Tag Archives: Columbia River Gorge

Hiking Angel’s Rest with my kids

Last weekend, which was the final weekend that my two youngest kids (10 and 11) were in town, we hiked Angel’s Rest. I hiked this trail back in May. It was still pretty cold then—I was in leggings, long sleeves, and gloves that day—and not much was in bloom yet. Still, it was gorgeous. I was unprepared for how gorgeous it’d be once everything was in bloom. So many wildflowers. So much green. Such lush. Much wow.

Photo of my 10-year-old son and I atop a large rock at a bend in the trail. I'm sitting, with my knees bent and one arm resting on a knee. My head is angled slightly to the side and I'm smiling widely. My son is standing next to me, shirtless, smiling, and dancing. One arm is extended in front of him and the other is bent, which his hand close to his body. His hips are pushed out to one side. Above us, the sky is blue with wispy white clouds. Behind us, dark green fir trees in the distance. Directly around us lining the dirt trail, bright green bushes and white wildflowers in full bloom.
Photo of my 10-year-old son and I atop a large rock at a bend in the trail. We're both standing and facing the camera. My son is shirtless and flexing, his mouth wide open in a yell/scream. I'm standing behind him and looking down at him, smiling. Above us, the sky is blue with wispy white clouds. Behind us, dark green fir trees and a river in the distance. Directly around us lining the dirt trail, bright green bushes and white wildflowers in full bloom.

The day we hiked this trail was the final day of a long stretch of way too many days above 90 degrees (historically unusual for Portland and the surrounding area, and quickly becoming the new normal, brought to you by climate change). We started early early—we woke up at 5:15 am, were on the road before 6:00 am, and at the trailhead before 6:30 am—to beat both the heat and potential trail traffic. It worked. On both fronts. We encountered very, very few people (just a few at the top), and no shit-ass weather. Praise be to our lord and savior, Jesus H. Styles Christ.

Photo of bright green overgrowth lining the narrow dirt trail, which is ascending at a mild grade. My son is in the distance, running up the trail.

My older kiddo didn’t enjoy the hike (which surprised me, tbh), and mostly avoided being in photos. My youngest kiddo had a blast—he monologued at length for hours afterward that it was one of his most favorite days of his life and he wished he could live it again (MY WHOLE HEART!!!)—and was happy to be in photos (and gave me permission to share the ones he’s in that I’ve shared here).

Overhead view of a small patch of bright yellow wildflowers lining the trail.
Photo of wildflowers, bushes, and trees lining the trail. In the background, the Columbia River.

The kids brought a disposable camera with them to Oregon, to document their summer stay out west. My youngest had fun using it on the trail, and I had fun witnessing his childhood curiosity and joy. I’m excited to get the photos back—once I figure out where we can have them developed. Do places still develop film??? Does one hour photo service still exist? (Remember how much of a thrill it was to get your photos back from the neighborhood Walgreens or Rite-Aid (or wherever)?)

Photo of my son sitting atop talus at the false summit. Behind him, dark green fir trees lining hills and mountains in the distance. He has a disposable camera up to his eye, as he frames a shot of the trees in the distance.
Photo of my son standing at the edge of the trail, disposable camera up to his eye as he frames a shot of the river in the distance. Directly in front of him are patches of tall wildflowers and forest foliage.

When I hiked this trail back in May, I didn’t think the view was much different between the false summit (at the talus) and the actual summit (a few minutes past the talus). This time, I felt like there was a bit of a difference. Kind of. I still think the views beyond the talus and beyond the actual summit are pretty similar. The immediate surrounding areas at each location look (and feel) a bit different now that everything’s in bloom.

View from the false summit in May:

Photo of me from my Angel's Rest hike in May. I'm standing on talus (large rocks that you must traverse as part of the trail) at the false summit, facing the camera and smiling. Behind me: the Columbia River, and tree-lined mountains. The sky is clear and blue.

And from the same spot this time (late July):

Photo of my son and I posing for the camera atop talus at the false summit. In the background, the Columbia River, with dark green fir trees lining both sides. Immediately surrounding us and the scree, in-bloom wildflowers and bright green foliage. My son and I are standing and facing the camera and smiling.

So, like. Not a huge difference yonder. Definitely a difference in the immediate surrounding area. The fuller foliage and blooming wildflowers for sure make it feel and look so much more lush and lively. Honestly, the vibes at both the false summit and the actual summit were immaculate. Both are great spots to picnic or read or draw/sketch or journal/write or watch the sun rise or set.

