Hiking up Dog Mountain, Washington on a Cold Spring Day

Spring is here and Katie and I decided to go on our first non-snow hike of the year on Sunday. We had driven by the Dog Mountain trailhead the weekend before en route to Mt Adams and thought it might be a fun hike to try. The trailhead is just East of mile post 53 on Hwy 14. It's about 55 miles East of Vancouver, Washington across the Columbia River from Mt Defiance. The trail is marked as 3.8 miles one-way, but is probably closer to 3 miles. It's a fairly steep trail, gaining over 2,800 feet to the summit. There are a couple different route options to keep things interesting. Dog Mountain is known for its wildflowers in the Spring and great views on clear days. There used to be a lookout about 400 feet below the summit from 1931 and 1967.

Dog Mountain Trail Elevation Profile

We left Portland around 7 AM and arrived at the uncrowded Dog Mountain trailhead around 8:15 AM. It was cool and windy with cloudy skies. I was optimistic it would clear up a little, but I would soon be proven wrong. The mostly empty parking lot should have been my first clue.

Dog Mountain Trailhead     Katie Eager to Hike to the Top of Dog Mountain

There was a sign at the start of the trail warning about poison oak. "Leaves of three, let it be!" We saw plenty of it the first half mile or so along both sides of the trail. It was everywhere!

Poison Oak (Toxicodendron diversilobum)     Poison Oak (Toxicodendron diversilobum)

Soon we started seeing wildflowers, and slimy and furry wildlife.

Wild Strawberry (Fragaria spp.)     Slimy Slug Crossing the Dog Mountain Trail
Squirrel Nibbling on a Cone Watching us Hike     Katie on the Dog Mountain Trail

At the first trail junction we chose to go left up the steeper and slightly shorter trail. Our plan was to return back the other way to make a loop (roughly 6 miles round-trip).

Dog Mountain Trail Junction (Steep or Steeper?)     Oregon Grape (Mahonia aquifolium)

The wildflowers are just starting to bloom. I forgot how beautiful and varied the scenery is beyond the winter confines of snow-covered landscapes.

Fairy Slipper (Calypso bulbosa) Wildflower     Western Trillium (Trillium ovatum)

As we climbed higher the wind increased and we found ourselves hiking into the clouds and rain.

Hiking into the Clouds     Low Level Clouds Below the Summit of Dog Mountain

Visibility decreased near the summit of Dog Mountain with nearly gale force winds. We ducked our heads and watched our feet as we pushed on to the summit. There were no views to be had and the conditions were downright miserable. We turned around just after arriving at the socked-in summit. We could only imagine what it looked like around us beyond a couple hundred feet.

Yellow Bells (Fritillaria pudica)     View from the Site of the Old Dog Mountain Lookout

We raced back down the muddy trail and once again were below the clouds in calmer weather. We were able to enjoy a view of the Columbia River Gorge and started seeing groups of other hikers heading up. They were in for a real treat at the summit! At least we were able to enjoy a few wildflowers and get outside.

View of the Columbia Gorge from Below the Clouds     Chocolate Lilly (Fritillaria lanceolata)

Gear List

REI Lookout 40 Liter Backpack
Deuter Futura 32 Pack
Komperdell Powerlock Trekking Poles
Outdoor Research Ultra Trail Gaiters
GoLite Kenai Pertex 2.5L Jacket
Triple Star Packable Down Hooded Jacket
Head Digital Sport Liner Gloves
Columbia Men's Fast Trek Fleece Hat
Petzl TIKKA XP 2 Headlamp
Olympus Tough TG-1 Camera
First Aid Kit
iPhone w/NeoTreksGPS
Suunto A-10 Compass


Post new comment

Disclaimer: You are responsible for informing yourself of the hazards of backcountry travel and taking the necessary precautions. Loomis Adventures may not be held liable.