A Columbia Gorge trail
leads to wildflowers and ski-high views in Washington.
Two paths diverged in the woods beneath Dog Mountain, and I—I took the one marked less difficult. Even that was no cakewalk. But to enjoy one of the top hikes in the Columbia River Gorge, you have to sweat a little.
Located off Highway 14, nine miles east of Stevenson, Wash., Dog Mountain rises 2,984 feet. After half a mile, the popular six-mile loop spits you out at a fork. The “more difficult” path means exactly that, a 1.5-mile climb at an average grade of 30 percent—steeper than San Francisco’s famously precipitous Lombard Street. “Go left and you’d better be in shape,” says Tom Savage, a retired ranger at the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.
Stay right and pass through a Douglas fir forest lush with trilliums and starflowers. Soon you’re standing amid a blanket of glowing balsamroot and blue lupine, overlooking Starvation Creek Falls—a great spot to have a snack. At the top, a half mile up, you’re met with screen-saver views of the gorge and Mount Hood. Note: Traffic backups due to roadwork (wsdot.wa.gov/traffic ) may delay access to the trailhead. (360) 891-5000, fs.fed.us/gpnf .
Photography by Greg Vaughn 
This article was first published in May 2010. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.