At Skamania Lodge, we are often asked for a list of recommended hikes, particularly those that showcase the extraordinary variety of wildflowers within the Columbia River Gorge. We wanted to share a wonderful article from Terry Richard who reviewed the top ten hikes to view wildflowers in the Gorge. With Portland and Vancouver’s close proximity, the Gorge makes for a fabulous day trip or weekend getaway destination during the spring season.
Wildflowers bloom from early March into July and continue through summer into fall. Richard’s top ten include…
10. Lyle Cherry Orchard: A gift from Nancy Russell to the Friends of the Columbia Gorge Land Trust, this private land is open for public walking in the hills at the east edge of Lyle, Wash. Begin along S.R. 14.
9. Historic Highway: The paved state park trail, from the east side of Hood River to just west of Mosier, is busy with cyclists, but walkers tend to linger longer to enjoy the colors; this is the best ADA accessible trail on Oregon side.
8. Beacon Rock: This Washington state park near North Bonneville has a relatively undiscovered trail up Hardy Ridge to Phlox Point, where the pink flower (phlox) blooms profusely in early June. Begin at the equestrian parking lot.
7. Cape Horn: A recently developed trail, 10 miles east of Washougal, Wash., passes a classic gorge setting where an overlook is named for the late Nancy Russell, founder of Friends of the Columbia Gorge and unofficial patron saint of the gorge. Begin at a park-n-ride along S.R. 14.
6. Klickitat River: Join this long-distance trail, converted from a rail line, at the Lyle trailhead, on the south side of S.R. 14 on the east side of the Klickitat River on the Washington side of the gorge in Lyle. The trail goes farther than most hikers will.
5. Tom McCall Point: Named for the legendary Oregon governor, the point is reached via one of Oregon's classic trails above Rowena Crest near Mosier. The Nature Conservancy, the landowner, requests no dogs on this trail. The upper trail opens annually May 1, but a lower train on Rowena Crest is open all year.
4. Dog Mountain: The summit can be so dense with blooming balsamroot that yellow can be seen 3,000 feet below from I-84; expect big crowds during peak bloom, on the Washington side between Carson and Bingen.
3. Catherine Creek: Other places have better flowers, but nowhere is more beautiful in spring, near Lyle, Wash.; the lower Catherine Creek area also has a fully accessible trail (similar to the paved Klickitat-Balfour Klickitat Trail, also near Lyle).
2. Memaloose Hills: An unmarked trail from I-84's Memaloose rest area near Mosier; best to go with an organized group (or drive rural roads south and east of Mosier to see entire slopes ablaze in color). An informal access is a quartermile south on March Cut-off Road from the Historic Columbia River Highway. There is a small pull off area on the west for access to about a square mile of public lands. Use the U.S. Forest Service map of the gorge to find it.
1. Dalles Mountain: In Columbia Hills State Park, near Dallesport, Wash.; the new 6.5-mile trail system debuted last spring, between the parking area on S.R. 14 and the mid-mountain ranch; above the ranch stay on the road that is gated closed to most vehicles to hike to the 3,220-foot summit of Stacker Butte, best done later in the spring.