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Columbia River Gorge South Hiking Oregon

Throwback Thursday – Mt. Defiance

This week’s hike took place on 7/15/2012 when we tackled the challenging Mt. Defiance Trail in the Columbia Gorge. Unfortunately the area was affected by the 2017 Eagle Creek Fire making it’s current status uncertain.

Our hike that day began at the Starvation Creek Trailhead.
Starvation Creek State Park sign

Prior to setting off on the Mt. Defiance Trail we made the short walk to Starvation Creek Falls.
Trial to Starvation Creek Falls

Starvation Creek Falls

After visiting the falls we followed pointers for the Mt. Defiance Trail.
Trail sign at the parking area

At the time a path followed the shoulder of the freeway for a short distance before veering away into the woods. In 2016 changes were made to the first mile plus of this hike making it wider and putting up a nicer barrier along the freeway section.
Columbia River

Just over a quarter mile from the trailhead we passed our return route, the Starvation Cutoff Trail, and just a bit beyond that we came to a small sign for Cabin Creek Falls.
Sign for Cabin Creek Falls

That small fall was mostly hidden.
Cabin Creek Falls

A little under a half mile further though was a less obscured waterfall – Hole in the Wall Falls.
Hole in the Wall Falls

This waterfall is not a natural occurrence, it was created in 1938 when the Oregon Highway Department rerouted Warren Creek due to Warren Creek Falls being too close to the old Columbia River Highway. The falls name comes from the waters emergence from the cliff via a man made hole.
Hole in the Wall Falls

A tenth of a mile beyond Hole in the Wall Falls we passed a junction with the Starvation Ridge Trail. A left turn here would have brought us to the upper end of the Starvation Cutoff Trail in a mile allowing for a short two and a half mile loop.
Junction with the Starvation Ridge Trail

Having loftier goals we continued straight passing below the lower portion of Lancaster Falls after .2 miles.
Lancaster Falls

It seemed like a nice “little” waterfall but interestingly this lower portion was only a small part of a much taller fall as we would discover in 2014 when we spotted the waterfall from across the Columbia River on the Dog Mountain Trail (post).
Lancaster Falls from Dog Mountain

Another half a mile of fairly level trail brought us to the start of the 4700′ climb to the summit of Mt. Defiance. The trail passed under some powerlines up a fairly open hillside where low clouds only provided a limited view of Wind Mountain across the river.
Wind Mountain and the Columbia River

The trail then entered the trees as it gained 4000′ over approximately three nearly unrelenting miles.
Columbia River

Mt. Defiance Trail

Mt. Defiance Trail

Along the way we passed a Mark O. Hatfield Wilderness sign.
Mt. Defiance Trail entering the Mark O. Hatfield Wilderness

A little further on was a viewpoint along a rocky hillside. Low clouds limited much of the view but a nice rainbow was visible in the valley below.
View along the Mt. Defiance Trail

Rainbow seen from the Mt. Defiance Trail

After gaining those 4000′ we arrived at a junction with the Mitchell Point Trail.
Trail sign for the Mitchell Point Trail

We would be taking that trail on our way back, but first more climbing.
Mt. Defiance Trail

Two tenths of a mile from the Mitchell Point Trail junction a new (at that time) trail led off to the right. The trail was unmarked except for two small rock cairns.
Mt. Defiance Trail

This mile long segment of trail traversed a talus covered hillside above Bear Lake up and around Mt. Defiance to a microwave building at its summit.
Mt. Defiance Trail

Bear Lake

Towers on Mt. Defiance

Unfortunately for us the clouds had not burned off and Mt. Hood was completely hidden.
View from Mt. Defiance

The only view we had from the summit was to the SE.
View from Mt. Defiance

After a nice rest at the summit we opted to head back down to the Mitchell Point Trail via the older summit route which shaved off .2 miles.
Sign for the Mt. Defiance Trail

When we reached the junction we turned onto the Mitchell Point Trail and headed east toward Warren Lake. The clouds to the east had been breaking up revealing some nice blue skies as we reached a viewpoint above Warren Lake.
View from Mt. Defiance

View from the Mt. Defiance Trail

We arrived at the lake .8 miles from the junction.
Warren Lake

Warren Lake

We followed the Mitchell Point Trail another half mile from Warren Lake before turning left onto the unsigned Starvation Ridge Trail.
Trail sign for the Mitchell Point Trail

Mitchell Point Trail

The Starvation Ridge Trail began heading downhill offering a view back to Mt. Defiance.
Starvation Ridge Trail

Mt. Defiance

It was still a bit cloudy for views in other directions though.
View from the Starvation Ridge Trail

View from the Starvation Ridge Trail

View from the Starvation Ridge Trail

The view of Wind Mountain had greatly improved.
Columbia River

As the ridge narrowed the decent steepened and we were soon barreling downhill. The trail ahead would occasionally vanish as is dropped leaving us wondering if it just dropped off a cliff.
Starvation Ridge Trail

For over three miles the trail dove and yet the Columbia River didn’t seem to be getting all that closer. Then the trail came to an opening at the end of the ridge across from Dog Mountain.
Dog Mountain

Wind Mountain on the Columbia River

The view was nice except for the one down to the Starvation Creek Trailhead where our car looked smaller than a Hot Wheels.
Trailhead from the Starvation Ridge Trail

From the ridge end the trail headed downhill away from the trailhead. We turned right onto the Starvation Cutoff Trail at a signed junction and switchbacked down .3 miles to the Mt. Defiance Trail and followed the freeway back to our car.
Trial sign along the Starvation Ridge Trail

Mt. Defiance had lived up to it’s reputation as a challenge and it would have been nice to have had a view at the top but it was rewarding to know that we could accomplish it. It was a boost to our confidence going forward. We look forward to heading back someday when the skies are clearer. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Mt. Defiance

2 replies on “Throwback Thursday – Mt. Defiance”

The trails on Mount Defiance just re-opened and an OregonHiker posted a trip report similar to yours but showing the damage from the Eagle Creek Fire. It looks bad but maybe not as bad as people feared (at least at Defiance). Your photos are a good reminder of what these Defiance trails used to look like…

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