Category Archives: Poison Oak

Memaloose Hills (Spring)

Directions: Take I-84 to exit 69. Follow Highway 30 east and in 3 miles you will see the Memaloose Overlook sign with a gravel parking lot on the left.

This is a great hike in the spring during the Gorge wildflower season.

      

From the parking area cross the road and take the unmarked trail. The trail starts out fairly flat, there are oak trees all around and a couple houses out in the distance. If you are doing this hike in peak wildflower season you will be surrounded by many different types of flowers. Lower on the trail we saw balsamroot, blue-eyed mary, shooting stars, and harsh paintbrush.

      

      

The trail heads uphill gradually and levels out again. Here we saw blooming miners lettuce, western buttercup, upland larkspur, naked broomrape, and chocolate lily. There were also lots of birds, bees, and butterflies. Soon, the trail heads downhill to a small seasonal stream that you will cross and stay straight on the trail. The trail opens up where you will see a farm and start winding uphill. The balsamroot is profuse here all over the side of the hill and the lupine was just starting to bloom.

      

      

Once at the top of the hill you will have views of the Gorge and Highway 30 down below. There is also ballhead waterleaf and big-head clover blooming at the top. This is the end of the hike, head back out the way you came in.

      

      

This quickly turned into our new favorite wildflower hike, there are just so many different flowers blooming here. Other wildflower hikes nearby are Rowena Plateau and Tom McCall Nature Preserve, they are just another 3 miles up the highway.

We do want to warn everyone that poison oak grows all along this trail and we are heading into tick season. For more on ticks click here.

Distance: 3 miles

Elevation: 400 feet

Difficulty: Easy to moderate

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: None

Parking Fee: No

Seasons: All but spring is best

Popular: Yes on nice weekends

Overall: We highly recommend this hike for anyone wanting to experience the wildflowers in the Gorge.

Catherine Creek (Spring)

Directions: Drive I-84 East to Hood River and cross the Hood River bridge ($2 toll). Take a right onto Highway 14 and drive for about 4.5 miles where you will take a left onto Old Highway 8. Follow the road for about 1.5 miles until you come to the gravel parking area on the left side of the road.

The trail starts when you walk through a fence and see a small metal trail marker that says 020. You will be on a wide gravel path as you head down towards Catherine Creek. The trail continues as you come to a small bridge over the creek. After crossing the creek you will start to see the large basalt formations to your right.

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Soon you will come to an old corral and here is where you will be able to see the arch in the basalt. The trail heads uphill to a wide flat area and the start of the wildflowers. There will be two forks in the trail, stay right at both of them as you head up to the top of the basalt wall. There are numerous wildflowers that bloom at the top and you get a great view of Mt. Hood and the Columbia River Gorge as well.

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Once a the top, the trail heads downhill as you pass the top of the arch. Keep following the trail through all the wildflowers where it ends at Old Highway 8. Walk along the highway a very short distance back to your car.

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Please be sure to watch for ticks and poison oak on this hike!

Distance: 2 miles

Elevation: 500 feet

Difficulty: Easy

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: All Ages

Bathrooms: Yes at the trailhead

Parking Fee: None

Seasons: All but best in spring.

Popular: Yes

Overall: This is a quick easy hike for wildflowers in the spring. Great views as well.

Beaver Falls (Winter)

Directions: From Rainier, Oregon, take Highway 30 West. About 5 miles after passing under the bridge to Longview, take the exit on the right pointing toward Delena. This will take you onto Beaver Falls Road (go left). The trailhead is on the left side of the road in about 4 miles. It’s a gravel pullout with a small sign up on a tree. **To see Upper Beaver Falls watch for a long white guardrail with a small turnout (on the road before the trailhead). At the midpoint of the guardrail, where the turnout is, there is a trail sized gap. This is the access point to see the waterfall, which is just on the other side of the guardrail.

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From the parking area take the trail near the Beaver Falls sign and follow it downhill making two quick switchbacks. The trail continues on a fairly even grade in the trees where you can see Beaver Creek on your right. We encountered some downed trees from recent storms about a quarter of a mile in, but the trail was still passable.

You’ll pass a rock slide area and a short time later you’ll round a corner and the trail heads down to the waterfall. You should normally be able to take the trail all the way down to the base but there was caution tape up because the last 30 feet of the trail was washed out from a big slide. You still get great views of the waterfall even if you can’t get to the base of it. This is an out and back trail, so head back the way you came.

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**Make sure to stop by Upper Beaver Falls on you’re way back home. As you drive back out watch for a break in the long white guardrail, you can park in the pullout. There is room just on the other side of the guardrail to view the waterfall.

