Mt. Howard- Tramway & Hike (Summer)

Directions: Take I-84 east to La Grande and go north on Hwy 82. Follow 82 into the town of Joseph. Take Main St. in Joseph through the town and head south the road turning into Wallowa Lake Hwy, it’s about 6 miles from the town of Joseph. Once in the Wallowa Lake area continue straight until you see the Tramway on your left a short distance later.

This hike has you take a Tramway from the base at 4,450′ to the top of Mt. Howard which is at 8,150′. It takes 15 minutes to get to the top and offers amazing views of the Wallowa Mountains and Wallowa Lake. The cost is $33 per adult, for child and senior prices, as well as other information click here.

After enjoying the short but spectacular tram ride you’ll be let out by the Summit Grill and this is where the hiking portion starts. We started with the smaller loop that takes you to three viewpoints. The trails are very well manicured, it does take away from the nature aspect of the hike but this place is very busy and we understand the need for it. The trails are mostly packed dirt and rock. There are a lot of shrubs and dwarfed trees, as well as some very wind ravaged trees that are bent and curled. In this first loop there is a staircase to get to the top viewpoint. All of the viewpoints in this loop have fantastic views of the Wallowa Mountains.

      

Next we headed east toward the larger loop that takes you past two viewpoints. There are more trees over here and we saw some lingering purple lupine which was great. We saw mountain bluebirds, vultures, crossbills, and many other birds on this loop. The views on this side are of the Snake River and Wallowa Lake. At the north tip you’ll come to a viewpoint with a windsock, this is the launch site for people who are paragliding/hang gliding. There’s a bench here and within minutes of sitting down we had little chipmunks crawling all over us. Please do NOT feed the animals it’s not good for them, as tempting as their cute little faces are.

      

This is a very tourist heavy place and sometimes that can be a little annoying. But the tram was fun and the loops do give you very nice views of the area. We would recommend going during the week and as early as possible.

      

Even with the wildfire smoke this place is still pretty awesome. Your tram ticket is good for the WHOLE DAY too, so ride that baby as many times as you can!

      

Distance: 2.6 miles (easy)

Elevation: 325 feet (easy)

Pet Friendly: No

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: Yes

Parking Fee: None- just the tramway fee.

Seasons: May-Oct

Popular: Very

Warnings: People that have issues with heights may not enjoy the tram ride to the top.

Zumwalt Prairie- Patti’s Trail (Summer)

Directions: From the town of Enterprise take Highway 82 towards Joseph for about 3 miles. Turn left on Crow Creek Road and go 5 miles. Turn right onto Zumwalt/Buckhorn Road and drive for about 14 miles to the junction of Zumwalt/Buckhorn and Duckett Road. Turn right on Duckett Road and drive for about 1.5 miles to the barn on the right side of the road. This is the Duckett Barn and there is a small pullout and kiosk, this is where you park for this hike.

Be aware that a good amount of the drive is on a dirt road. It was in pretty good shape but there were potholes and it’s a pretty slow go.

From the parking area cross the road and head off on the narrow trail that cuts straight through tall grass. There are small posts with arrows that lead you through this whole hike. The dirt trail starts out level as you go through the prairie and cut through a few barbed wire fences. You’ll gradually start to head downhill slightly as you pass the headwaters of Camp Creek. We were here in early August and there was barely a trickle here so it was hard to figure out exactly where the creek actually started. Down in here we saw a short eared owl, ferruginous hawk and red tailed hawk.

      

The trail levels out again and follows along the creek with hills on either side of the trail. Down here there was a lot of thistle growing and a ton of butterflies! It was amazing to see all the different types. As the trail wraps around the base of a hill you’ll come to where the trail splits, go left where you head up a hill and get good views of the prairie.

      

The trail dips again and then heads back up and back to the prairie. There are two places where you have to climb up some steps that take you over the fence, it’s not too hard but just be aware for older folks and younger kids. As you follow the arrows back through the meadow you’ll connect with the first part of the trail that takes you back to your car.

