Categories
Columbia River Gorge South Hiking Oregon Trip report

Memaloose Hills & Wygant Viewpoint

We officially kicked off our 2018 hiking season with a pair of hikes toward the eastern end of the Columbia River Gorge. We started our day off by driving east of Mosier on I84 and parking at the Memaloose Rest Area. At the western end of the rest area a gated service road serves as the trailhead.
IMG_2440

We followed the forested old road uphill past some old structures.
IMG_2444

IMG_2445

IMG_2448Arnica

20180428_070754Fairy slippers

As we climbed the forest began to give way to an oak grassland.
IMG_2455

IMG_2457

IMG_2460

The old road passed by the Memaloose Pinnacles, a group of basalt towers.
IMG_2473

Just over a half mile from the rest area the trail left the old road. Here a small viewpoint looked across the Columbia River to the Coyote Wall/Catherine Creek (2016 trip report) areas of Washington.
IMG_2483

We turned uphill to the left climbing up toward the Memaloose Overlook.
IMG_2485

IMG_2496

Our pace was slowed as we searched the grassland for different wildflowers. It felt good to get reacquainted with our old friends some of which we hadn’t seen in quite some time.
20180428_072117Paintbrush

20180428_072134Desert parsley

20180428_071825Larkspur

20180428_072234Vetch

20180428_072416Lupine

IMG_2502Broomrape

20180428_072846Shooting star

20180428_072906Manroot

We arrived at the overlook a mere .8 miles from the rest area.
IMG_2508

IMG_2509

The overlook is along Highway 30 which makes it a possible alternate trailhead.

IMG_2515

IMG_2517

There was a large patch of fiddleneck near the overlook.
20180428_073421

20180428_073259

After admiring the view from the overlook we crossed the highway and continued uphill.
IMG_2527

The flower show not only continued but it picked up as we climbed.
IMG_2543Prairie star

IMG_2548Balsamroot

Even some of the seed heads were photogenic.
20180428_073806

The forecast had called for a chance of showers but the showers weren’t materializing and instead we got some nice sun breaks.
IMG_2556

With all the flowers we had been discussing there were some we had yet to spot. One such flower was the chocolate lily which we suddenly began seeing with some frequency.
IMG_2569

IMG_2689

The star of the hike though was the balsamroot which was thick in areas.
IMG_2577

IMG_2579

IMG_2587

The trail crossed a small stream which we hopped across.
IMG_2596

IMG_2600

Not far from the stream crossing was a four-way junction. The right hand path would have eventually led to the top of 957′ Chatfield Hill which on a clearer day would have offered views of Mt. Adams and Mt. Hood along with wildflower meadows. The left hand path would have led to nowhere in particular. We went straight and headed up 822′ Marsh Hill.
IMG_2610

As we began our climb a pair of hawks flew overhead engaged in an aerial duel. I did my best to capture some of it but it’s not easy with a point and shoot camera.
IMG_2611

IMG_2615

IMG_2617

IMG_2620

Much of Marsh Hill was covered in yellow balsamroot with purple lupine and white large-flowerd triteleia scattered about.
IMG_2635

IMG_2684

IMG_2632

IMG_2640

From the hill we could make out part of Mt. Hood to the south through the clouds.
IMG_2637

IMG_2642

To the east the grassy southern slope of Tom McCall Point (2015 trip report) was easy to identify.
IMG_2643

The green hillsides of the Washington side of the gorge rose above the blue waters of the Columbia River to the north.
IMG_2658

To the west was nearby Chatfield Hill.
IMG_2675

We stuck around on the summit for awhile hoping that there would be enough of a break in the clouds for Mt. Hood to pop out but it soon became clear that wasn’t going to happen. We decided to save Chatfield Hill for another year given the clouds weren’t going to let the mountains come out and play. We returned the way we’d come. We only saw a few other hikers, no rattlesnakes (they are prevalent here), didn’t notice any ticks, and stayed out of the poison oak.In addition to the dueling hawks we did see countless smaller birds.
IMG_2591

IMG_2692

This first hike came in just under 4 miles which is why we’d had a second stop planned. That next stop was at the Mitchell Point Trailhead. The order in which we chose to do these hikes proved inconvenient from a driving perspective as both trailheads are only accessible by eastbound traffic on I84. In addition neither trailhead provides access to westbound I84 so in order to reach the Mitchell Point Trailhead from the rest area we headed east on the interstate to the Rowena exit (76) where we could get back onto the interstate headed west. We then had to drive by Mitchell Point to the Viento State Park exit (56) where we again exited the interstate only to immediately return heading in the other direction. After driving up and down I84 we arrived at the trailhead right around 10am.
IMG_2708

There are a couple of trails that start from the Mitchell Point Trailhead. The Mitchell Point Trail climbs to the top of Mitchell Point in just over a mile and the Wygant Trail which leads to the top of Wygant Peak. Our trail for this visit was the Wygant Trail although our goal was not the view-less peak itself which is 4.2 miles from the trailhead. We were headed for the last good viewpoint along the trail which was only approximately 3 miles up the trail.

