hike for a week across this three-mile-wide landscape that is dotted with ponderosa pines, crowned with Oregon white oak and sprinkled with grassy wildflower meadows.

Begin at Catherine Creek, between Bingen and Lyle. Drive S.R. 14 to Old Highway 8 at milepost 70.9 (as measured from the Interstate Bridge in Vancouver). Turn left, then drive north and east around Rowland Lake for 1.4 miles to the Catherine Creek trailhead. Also check out Coyote Wall/Syncline on the west edge of the public land in the Catherine Creek area.

Catherine Creek also has an ADA-accessible lower path. Look at the scenic area's website for trail details.

The Dalles Mountain

This sprawling, mostly treeless hillside, part of Washington's Columbia Hills State Park, bursts into bloom during spring wildflower season. Drive S.R. 14 east of Vancouver to milepost 84.4, just past The Dalles Bridge. Turn left and drive 3.4 miles north and east to an old ranch house. Wander at will on the park's 3,338 acres, or drive/hike the gravel road 1.3 miles above the ranch house to a locked gate. Hike 1.7 miles on the road (closed to vehicles) through Columbia Hills Preserve to 3,220-foot Stacker Butte.

Hamilton Mountain

The scenery: Beacon Rock State Park, 4,650 acres, is named after the famous riverside monolith noted as the head of tidewater by the Lewis and Clark expedition. At 2,438-feet high, the park's Hamilton Mountain is one of the dominant peaks in the central gorge, with a view of Bonneville Dam. Washington has fewer waterfalls than the Oregon side, but this trail passes the spectacular Pool of the Winds.

The drive: Take State Route 14 east of Vancouver to milepost 34.9. Turn left into the park and drive 0.3 mile north to the trailhead. Parked vehicles must display a Washington Discovery Pass.

The trail: The trail to the summit is well marked, but to make a loop you will need to hike north from the summit for 0.9 mile to an old road. Follow the road left and down for a mile to join a marked trail. Take this trail 1.1 mile to rejoin the main trail near Rodney Falls.

The work: 7.5-mile loop; 2,000 foot gain.

Dog Mountain

The scenery: Although the upper mountain is known for spectacular wildflower blooms in mid to late May, the trail is a good hike anytime because of the commanding view it offers in the central part of the gorge. The Columbia River Gorge National Scenic area charges a $5 day use fee per vehicloe (payable on site in a drop box, or buy your annual Northwest Forest Pass in advance or a day pass online).

The drive: Take State Route 14 east of Vancouver to the large parking area on the north side of the highway at milepost 53.6.

The trail: There's no way to sugarcoat this muscle burner, especially for out-of-shape spring hikers. At two junctions on the way up, stay right first, then left to follow the main trail to the 2,920-foot summit. A loop is possible on the way down, with a right turn 0.1 mile from the summit, then a left after 1.1 miles to return via the Auspurger Trail to the highway. This is about as far west as poison oak and rattlesnakes inhabit the gorge, so beware ( but there is no guarantee you won't encounter them elsewhere).

The work: Seven-mile loop; 2,800-foot gain.

 

Labyrinth

The scenery: For more than a decade the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area has been acquiring land in the Catherine Creek area, an open landscape of grassy slopes punctuated by oak forests. Naturally, hikers and bikers have been creating informal trails. Among them is one through the Labyrinth, an area of rugged basalt formations transected by a boot-created path.

The drive: Take State Route 14 east of Vancouver to Old Highway 8 at milepost 70.9. Turn left, then drive north and east around Rowland Lake for 1.4 miles to Catherine Creek trailhead.

The trail: Walk the paved road back to State Route 14, then go west on the abandoned road above the highway. Pass a small waterfall after a couple hundred yards, then watch for an obvious boot track leading up the slope. Follow the path 2,000 feet up to the tree line, passing through the Labyrinth formations. Just below the trees, follow an old road east, eventually meeting another road that leads south and down to where you parked.

The work: Seven-mile loop; 2,000-foot gain.

Balfour-Klickitat

The scenery: The Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area has created a short trail through an old homestead overlooking the Columbia and Klickitat rivers just west of Lyle, Wash. The trail is ideal for a short hike, or for those with mobility issues. Another similar paved trail is at Catherine Creek (see driving directions for the Labyrinth).

The drive: Take State Route 14 east of Vancouver to the turn for Appleton at milepost 75.9. Turn left and go north 0.2 mile to the trailhead.

The trail: From the parking lot, take either the high or low paved paths. They eventually join and loop to an oak-shaded picnic spot over the Klickitat River. (For a longer walking option, check out the Klickitat River Trail on the opposite bank of the river; you'll need to cross the State Route 14 bridge. It runs 30 miles north and east, though is again having contentious right-of-way issues following a recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings on rail-trails. State parks says the trail is open for public use.)

The work: One-mile loop; 100-foot gain.

Lyle Cherry Orchard

This hillside is gorgeous in spring. It's just east of Lyle, Wash., and, is part of the Friends of the Columbia Gorge land trust. To reach the parking area, head east from Lyle on S.R. 14 for one mile and park at a wide spot on the north side of the highway, just beyond the second of two tunnels. Watch for poison oak along the lower part of the trail. What's left of the pioneer cherry orchard is at the east end of the upper trail, a popular lunch spot with a distant view of The Dalles.

Tom McCall Point

The trail goes south from Oregon's Rowena Crest viewpoint on Nature Conservancy Land to the lower tree line, where famous views await. Drive east of Mosier seven miles on the Historic Columbia River Highway to the trailhead. Hikers who know the area find additional bliss nearby on Rowena Plateau, Sevenmile Hill and Memaloose Hills.

Deschutes River

This Oregon state park has a network of trails upriver from the campground, just off Intersate 84 on the east side of the river in Sherman County. Head east past The Dalles on I-84, take the Celilo exit (No. 97), then go east three miles on the frontage road to the park entry.

Source: The Oregonian/OregonLive

Posted on February 16, 2015 at 8:19 pm
Jason Webb | Category: JasonWebb | Tagged ,