      

We did this hike during a very dry time so the creek was non existent and the grass was dry and poky. There was also a lot of smoke from the surrounding wildfires. It was still a nice hike but we’re excited to come back when the wildflowers are blooming and things are a bit more alive.

       

It’s a great place to birdwatch- we saw savannah sparrows, western kingbirds, barn swallows, as well as the birds mentioned above and much more. We also saw a few deer and lots of cows on the drive in!

      

Distance: 2.5 miles (easy)

Elevation: 150 feet (easy)

Pet Friendly: Dogs are not allowed in Zumwalt Prairie.

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: None

Parking Fee: None

Seasons: All

Popular: No

Warnings: None

Iwetemlaykin State Heritage Site (Summer)

Directions: Drive I-84 east to La Grande, go north on Highway 82 and follow it into the town of Joseph. Once in Joseph follow Main St. through to the south end of town where the road curves and turns into 8th St. The Park is on the right.

We took a little trip out to Eastern Oregon and this was our first stop. We did an evening hike which was great for wildlife viewing.

From the small parking area head up the dirt path that has a few longer switchbacks and takes you to the top of a small hill. You get views down into a meadow and the Wallowa Mountains off in the distance. The trail soon heads back downhill and follows along the meadow and Silver Lake Ditch, we saw a few deer here which was great. There were many birds in the trees along the trail as well.

      

Soon you’ll come to a split in the trail, we went right towards Knight’s Pond that you can walk around. We also took the trail to the left of the pond and walked along a offshoot of the Wallowa River. Both the pond and the stream are very pretty, there are a couple small bridges over both.

      

From here we wondered around a little bit and then headed out the way we came in. This whole area is very scenic with the mountains, pond, and stream. Add in the deer and how quiet it was and we were very happy we decided to check this place out.

      

Make sure to stop and read some of the informational signs to learn about the history of this beautiful area!

We were here during some pretty intense wildfire smoke and can’t wait to come back when it’s clear out, to get even better views of the Wallowa Mountains. The smoke did make for a pretty great sunset though!

Distance: 2 miles (easy)

Elevation: 80 feet (easy)

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: Yes at the parking area

Parking Fee: None

Seasons: All

Popular: Can be on nice weekends. Seems to be quiet on weekdays.

Warnings: People have seen bears in the area.

Eagle Creek Wildfire

We’re sure by now that everyone is aware of the Eagle Creek Fire in the Columbia River Gorge. It was started by a firework, has grown to over 35,000 acres, and is 13% contained.

On September 4th we were in Washington across from the fire in North Bonneville. When we got there in the late afternoon we mostly saw smoke and some flames. There was also a few helicopters getting water from the Columbia to fight the fire. Within an hour the winds had picked up significantly and the fire spread before our eyes. It was scary to see, especially since we knew what was across from us, the Moffett Creek area and lots of amazing Gorge trails. I-84 closed and as we made our way back home on SR-14 we realized the fire had spread miles to the west.

This is a significant area burning- homes, businesses, historical buildings, and so much of the beloved Gorge is at risk. We can’t imagine the impact this is going to have on people and this great stretch of area.

At this point the best way to help is to make a donation to any one (or all!) of these amazing places:

*Friends Of The Columbia River Gorge – The only non-profit dedicated entirely to protecting the Gorge. That link takes you directly to where you can donate.

*Hood River County Search & Rescue– These are the men and women who helped rescue 153 hikers on the Eagle Creek Trail. The link takes you to their website, you can make a donation at any US Bank branch.

*Red Cross Cascade Region– These amazing people are running the evacuation centers for people displaced by the fire. The link takes you to the Cascade Region RC.

*Multnomah County Animal Services– They helped rescue animals that were displaced in the fire. The link takes you to a page describing how they helped, there is a link to donate there.

