As the weather begins to warm and beckons you to get out, you love to hike to high places. Dog Mountain is one of the most scenic hikes within a day’s driving distance from Portland, easily found on the Washington side of the Columbia River, on Highway 14 at milepost 53. Go in quest of early wild flowers.
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The most preferred trail direction is on the right side of the parking lot, and the trail starts up right away. A forest restroom is a couple of hundred yards up the trail, and is the last official pit stop. (Note: Be sure to stay right on all trail crossings.) After passing the restroom, the trail begins its steep climb through a series of switchbacks. This is a good time to take it slowly and enjoy the flora along the trail edges; there are many beautiful flowers and ferns that can be found at the lower elevations.
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After clearing the switchbacks you are rewarded with an unbelievable view of the Columbia Gorge, with a wide expanse of wild flowers above and below you and as an added bonus a trail bench for that photo op with the gorge as your backdrop. As you continue, the trail straightens out and is just a steady climb, toward the top, with views of the gorge and expansive hillsides filled with alpine meadow flowers.
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Once you reach Puppy Point, which is another incredible view of the gorge, you have climbed over 2500 feet. This is the point when you ask yourself, what am I doing here? Then you realize that you are making an amazing climb to one of the most beautiful spots in the gorge.
You can see the top from here and only have about a half a mile and 400 feet of climbing to go. The terrain on this segment of the hike is reminiscent of hiking in northern Italy. Meadows are on both sides of the trail with some rugged rock outcroppings. Be sure to look down and see the many succulents clinging to the rocks. These amazing plants seem to grow without soil or water, and if you are lucky some may be in bloom, with their tiny, beautiful flowers.
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Once you reach the top you have covered over three miles and climbed over 2900 feet. Make sure to spend a few moments to enjoy the view. On a clear day to the east you can see Mount Adams, and to the south, Mount Hood.
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For your hike down you have two choices: you can go back the way you came, a quick descent. Or you can continue on and take the long way around the mountain. Not quite as steep, a little longer, and you don’t get the views of the gorge. We usually go back the way we came; we can’t get enough of the views, and the opposite direction gives you a whole different perspective on where you just came from.
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