Photo of dense and bright green foliage lining either side of the dirt trail. In the distance, through the foliage, large rock formations are visible.

Once we reached it, the kids and I explored the actual summit, which I apparently didn’t do last time. I actually didn’t know last time that there was more to explore last time? I guess maybe there wasn’t much to explore without all the growth to wade through? Back in May it was all just kind of…bleh at the top. This time, it was a small adventure to weave through the very narrow and overgrown trail. So many small pops of color all over the place!

Photo of a patch of wildflowers and forest foliage lining the trail. Pops of white, orange, and yellow among the bright green leaves.
Photo of tall bushes and short trees lining the trail at the summit of Angel's Rest. There are small purple and pink berries growing on some of the flora. In the background, the Columbia River.

I spy with my little eye a tiny and shirtless child through the greenery.

Photo of lush, dense green overgrowth nearly blocks my son from view. He's standing several meters away on the trail, his upper body barely visible through the thick foliage.

We found this bench, which the kids tried to carve their names into. We didn’t know this bench was there (I didn’t see it last time), and had no bench-carving implements on us. Sad! The kids tried using rocks, which didn’t work. They had fun with it anyway.

Photo of my kids attempting to carve their names into a wooden bench at the top of Angel's Rest using rocks they found nearby.

I’m so happy that one of my kids still wants to take photos with me, and I’m grateful that my other kiddo is willing to take photos of us. I know they won’t always want to do either. I appreciate that they were each willing to do one of those things on this day.

My son and I pose at the summit of Angel's Rest. We're both squatting low to the ground, each with one knee bent. The Columbia River is behind us, lined by dark green trees. Immediately behind us, white wildflowers and green foliage.

On our way back after wandering around the summit, my youngest ran ahead and climbed up these rocks. I stayed behind atop a different pile o’ rocks and took a bunch of photos of him. This one, with him flexing and making a face, is my favorite.

Photo of my son standing atop large rock formations in the distance. He's shirtless and posing, flexing. Around and behind him are other large rock formations, bright green bushes and shrubs, and dark green fir trees. The early morning sun is high in the sky behind him, casting a golden light.

Our most exciting finds on this day: A bird egg, which I want to say is a robin’s egg but won’t definitively declare because I’m not a bird scientist or even knowledgable about birds and their eggs in the slightest, and which was already cracked/hatched when we encountered it. And a rabbit, which hopped away before I could get a photo. Also: several small chipmunks, all too fast to be photo-ed.

Close-up photo of a small eggshell. It's turquoise, and already cracked open. My son is holding it for the camera on one of his fingers.

A few personal wins for me on this hike. One: My knees felt great. This time last year my knees were so fucked, I couldn’t even go up and down stairs. Two: I could actually feel my posterior chain working during this hike. Huge accomplishment for me to move properly and be able to sense it. Three: My pelvic floor held like a goddamn champ. My youngest and I ran for several hundred meters a few different times on our way back to the trailhead, and not a single drop of pee leaked out of me. A true Christmas miracle.

Photo showing the Columbia River in the background, lined by dark trees on either side. In the foreground, green foliage and scree. Golden morning sunlight is falling on the talus. My son is facing away from the camera, hiking down the talus with his shirt draped over his shoulder.

I’m really glad that my kids and I were able to get this hike in. It was SO FUCKING HOT for most of their month with me. So hot that it wasn’t enjoyable (or safe) to be outside most of the time, which was a big giant bummer for a whole bunch of reasons. I’m hoping to have them out earlier next summer, before the weather ruins the experience of being outside. Fingers crossed that the climate disaster we’re living through doesn’t start accelerating faster than it has in recent years.

Hiking Angel’s Rest

The day after I hiked Dog Mountain (three entire weeks ago???? what is time?), I hiked Angel’s Rest. Angel’s Rest is another hike in the Gorge, on the Oregon side. It’s a short and easy trail—only 5-ish miles out and back, and just under 1,500 feet of elevation gain.

I'm seated on a large rock on the side of a hiking trail. My body is facing the camera. I'm looking over my right shoulder, at the view. Behind me: the Columbia River, tree-lined mountains in the distance, and a clear blue sky.

My original plan was to hike the 10-mile Angel’s Rest to Devil’s Rest Loop, but what had happened was, one of my heels began to blister shortly before the summit. Because this hike was so short, I didn’t wear liners or bring moleskin (dumb). I knew I was hiking again the next weekend and didn’t want my heel to be raw, so when I felt it blistering I decided to cut it short and just do the out-and-back. Look at me, adapting in the moment to the consequences of my own dumb decisions. That’s what we call ✨growth✨, bb.