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Distance: 1 mile

Elevation: 100 feet

Difficulty: Easy

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: None

Parking Fee: No

Seasons: All

Popular: No

Overall: The waterfall is perfect but the trailhead is a little sketchy and the trail needs some fixing.

Gillette Lake (Winter)

Directions: Take I-84 to Exit 44. Cross Bridge of the Gods ($2 toll). Take a left onto Highway 14 and follow it for a little over a mile. The Bonneville Trailhead is on the right.

The trail starts out uphill as you wind up through the woods. Within a quarter mile we already started to encounter downed trees. We came across three in a row but they were easy to climb over. As you keep climbing and round the edge of the cliff we came to a much larger tree that was completely blocking the trail. We were still able to make our way around this one and continue on. The trail was still in good shape. Just muddy from heavy rains. It was covered in small branches that had been blown off but nothing too serious.

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A little over a mile into the hike you will reach the junction with the Pacific Crest Trail. Continue on the trail as you enter a clearcut area. The trail was a lot better in this section. As you continue on through the clearcut the trail doesn’t gain or lose much elevation. You get good views of Table Mountain off in the distance as well. Soon the trail crosses an access road and enters back into a more heavily wooded area.

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As we were hiking into this area we started noticing the trail was getting more and more covered in fallen branches. After about a half mile into the wooded area we came up on some major trail damage. There were at least 20 downed trees and lots of loose dirt and rocks. There wasn’t a way to pass so we had to stop here. It was a bummer because we were only about a half mile from the lake!

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If the trail was clear you would continue on crossing through one more clearcut area that takes you up to another access road. Just beyond the road is the lake. It’s a small lake that’s a beautiful blue-green color.

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This is still an enjoyable hike even if you don’t make it all the way to the lake. It was actually kind of interesting to see all of the damage. Just a reminder that if you see a lot of weather damage it’s best not to try and climb through it. Uprooted trees make hills unstable which can lead to slides and falling rocks. The fallen trees themselves are unstable as well.

We don’t know how long it will be until the trail is cleared out but sometimes it doesn’t get done until spring. It would be best to call the forest service before heading out on this hike anytime soon.

Distance: 5.8 miles

Elevation: 625 feet

Difficulty: Moderate

Pet Friendly: yes

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: Yes at the parking area.

Parking Fee: $5 NW Forest Pass

Seasons: All

Popular: Yes

Overall: This is a nice Gorge hike that is increasingly becoming more and more popular.

Tom McCall Nature Preserve & Rowena Plateau (Spring)

Directions: Take I-84 east to exit 69 (Mosier). Take a right and follow the Historic Columbia River Highway for about 7.5 miles. There is a big sign marking Rowena Crest with areas to park.

We hiked the Rowena Plateau about 7 weeks ago, at the very beginning of the wildflower season. It was still pretty bare and dry up there so we decided to come check it out again and it was WELL worth the trip.

This time we decided to hike around the Tom McCall Nature Preserve as well. We didn’t go all the way up to McCall Point because there was so much poison oak and some of us in the group didn’t have long pants or sleeves on. Didn’t want to be itching for a week 😉

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We started at the signed Tom McCall Nature Preserve trailhead and walked along the flat wide field that was full of Balsamroot and Lupine, Bachelor’s Button was also starting to bloom as well. Soon the trail starts to narrow a bit as you gain a little elevation and switchback up to a great viewpoint of the Gorge. We continued on a bit farther down the trail until we started noticing the Poison Oak on both sides of the trail getting really thick. We decided to turn back here and head back to the trailhead. If you continue on we would highly recommend you wear long pants and sleeves.

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Back at the trailhead we crossed the Old Highway and headed towards the Rowena Plateau trailhead. To see our previous post about Rowena Plateau click here. Starting at the trailhead, the trail winds downhill gently for a little over a mile. You’ll pass Rowena Pond and many side trails that take you to different viewpoints of the Gorge. There are wildflowers on this part of the hike, especially at the beginning but they thin out as you hike. Also, keep your eyes peeled for deer, wild turkeys, butterflies, and lots of birds! The trail comes to an end at the “point” of the plateau. Head back the way you came to get to your car. There is poison oak along this part of the hike, but much less than Tom McCall.

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Distance: 3.5 miles

Elevation: 110 feet

Difficulty: Easy

Pet Friendly: No. Pets are not allowed, all areas are a nature preserve.

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: No

Parking Fees: No

Seasons: All

Popular: Very popular in spring, not as bad during the other seasons.

Overall: This is one of our favorite hikes to see wildflowers and one of our favorite views of the eastern Gorge!