*Sound Equine Options– They worked in tandem with MCAS to help the larger animals get out of the path of the wildfire. This link takes you directly to a donation page.

Another great idea is to talk about trail safety and Leave No Trace principles with friends and family, especially the youngsters in your life. Sadly, a lot of wildfires are caused by humans- spreading knowledge can and will help that!

Lastly we’d like to acknowledge the great effort by all of the people fighting this fire. What an incredibly hard job, keep up the amazing work!

 

Here are some of the photos we took of what saw. We’re posting these as a reminder of the devastation that carelessness can cause.

      

 

      

Swan Island Dahlia Festival (2017)

For directions click here.

It had been a couple years since we last visited the Dahlia Festival and not much has changed, it’s still a great flower display!

      

There are two large fields with rows of dahlias. Make sure you read the signs and don’t walk down the rows (like you can at the tulip festival). If you’re taking pictures you’ll have to do so of the flowers along the edges. There were a ton of different types of dahlias and they all have very interesting and sometimes funny names.

      

If you go during the festival weekends they have an indoor display, live music, food vendors, and demonstrations. It can get busy during festival weekends, we got there as soon as they opened and it wasn’t so bad. By the time we left it was getting packed though. There are no entrance or parking fees.

      

We highly recommend checking this place out, it’s our favorite flower display and a nice way to cap off the end of summer!

      

Conboy Lake National Wildlife Refuge (Summer)

Directions: Take I-84 east to Hood River and cross the bridge into Washington ($1 toll). Turn left onto SR-14 and follow this road until you take a right onto 141A to Trout Lake. In Trout Lake, turn right onto Trout Creek Rd, this turns into Trout Lake Highway. You’ll see signs for Conboy Lake Refuge, follow them in and back to the parking area.

From the parking area get on the trail by the informational sign and follow it through the tall grass. We were here on a very hot day and even though it was early morning it was still a very toasty walk through this area. Soon you’ll come to a side trail that takes you off to the right to the Whitcomb-Cole Hewn Log House. This short side trip is worth it, as you can go into the old pioneer log home built in 1891. Look for small lizards in this area near the base of the house.

      

      

Back on the main trail you will start to see many birds flying around the area especially on the wires above and near the bird boxes. A few that we saw were tree and cliff swallows, red-winged blackbirds, and robins. We were also able to see a deer out in the field. After following this trail for a bit you will come to a split in the trail, go right and head towards the tree line.

      

Once in the trees you’ll get a nice respite from the heat and start to see different types of birds such as flickers and harry woodpeckers, we also saw a few different types of squirrels and a skunk. The trail is lined with pine trees and low shrubs as you eventually make your way to a viewpoint. The wooden platform overlooks a large grassy meadow and gives you a really nice view of Mt. Adams.

      

Once you’re done at the viewpoint continue on the trail, making sure you are following the signs that take you back to the parking area. The trail gets a little harder to follow once you get to where you can see the refuge office. Just pick up any of the narrow trails that head towards the office and you’ll be fine.

      

We were hoping to see the sandhill cranes that frequent this area but it wasn’t the best time of year for it. Parts of this hike are a little boring but we mostly think that was due to the time of year as well. We plan on coming back in fall or spring to see what wildlife we can see.

 

Distance: 2.5 miles (easy)

Elevation: 50 feet (easy)

Pet Friendly: No, dogs are not allowed on the refuge.

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: Yes

Parking Fee: None

Seasons: All

Popular: No

Warnings: None

Owl Point (Summer)

Directions: Drive Highway 26 to the town of Zigzag and take a left onto Lolo Pass Road. Follow this road for about 10.5 miles, take the second right onto FS 18. Follow this road for about 10 miles, half of which is a gravel road, and take a very sharp righthand turn onto FS 16. Drive for 5.5 miles and turn right at the large intersection onto FS 1650. This road becomes gravel and ends at the Vista Ridge Trailhead.