The Wygant Trail is located to the west of the parking area and begins along an abandoned section of the Historic Columbia River Highway.
IMG_2710

IMG_2714

We followed an old road bed for a quarter mile then followed a trail sign when the road veered left.
IMG_2716

We soon rejoined the road for another half mile before turning left at another sign.
IMG_2732

The Trailkeepers of Oregon have been working on this trail which was one of the earlier trails to reopen after the 2017 Eagle Creek Fire. The fire didn’t reach this particular trail but it had been closed none the less. A work party from TKO had been out the day before working on the trail and their efforts did not go unnoticed.
IMG_2733

There is a lot of poison oak along the majority of the trial so a big thank you to the volunteers that have been clearing the brush. The difference between the sections that they had worked and those that had not was huge.

After a mile we spotted a sign for the abandoned Chetwoot Loop to the left of the trail.
IMG_2742

Soon after the sign for the Chetwoot Loop we arrived a ridge above Perham Creek.
IMG_2744

We chose not to follow the viewpoint sign here due to the amount of poison oak seemingly lining the trail in that direction so we turned left and headed down to Perham Creek. A footbridge had spanned the creek up until 2016 when a slide washed it out.
IMG_2753

Interestingly it didn’t appear that it was the creek that did the bridge in but rather a slide down a small gully on the east side of the creek.
IMG_2757

A decent sized log served as an adequate replacement for the bridge allowing us to cross dry footed.
IMG_2756

The trail then climbed away from the creek, at times fairly steeply. As we passed through a brushy clearing we spotted a spotted towhee.
IMG_2768

We continued on watching closely for the ever present poison oak arriving at a lower viewpoint after a little over a mile and a half. Here we had a nice view of Mitchell Point to the east.
IMG_2773

Despite this not being a wildflower hike like our previous stop there were some flowers present, including varieties we hadn’t see in the Memaloose Hills.
IMG_2783Vanilla Leaf

IMG_2784Valerian

IMG_2787Ballhead waterleaf

IMG_2807Trillium

At the 2.5 mile mark a side trail led to a middle viewpoint.
IMG_2794

IMG_2802

IMG_2803Dog Mountain

This viewpoint was covered in pink plectritis.
IMG_2798

Just uphill from this viewpoint we passed the upper junction with the Chetwoot Loop Trail.
IMG_2814

From the junction it was just another .6 miles to our goal at the upper viewpoint. It was pretty good climb during which we passed the only other hiker we’d see on this trail. This section of trail had not been cleared yet and was somewhat crowded by the poison oak. I also had picked up a couple ticks which were flicked off. The good news was another TKO work party was planned for the following Friday.
IMG_2822

The upper viewpoint had a nice view west down the Columbia River and of Wind and Dog Mountain (2016 trip report) on the Washington side of the gorge.
IMG_2829

We were a bit surprised to see what appeared to be a grass widow blooming at the viewpoint.
IMG_2827

There was also a couple of clumps of phlox present.
IMG_2828

We headed back down to the trailhead dodging the poison oak and keeping an eye out for any more ticks (one did manage to make it all they back home with us before being apprehended). We had briefly considered doing the Mitchell Point Trail before we’d started on the Wygant Trail but that idea had completely left the building by the time we arrived back at the trailhead.
IMG_2834

We have plans for that trail at a future date. We did however walk over to the Mitchell Point Overlook before heading home where the forested top of Wygant Peak could be seen to the west.
IMG_2836

IMG_2838

It was a nice way to start our season. A total of 10.2 miles hiked with a decent, but not insane, amount of climbing to get us started. The views and the wildflowers had been good and aside from a couple of sprinkles while on the Wygant Trail the weather had exceeded our expectations. The difference in the terrain and vegetation between these two hikes was also enjoyable given that they are less than miles apart as the crow flies. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Memaloose Hills & Wygant Viewpoint

5 replies on “Memaloose Hills & Wygant Viewpoint”

I see to recall doing the Wygant & Chetwoot Trails as a loop once back in the late 90s when they were in terrible condition. A messy hike. It’s good to see the TKO bringing the Wygant back to life. I suppose one very small plus from the Eagle Creek Fire will be a more appreciation for these “lesser” trails.

We were surprised to see only the one other hikes on Wygant and she seemed surprised to see us too. It seems like everyone has gone over to the Washington side. Esp Hamilton Mt.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s