If you’re familiar with the Columbia River Gorge you already know that the area features a plethora of great hiking options. One of the more popular hikes is Dog Mountain. At just shy of 7 miles round trip, it can be considered “easy” enough for the lesser active folk, but with an elevation gain of 2,800 feet, it’s also strenuous enough for the fitness seeking folk. The best part about Dog Mountain, however, is that it can be hiked almost year round. In the Spring, the trail is carpeted in gorgeous yellow basalm root. In the Winter, the area is typically blanketed in a modest layer of snow. While Fall and Summer are both great options for trail running or just taking in the stunning views of the Columbia River.
Dog Mountain Hike
Stats: Approximately 6.9 miles, 2800 feet elevation gain
Area: Columbia River Gorge (Washington side)
Starting point: Dog Mountain Trailhead
Begin this trek from the trailhead and make your way along Trail 147. (This is the trail that will pass the bathroom). The trail begins as a steep ascent for approximately 0.7 miles until you reach a junction. At this junction, you can either choose to go left on the older, steeper route or go right on the newer, “less difficult” trail, that also happens to offer up better views. For the next 1.2 miles (on the less difficult trail) you’ll gain some elevation as you follow a handful of switchbacks through the heavily wooded forest. Along the way you’ll be treated to glimpses of the Columbia River Gorge. The trail will eventually head up through a meadow to a small thin wood bench where you get panoramic views of the Columbia River, Wind Mountain, and the top of Dog Mountain. This spot is perfect for a mid-way lunch break, or you can opt to make this your turnaround point for a much shorter hike.
For those who choose to go on, you’ll continue your ascent for another half mile before you reach another junction where the older trail meets back up with the newer trail. At this point, the views of the Gorge only get better. Bear right and keep powering on for another half mile to the site of a former fire lookout. In late spring, this wide open meadow is full of yellow basalm root, making it a pristine spot to pause and enjoy the scenery and snap some Instagram worthy photos.
From the fire lookout, you are a mere half mile from the top of the meadow. The trail splits off into two directions. The main trail, on the left, will take you up and through a wide open meadow. This trail is notorious for high winds, but offers up some amazing views of the Gorge. At the top of the meadow, follow a short spur trail to a fire ring and a nice, flat area perfect for a lunch break and celebrating the conclusion of a rigorous, but rewarding climb.
You can return the way you came, or you can choose to go back down the Augspurger Mountain Trail. This adds 0.9 miles to the hike, but is more knee-friendly and provides additional views of the Columbia River. For those who opt to go down Augspurger Trail, at approximately 1/10 of a mile down from the meadow, you will want to take the trail on the right. Continue for 1.1 miles until you reach a junction. Turn left and follow the trail 2.7 miles back to your car. Continue for 1.1 miles to a junction. At the junction, turn left and follow the trail 2.7 miles back to your car.
Driving Directions: To reach Dog Mountain Trailhead, drive I-84 east to exit 44 for Cascade Locks and Stevenson. After exiting, go 0.4 miles, and turn right for the Bridge of the Gods Toll Bridge and Stevenson. Drive 0.7 miles to pay the $2 toll, cross the Columbia River, and reach the junction with Highway 14. Turn right here for Stevenson and Kennewick, and drive east on Highway 14 for 12.3 miles, passing through Stevenson and Home Valley. The large parking area for the Dog Mountain trail will be on your left just beyond milepost 53. (There are 70 spots in the newly laid out – 2016 – parking lot).
Notes: This trail is very popular and parking fills up fast, so it is recommended that you arrive before 8am or after 5pm between March and October. A NW Forest pass is required to park at the trailhead.
Additional Resources: Oregon Hikers Field Guide & Washington Trails Association