The trail was pretty, and pretty straightforward. No obstacles or danger zones. Well-maintained and wide. The weather was great—clear and crisp—and because I started early (before 7 am), the trail was pretty empty.

A small waterfall surrounded by dense forest.

I met a fellow hiker a few minutes in, right before the waterfall (Coopey Falls). We offered to take photos of each other, and then finished the hike together—and then made plans to hike together the following weekend. A new fitness friend! Neat!

Shortly before you reach the actual summit, you hit a false summit. There’s plenty of space here to take photos, or eat a snack, or just take a break. And if you hike it early, it’ll (probably) be empty and you’ll (probably) have it all to yourself. I think that the false summit had a similar view as the actual summit, and made for a better photo.

I'm standing on talus (large rocks that you must traverse as part of the trail) at the false summit, facing the camera and smiling. Behind me: the Columbia River, and tree-lined mountains. The sky is clear and blue.

Ten-ish minutes past the false summit, you reach the actual summit and its 360-degree views. My hiking buddy and I almost missed it because we accidentally started on the trail to Devil’s Loop. OOPS. Thank god for AllTrails and its navigation feature. Truly.

Hint: As you leave the false summit, take the trail to the left (toward the river) to summit Angel’s Rest. The trail to the right leads you to the loop. Which: Take that too if you want, after you summit Angel’s Rest. Or not. I don’t know! I’m not the boss of you!

I'm standing at the summit of Angel's Rest with my back to the camera, looking out at the Columbia River and tree-lined mountains in the distance. The sky is clear and blue.

Overall, an okay hike. It wasn’t challenging, which I didn’t like. The views are stunning, which I did like. I’d do this one again, but I’d make it the loop, to add in some distance and, hopefully, some intensity and/or difficulty.

*

A few other details:

Permit: None required.

Parking: Two lots. I parked in the “lower” lot, pretty immediately off I-84 (if coming from Portland) and right across from the trailhead. I pulled in around 6:45 am and got the last of about ?????? 20-ish spots. There’s an “upper” lot just west of the trailhead, on the left. I didn’t park there or pass by it so I don’t know how big it is. Soz.

Fees: None.

Bathrooms: None. Probably a few spots to pee off-trail but, tbh, this was such a short and quick hike that I didn’t pay attention because I wasn’t worried about needing to pee.

Cell phone service: I have Verizon and I had service the whole hike.

Water source: If you want to slip-slide down to the waterfall and you have a filtering system, there’s water along the way. Probably just bring your own though.

Summit: Very pretty near-360-degree views (according to Gorge Friends dot com you get 270-degree views). Not crowded if you go early.

Dogs: Yes, must be leashed.

Hiking Dog Mountain

On Friday, May 20, I celebrated the release of Harry Styles’s new album, which he released that day, by taking the day off work and hiking Dog Mountain—and listening to the album on repeat for the entire 7-ish miles (I didn’t use GPS to track this hike and the mileage I’ve found online is inconsistent so—oops/oh well—I don’t know exactly how long I hiked, distance-wise). The album is all bops, no skips. Every track is my favorite. And now, every track can be your favorite too! YWFMS.

The hike is mostly bops, a few skips.

Dog Mountain is a very popular—and very (VERY) crowded—trail on the Washington side of the Gorge, about an hour from Portland. I’ve hiked popular trails. I have never in my life hiked a trail this crowded. Ever. And certainly not on a weekday morning. It was…not for me. I am not a social or leisurely hiker/person. Skip number one.

I got to the lot just before 9:00 am and it was already full. I got one of the last makeshift parking spots, fully in the treeline. Admittedly, 9:00 am isn’t that early. In fact, it’s the latest I’ve ever started a hike. Usually I’m well on my way back, sometimes even finished, by 9:00 am.

Still, I was surprised that it was so busy already on a weekday morning. Friday is almost the weekend, sure. But it’s not actually summer yet, and it was pretty windy and chilly the day I went. I really didn’t expect it to be quite as busy as it was. You live and you learn!

This 2017 blog post from Paul Gerald has a photo of the parking lot on a Friday at noon. Had I found his post before I did this hike, I would’ve adjusted my start time. You live and you learn—again!

A brown and green wooden sign marking a trailhead. It reads "DOG MOUNTAIN TRAIL. TOP OF MOUNTAIN 3.8 MI". There are tall green trees and a bright blue sky in the background. On the right of the photo, a dirt trail leads into the forest.

