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Dog Mountain


Hiked:   Numerous Times
Length:   6.9 mile loop
Elevation Gain:   2820 feet
USGS Quad:    Mt. Defiance
GPS Coordinates:    N:    45 43' 13"
 W: 121 42' 14"
Photo Gallery:   Dog Mountain Photos

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To Reach (From Portland):

Take I-84 eastbound approximately 40 miles to Cascade Locks.  Take exit 44, and cross the Bridge of the Gods to the Washington side of the river.  Remember that the toll to cross the bridge is $1.00 per car each way.  After crossing the bridge, turn right on SR-14 for 12 miles.  Between mileposts 53 and 54, there will be a sign on the left side of the road reading "Dog Mountain Trailhead", set in a large turnout area.  Just look for lots of cars, and you'll find it easily.  Make sure you have a Northwest Forest Pass to park at the trailhead.

The Trail:

Named for starving area pioneers who had to eat their dogs to survive, the convenient length of 6.9 miles and the spectacular wildflower meadows in early summer, along with great vistas of the gorge make this one of the most popular hikes in the Columbia River Gorge.  There are two trails up to the top of Dog Mountain, each with their benefits.  The main trail, also called the scenic route, offers a more direct, shorter, steeper and more brutal trail, with better views and beautiful meadows.  The other trail offers a great alternative to head downhill on, with gentler slopes, and less knee trauma, however it will add 0.6 miles each way onto your hike.  Watch out for poison oak and rattlesnakes along this trail.

Climbers use this trail for an early season conditioning hike, an for good reason.  Almost from the moment you start up the trail, off an old road, it begins switchbacking relentlessly, launching you upward, gaining about 1,000 feet of elevation per mile for the duration of the hike.   After a half-mile, you'll come to the fork, where the old trail comes in from the left.  Stay to the right to encounter all the vistas that Dog Mountain has to offer.  The other trail winds through the forest for its entirety.   After another mile or so, you'll find the first viewpoint, where many people stop for lunch.  Continuing on, you'll hit the other junction with the old trail in a half-mile or so.  Another half-mile of steep climbing takes you to an old fire lookout site, with sweeping views encompassed in wildflowers. 

Turn sharp left here, and you'll head uphill for another half-mile to the summit, where panoramic views of the Columbia River Gorge, extending from Hood River to Cascade Locks, await you.   You'll see towering Mt. Defiance across the way, and look down to see tiny Beacon Rock, which seemed so big when you saw it from below.

After a break to take in all the peace and beauty of the summit meadow, turn back down the Dog Mountain Trail.  Just 600 feet down the trail, you'll see a sign to Augspurger Mountain.  Turn right, and descend a ridge for a mile or so, and then turn left at a junction.  Continue down the gently switchbacking trail for 2.7 miles back to the car.

Our Take:

I first did this hike in 1993, training to climb Mt. Hood.  It was steeper than I'd imagined, but the payoff was well worth it.  Since that time, we've hiked this trail many times, as have most other hikers in the Pacific Northwest.  It is definitely hard on the knees coming down, so if you have a set of trekking poles, make sure you bring them! 

The beautiful wildflower meadows are in full bloom by late May, and on a clear day, you'll want to stay there for hours.   The mountain tends to get socked in pretty easily, and the weather can change quickly, so make sure to pack a sweater and some long pants just in case.  We've been up there when the weather was warm and sunny, only to turn to bitter cold with fog and ice pellets within an hour. 

We recommend this hike highly, especially in the late spring and early summer.  It's very accessible, and gives you a real workout!  One time, when we were grunting our way to the top, we were passed by an 80-year old guy, running up to the top!  Some people are amazing...  Click on the link below to view our photo gallery of Dog Mountain.

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