Tom McCall Preserve: 3.6-mile out-and-back, Columbia River Gorge
Wildflower lovers take note: The three miles of trails winding through this 231-acre preserve seem to have been carved out with your point-and-click camera in mind. In all, more than 300 species of plants grace the wide-open meadows and windswept hills found here, and thanks to the refuge’s high perch along on the Rowena Plateau near the eastern edge of the Columbia River Gorge, you can fill your frame not only with a natural carpet of blue-hued lupines and yellow glacier lilies, but also with unforgettable panoramas of Mount Adams, Mount Hood, and the Columbia River.
Route: From the parking area, head south on an old dirt road through open prairie thick with sunflowerlike balsamroots and purple-stemmed Columbia desert parsley. After about one-third of a mile, you’ll see a large wooden sign marking the McCall Point Trail. Head up the trail to the right for the short but intense 1,100-foot climb to the summit. If you’re not quite ready to tackle McCall Point, the Rowena Plateau trailhead (which lies just west of the parking area) marks a relatively level one-mile stroll perfect for anyone looking to snap a few pics amid the colorful grasslands without dusting up their Sunday best.
Directions: From Portland, head east on I-84 for 64 miles. Take exit 69 and turn right onto Highway 30. Travel for 6.5 miles (through the town of Mosier) and make a right into the Rowena Crest Viewpoint area. Park along either side of the road. No fees or permits required.