Originally, I’d planned to hike this trail the following day, Saturday. On Thursday I found out that you need a permit to hike Dog Mountain on the weekend during peak wildflower bloom, which is…now. Permits are limited (200 per weekend day), each hiker needs their own permit ($1 each), and all the permits for that weekend were already gone. So Friday it was.

There are three basic ways to summit Dog Mountain. A western route, a central route, and an eastern route. The map below is taken from NW Hiker’s Dog Mountain page. I did a mash-up of the central and eastern routes, which are listed on AllTrails as, respectively, Dog Mountain Trail loop and Dog Mountain out-and-back.

A topographic map annotated with the three main routes to hike Dog Mountain.
Source

I started at the Dog Mountain trailhead, went right at the choose-your-own-adventure “difficult/more difficult” junction (a little more than two miles in), took a left at Puppy Dog Lookout, kept going straight up to the summit, then accidentally started on the western route (Augspurger Mountain Trail on AllTrails) on my way back down. Which: extremely on brand. I realized my mistake about 10 minutes in, and turned around and got my ass back on track.

The Augspurger trail would’ve taken me back to the parking lot. I just wasn’t prepared/hadn’t planned to hike it. So I didn’t.

A small wooden sign is nailed to a tree in the forest at a point of divergence in the path. The sign reads "DOG MT. DIFFICULT [arrow points to the right] MORE DIFFICULT [arrow points to the left]". Tall trees stretch upward. The blue sky is visible in patches through the canopy of the trees.

This hike is all lungs and legs. It’s like being on an Assault or Echo bike—for centuries, and under load. The ascent is immediate and relentless, which means it’s also a steep descent. I thought it was easier to run down much of the trail on my way back than it was to try to walk/hike it.

I tried to get a photo or video that captured the steepness of the canopy-covered part of the trail. My iPhone camera simply doesn’t do it justice. Please accept this photo of these cute lil blooming wildflowers instead.

Small purple and white wildflowers in tall green grass on a hillside. The forest is visible in the background.

The trail is completely covered by tree canopy for the first 2.3-ish miles. Once you hit the hills of wildflowers (you’ll know), you lose cover and the trail narrows the rest of the way to the summit. This is also where the best views begin.

Yellow and purple wildflowers on a hill. The dirt hiking path is on the right, and tall trees are in the distance.

Before you hit the wildflowers, most of the trail looks like this, except way steeper:

A dirt hiking path cuts through the forest. Tall trees and shorter plants line both sides of the path. Patches of the partly cloudy sky are visible through the canopy of the trees.

You hit Puppy Dog Lookout pretty quickly after emerging from the forest. The views here are amazing, and there’s space to pose for photos, eat a snack, or sit down and chill out for a bit.

I'm standing on a steep portion of the dirt trail, looking to my left and smiling. To my left is a hillside covered in yellow and purple wildflowers. Tree-covered mountains are in the distance. The sky is bright blue and partly cloudy.

I didn’t take any photos of/at Puppy Dog Lookout. I did take photos just before and after though. For reference, the lookout is where the trail fades from view in the photo above and the one below. The photo above was taken before I hit the lookout. The photo below was taken after I passed it and was on my way to the summit.

Views of the Columbia River and the Oregon side of the Gorge from halfway between Puppy Dog Lookout and the summit of Dog Mountain. The narrow dirt path is on the left in the photo, a steep hillside, covered in grass and, lower, fir trees, is to the right. The Columbia River and the Oregon side of the Gorge are in the distance. The sky is bright blue and partly cloudy.

The rest of the way to the summit is steep and narrow, but relatively straightforward. There are a few sections with *some* loose rocks, but I personally didn’t think it was technical or rugged.

View toward the summit of Dog Mountain from halfway between Puppy Dog Lookout and the summit. The steep and narrow trail is partially rocky, and on the right on the photo. To the left is a steep hillside, covered in grass and purple and yellow wildflowers. Views of the Gorge are in the distance. The sky is blue and partly cloudy.

The next two photos were taken about midway between Puppy Dog Lookout and the summit. I think this stretch of the trail had the best views, and I was kind of underwhelmed when I reached the summit. Not that it wasn’t a great view. It was. It just wasn’t much different from the view at the lookout, or anywhere along the trail between the lookout and the summit.

Also, it wasn’t a great vibe (for me). There were A TON of people at the summit. It felt crowded and busy, it was loud, and there were a couple of people—I shit you not—smoking cigarettes. Which: free country, sure. But also: read the room? Skip number two.