This is a busy trailhead and it doesn’t have a huge parking area, so things may get tight. Many hikes start from the Vista Ridge Trailhead but the trail to Owl Point is not the most popular which is very nice. We only saw two other people the whole time we were here, and it was a very sunny weekend.

From the trailhead follow the rocky trail for about a third of a mile to a junction in the trail. Sign in at the wilderness registration station and then head left. The trail starts out fairly evenly graded but that quickly changes. The trail starts heading uphill and it gets pretty steep in some sections. The trail itself is nice but there are a few downed trees, they are all easy to get over. After about a mile of hiking you’ll come to two side trails off to the right. The first offers a great view of the valley below and the second gives you a really good view of Mt. Hood.

      

Back on the main trail it will soon level out and open up a bit. There are a lot of huckleberry bushes through here and we even ran into some snow piles (we did this hike in late July). You’ll drop down into a small meadow and start heading uphill again, it’s not quite as steep and isn’t as long. In mid to late July the Avalanche Lilies are blooming and it’s pretty amazing. They lined the trail and were all over the meadow.

      

When you come to a junction go left/uphill (there is a sign but it was quite faded). You will come to another junction, go right here and the trail ends at Owl Point. It offers up one of the best views of Mt. Hood. The lupine was blooming which just added to the spectacular view.  Wander around a little bit and you can see Laurance Lake off to the right over the large rocks and the town of Parkdale. There’s a small Owl Point Register attached to the rocks, it has pictures of the volunteers from Portland Hikers who cleaned up this trail and a guestbook you can sign.

 

      

There are plenty of places to sit and relax, have lunch and take in the view.

      

When you’re done at Owl Point there are couple more places to check out before you head back to your car. At the first junction after Owl Point go right and hike for about 200 yards to Alki Point. It’s a rockslide area with views of Mt. Adams, Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Rainier.

      

Head back from Alki point and go through the junction that splits to Owl Point and head back down to the first junction. Go left here and towards the Rockpile. You’ll hike through a pretty meadow with blooming heather that attracts a lot of butterflies. There’s a small fork in the trail, go right and the trail ends at the Rockpile with even more views of Mt. Hood.

Head back to the main trail a follow it out the way you came in, to get back to your car.

We really loved this hike and can’t believe it’s not more popular. The views are amazing all through the hike and the wildflowers were a real treat as well.

 

Distance: 4.5 miles (easy)

Elevation: 650 feet (moderate)

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: There’s a decent amount of elevation, with some steep sections so this may not be the best for older folks and younger kids.

Bathrooms: No

Parking Fee: $5 NW Forest Pass

Seasons: Summer and fall (unless we’re having unusually dry or wet weather, call before going.)

Popular: No, but the trailhead/parking area is popular.

Warnings: None

Powell Butte (Summer)

Directions: This hike starts at the Visitor Center, just off of 162nd and Powell in Southeast Portland.

From the parking area at the Visitor Center (just past the piano that’s free for the public to play!) get on the paved Mountain View Trail. You’ll follow this a short distance until you come to a gravel section in the trail, go right here and get onto Pipeline Lane. You’ll backtrack a bit and get a nice view of Mt. Hood and Mt. St. Helens as you follow the thick gravel trail towards the north.

      

The trail gradually heads uphill and skirts along the tree line. Off to your left you can see the gated entrance to the underground reservoir. Soon you’ll come to an intersection in the trail, go right and get onto Holgate Lane where you enter the woods. Follow this dirt and rock trail through the woods at a fairly level grade. There is a giant metal pipe that lines most of this trail and does have leaky spots so year round there are muddy sections of the trail. Soon you’ll reach the Elderberry Stairs on your left, head up these somewhat steep steps that wind up the side of the hill.

      

Continue following the trail until you come to another junction. Go left here and get back on Pipeline Lane, you’ll follow this trail back out the way you came in with a view of Mt. Hood almost the whole way back.

