A bit of potentially wet weather had us looking for a hike that had the potential to be dry and not too dependent on having a view. We, of course, also preferred it to be a new hike. We turned to Matt Reeder’s 2nd edition of “Off the Beaten Trail” for inspiration. A recent addition to our collection of guidebooks, “Off the Beaten Trail” features 50 hikes plus 5 bonus hikes within a two and half hour drive of downtown Portland. While a number of the hikes are also mentioned in Sullivan’s “100 Hikes” guidebooks (our usual go-to source) they are typically additional hikes from the back of the books so they lack in-depth detail. There are also several hikes that don’t appear in Sullivan’s books.
We chose the Dog River Trail (Reeder’s Hike #30) due to its location and a favorable looking forecast. According to NOAA there was a 30% chance of showers after 11am and being located on the east side of Mt. Hood often meant less cloud cover. After driving through a few showers in the Columbia Gorge we did indeed find some blue sky near Hood River and the views of Mt. Hood were perfect as we drove south on Highway 35.
The most common users of this trail are mountain bikers, a group of which have adopted the trail.
Just beyond the gate at the trailhead the trail passes very close to the Dog River.
We quickly lost sight of the river as we climbed along a hillside to a footbridge over Puppy Creek.
The next 1.8 miles was a gradual climb past a variety of wildflowers before dropping slightly to the Dog River.
Columbia windflower (anemone)
Red flowering currant
Dogwood (and a crab spider)
Lupine yet to bloom
Larkspur with biscuitroot in the background
Sticky blue-eyed mary
Hooker’s fairy bells
One of the reasons for the variety of flowers was the variety of forest types along this stretch.
Another footbridge led us across the Dog River.
Beyond the Dog River the trail climbed to a saddle and crossed over a ridge.
We were now on the west facing side of the ridge and had our first looks at Mt. Hood. Initially the mountain is only visible through the trees but 1.3 miles from the Dog River crossing we came to a rocky viewpoint. From the time we had last seen the mountain driving to the trailhead a line of clouds had begun to make there way in between.
Considering we had started the day thinking we would be lucky to see even part of the mountain this was a pretty nice treat, but after having an unobstructed view during the drive the clouds were a minor disappointment. While the view was impressive it would have been spectacular minus the clouds in front.
In addition to the view there were a couple of other types of flowers to be seen at the viewpoint.
Reeder has this viewpoint be the turn around point in the guidebook making for a 6.6 mile out and back. He also describe a couple of options to extend the hike which of course interested us (okay mostly me). We continued on from the viewpoint promptly crossing over the ridge again. From this side we could now see Mt. Adams through the trees to the north. A bonus volcano sighting.
A series of switchbacks brought us back over the west facing side of the ridge and up a short, steep, rocky section of trail.
We began watching for any signs of an old road bed on top the ridge above the trail. The plan we had settled on to extend the hike was to hopefully use a forest road shown on the map to make the hike a lollipop by taking the Surveyor’s Ridge Trail to the forest service road. Approximately 100 yards from the end of the switchbacks we spotted a promising looking unmarked spur trail heading uphill to our left.
We marked that spot on our GPS and continued on the Dog River Trail which had leveled out a bit passing another viewpoint that Reeder has marked on his map as “Ponderosa Point”. The view here would have also been impressive but we arrived in conjunction with enough clouds to cover the upper 3/4ths of the mountain. A talus slope nearby was more impressive at that point and we wondered if any pika lived there.
We didn’t see or hear any and continued on. The trail began to descend slightly passing through some nice forest. We kept our eyes out for flowers and any other interesting sights.
There were a few openings toward Mt. Hood but the clouds were keeping most of it covered. We did get a nice look at Polallie Creek Falls though.
We had been watching for wildlife too but aside from a few birds and a couple of millipedes all we saw was a slug on one of several small bridges over wet spots.
When we arrived at the junction with the Zigzag and Surveyor’s Ridge Trails we noticed a fourth trail signed “Viewpoint”.
This short trail led briefly downhill to a view north of Highway 35 and the East Fork Hood River (Mt. Hood was still hiding).
After checking out the viewpoint we returned to the junction and turned onto the Surveyor’s Ridge Trail.
The Surveryor’s Ridge Trail climbed gently through the forest for nearly a mile before arriving at Forest Road 620 and Dufur Mill Road (Forest Road 44).
There was quite a bit of Jacob’s ladder along this stretch of trail.
Forest Road 620.
There was a single truck parked here and an outhouse. Along the shoulder of Dufur Mill Road there was also a small patch of snow. We had wondered if there was any remaining at this elevation (4240′). We turned left and headed north along FR 620 where we soon found a few more patches of lingering snow.
It was a pleasant but uneventful road walk. We followed the road downhill ignoring two forks to the left followed by an overgrown fork to the right.
After entering an area that had been clearcut sometime in the past Heather spotted a sign post off to our right (approximately 1.75mi along FR 620). I went to investigate.
Just in case anyone from the Wy’East Middle School 1994 8th grade class is wondering here are the trees that were near the sign.
Shortly after finding the sign the road finished bending to the west and we began heading toward the Dog River Trail. The road then turned northward again along the ridge above the Dog River Trail. There were a couple of viewpoints along this stretch including one at the top of the talus slope we had scanned for pikas earlier that day.
A still cloudy Mt. Hood
Looking down the talus slope with the Dog River Trail visible between the trees to the right.
The road bed had been steadily narrowing the further we went.
After a little over 2.5 miles on the road we passed a promising view of Mt. Adams if not for the clouds that had now overtaken it as well. We settled for a nice view of Bald Mountain which we had hiked in 2017 (post) and is accessible via the Surveyor’s Ridge Trail.
Not far from that viewpoint the old roadbed ended and we found ourselves on a short section of trail connecting us back to the Dog River Trail.
We had indeed come out via the spur trail we had marked that morning. The stretch between the Surveyor’s Ridge Trail and Dog River Trail was 2.75 miles and we were now just over 3.5 miles from the Dog River Trailhead. We had seen the first other people of the day from the viewpoint atop the talus slope when a pair of trail runners went by down on the Dog River Trail. Now that it was later we encountered a few mountain bikers on our way back but it was far from busy. We stopped at the first viewpoint again to say goodbye to the mountain. The clouds had changed again and now they were just covering the very top portion.
This gave us a nice look at Barrett Spur.
We also had a good view of the Eliot Glacier.
Our lollipop came in at 13.3 miles with approximately 2500′ of cumulative elevation gain. The showers never developed and we got to see a lot more of the mountains than we had honestly expected. The variety of wildflowers was good and there looked to be plenty more getting ready to bloom in the next week or two. It certainly felt off the beaten trail but it was definitely worth the visit. Happy Trails!
Flickr: Dog River Trail