View from halfway between Puppy Dog Lookout and the summit of Dog Mountain. In the background, the Columbia River and tree-lined mountains of the Oregon side of the Gorge. In the foreground, a peek of the hillside, the upper portion covered in grass and yellow wildflowers, the lower portion covered in fir trees.
View from halfway between Puppy Dog Lookout and the summit of Dog Mountain. In the background, the Columbia River and tree-lined mountains of the Oregon side of the Gorge. In the foreground, forested area of the Washington side of the Gorge.

One more gripe: Several people hiking this extremely crowded trail with large and/or high-energy dogs that were not leashed, despite it being clearly posted that dogs must be leashed. Skip number three.

Overall, a good hike. My total time was 2 hours, 58 minutes. That includes several stops to take in the view and take photos, 10-ish minutes of hanging out at the summit, and a solid 20 minutes of accidentally taking Augspurger Mountain Trail back and then turning around and making my way back to the trail I meant to be on: Dog Mountain Trail.

I would do this one again with two changes—start early in the morning on an earlier-in-the-week weekday, and take the “more difficult” trail up and Augspurger trail down.

A view of the Columbia River and tree-covered mountains on the Oregon side of the Gorge, framed by tall trees in the foreground. The sky is bright blue with some clouds.

I recommend this hike with caveats:

  • If you’re not a social person/hiker, this might not be the trail for you, especially on a weekend day. If you hike it on the weekend, start early. If you have the flexibility in your schedule, avoid hiking it on a weekend day—try it early or mid-week, and start early. Like, well before 9:00 am.
  • If you have cranky and/or janky knees, this might not be the trail for you. Trekking poles might help. Lots of people were using them, and seemed to find them helpful.
  • If cardio isn’t your jam, this might not be the trail for you. If you choose to try it, factor in extra time for rest and water breaks, bring electrolytes and snacks, and carb up the night before and morning of.

And fucking please, people: If you’re hiking with your dog—especially a large and/or high-energy one, especially when hiking a very crowded trail, especially when hiking a trail that explicitly states dogs must be kept on leashes—keep them on a leash.

*

A few more details, for those who are interested:

Permit: Required on weekends during peak wildflower bloom. Reserve online. $1 each, nonrefundable.

Parking: Gravel lot. There are a lot of marked parking spaces—far more than I’ve ever seen at a hiking trailhead, but nowhere near enough to hold 200 vehicles on the weekend. (Not that everyone who hikes this trail drives alone or hikes at the same time. I trust you get what I mean.)

There’s an overflow parking area just west of the main lot. If you’re coming from Portland, this overflow parking area is just before the main lot. It might be marked, but I don’t recall seeing any signs for it on my way in. I only noticed it on my way out because a small clusterfuck of vehicles were crammed in there.

If you’re hiking on the weekend, consider taking the Columbia Area Transit shuttle. Find that schedule here.

Fees: If you drive, $5 day-use recreation fee per vehicle. Cash. Seal your cash in the paper envelope, tear off the piece that goes on your dash (and put it on your dash), and deposit the sealed envelope in the secure box at the trailhead. If the box is full, put your sealed envelope on the top of the box, find a heavy rock, and put the rock on top of your envelope. That’s what everyone did the morning I was there. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

If your directions take you over the Bridge of the Gods in Cascade Locks, you’ll need $2 toll each direction (cash or card), or $1.25 if you have a BreezeBy pass.

So: Up to $9 per vehicle if you drive. Plus $1 per permit if you hike on a weekend during peak wildflower season.

Bathrooms: There are two vault toilets at the trailhead, about 100 yards from the parking lot. Neither had toilet paper the morning I was there. Bring your own. Just in case.

There are some places along the covered part of the trail that you can pull off to pee, but there are SO MANY people on this trail that you don’t really have many options that afford any privacy. Especially if you’re someone who needs to pull their pants all the way down and crouch/squat to pee.

Once you hit the wildflowers (you’ll know) there’s nowhere to pee with privacy for the rest of the ascent.

There’s some overgrowth (or whatever??? I don’t know all the correct hiking terms yet, OKAY?) at the summit that you can probably sneak off to, to pee. Maybe give a quick shout to see if anyone else is back there first though.

Cell phone service: I have Verizon and had enough service on this trail to receive a couple texts while I was hiking. There are so many people on this trail, though, that if something went wrong and you needed help and your phone didn’t have service (or was dead (or you forgot it in your car (or you don’t own one (or whatever)))), you’re not totally shit out of luck.

Water source: None. Bring your own.

Summit: Crowded. Noisy. Windy. Cold. Gorgeous. Beautiful. Stunning.