      

Powell Butte is great for an after work hike or quick weekend outing. It does stay pretty busy year round no matter if it’s a weekday or weekend.

Make sure to pack your binoculars if you’re into wildlife viewing. There are lots of different birds, butterflies,and even deer.

 

Distance: 2 miles (easy)

Elevation: 180 (easy)

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: Yes

Parking Fee: None

Seasons: All

Popular: Very

Warnings: There are nettles along the trail in the woodsy areas.

Fairy Falls (Summer)

Directions: Take I-84 East to exit 28. Go left on the Historic Highway to the Wahkeena Falls Trailhead.

Whenever we do this hike we’re always reminded just how pretty it is and thoroughly enjoy ourselves.

From the trailhead cross the small bridge over the creek and head up a long paved switchback that takes you to Wahkeena Falls. Even during the summer months this waterfall puts off a decent amount of spray so you may get a bit wet as you cross in front of it. The trail stays paved as you pass a bench and head for the cardio kicker section of this hike- 12 switchbacks. The switchbacks are fairly short and are paved for the most part.

      

      

Once you make it to the end of the switchbacks you will come to a trail junction. It’s worth the short trip to Lemmon’s Viewpoint off to the right. Once you’ve seen enough at the viewpoint head back to the junction and go left where you will start seeing the creek and the trail levels out briefly. The pavement also ends here and switches to dirt and rock. You will be following the creek just about the rest of the hike as you cross the first of two footbridges and the trail again starts heading uphill. All through this area is very beautiful with all the moss covered trees and the creek being so close to the trail. It’s one of our favorite sections of Gorge trails. After crossing the second footbridge you have a few more switchbacks and then you are at Fairy Falls. The waterfall is right on the trail and there is a bench to rest or enjoy lunch.

      

When you’re ready, head back out the way you came in.

      

Distance: 2.5 miles (easy)

Elevation: 800 feet (moderate)

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: There’s a good amount of elevation for the short distance so this hike may not be best for younger kids and older folks.

Bathrooms: Yes but they are seasonal

Parking Fee: None

Seasons: All

Popular: Yes especially nice weekends

Warnings: None

Cape Kiwanda (Summer)

Directions: Head to Pacific City on the Oregon Coast and get onto Cape Kiwanda Drive. Follow it down to the public parking areas near the beach.

From the parking area head down towards the beach. Take a right and head for the large dune right in front of you. Go left on the dune where it’s less steep and hike up to the top. Once up at the top you will have great views of the beach below, Pacific City, and the Haystack out in the ocean. There is an interesting cave that makes quite the noise when large waves come crashing in. You can go farther up the dune to get even better views as well. There is a lot to explore up here so make sure you give yourself enough time to see everything!

      

      

There is a cable fence that runs along the top and while we were here there was a Ranger walking along the fence letting people know that it is allowed to cross the fence, but he was warning that it’s very dangerous near the edges. He flat out didn’t recommend going down towards the cave. Many people have fallen at Cape Kiwanda and there are a lot of clothespins clipped to the fence with memorials written on them for those who have died. The day before an 8 foot chunk had fallen into the ocean, the edges are very unstable. 

      

We did cross the fence at the large flat area, but didn’t go anywhere near the sides. We saw a lot of people standing right on the sides and down by the cave. We do NOT recommend doing this. Please listen to the Ranger and stay where it’s safe.

We saw plenty of seabirds, and a deer munching on some bushes on a ledge. Whales have been spotted during the summer months but we didn’t see any on our trip. We were surprised to see paintbrush, clover, and salal blooming, it was a nice treat!

      

Cape Kiwanda is a VERY popular place and definitely shows some signs of over loving. Please respect the area and pack out anything you brought with you.

 

Distance: .5 – 2 miles, depends how much exploring you do (easy)

Elevation: 240 feet (easy)

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: No

Parking Fee: None

Seasons: All

Popular: Yes year round

Warnings: Falling