Category Archives: Butterflies

Lower Ruckel Creek Falls (Spring)

Directions: Take I-84 East to exit 41 (Eagle Creek). Go left at the stop sign and park across from the fish hatchery.

This hike starts on the paved path that’s in between I-84 and the fish hatchery. It runs along I-84 for a bit and is quite noisy. Soon it turns off to the right and enters a wooded area. You’ll pass a trailhead on your right and soon come to an open grassy area on your left with a faint worn path.


Follow this path through the tall grass and daisies (in the spring), as in reenters into a wooded area. Continue following the trail downhill until it ends at Ruckel Creek with the waterfall just to your right.


There is a fallen tree that makes a nice “bridge” over the creek to get a better view of the waterfall.

Head back out the way you came in.

Distance: 1 mile

Elevation: Minimal

Difficulty: Easy

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: Yes at the Eagle Creek Trailhead

Parking Fee: Yes a $5 NW Forest Pass is required

Seasons: All

Popular: No

Overall: We’re excited to see what this waterfall looks like in other seasons.

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.

Wind Lake (Summer)

Directions: Take Highway 26 East to Skibowl.

We decided to do this hike with the Sky Chair. If you don’t want to ride the lift you can definitely hike up to the lake. It would be an out and back hike, just follow what we did in reverse 🙂

If you decide to take the lift head into the guest services/ticket sales store and get your tickets for the UPPER bowl. You will be going to the very top of Skibowl. Tickets are $18 per person. Make sure to also get a free trail map while you are there, it’s helpful.

After you get your tickets and get on the lift you will first be heading over the Alpine Slide. Stay on the lift and pass the slide, as you continue up you will be going over some of the trails that  you will be using to hike out. When you get to the top of the lower bowl get off and follow the trail to your right, there is a sign marked for Upper Bowl. This trail is short and heads downhill crossing a bike trail and ends at the upper bowl lift.

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Get on the second lift and take it to the very top of Ski Bowl. Once you get off first head to your right and up a short hill to take in the awesome view of Mt. Hood, Ski Bowl, and Government Camp. It was a clear day so we could also see Mt. Adams, Mt. Rainier, and Mt. St. Helens! It got even better when we looked South and saw Mt. Jefferson! Head back down the hill and take Skyline Road downhill a short distance where you will see a small sign on your right marking the Wind Lake Trail. Follow this trail somewhat steeply downhill for one mile where it ends right at the lake. We did this hike on a nice summer weekend and we didn’t see a single person at the lake. The lake is pretty small but still very pretty. There are plenty of places to hangout and have lunch or just relax for a bit.

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Head back out the Wind Lake trail and back onto Skyline Road. Go right and continue following Skyline Road for about a mile, you will pass tons of views of Mt. Hood along the way. Skyline Road turns into High Road (it’s signed) which you will follow for about a quarter mile. This takes you under the lower bowl lift and to the historic warming hut. After you pass the warming hut follow the trail downhill and around a corner where you will get onto the Gnar Gnar trail. It’s a switchback heavy trail but hikers can go straight through the switchbacks. It’s steep and has a lot of loose rocks but isn’t too bad. You will be hiking right next to the Alpine Slide and there are lots of wildflowers in the grass around here. The trail ends at the base of Skibowl.

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*Warning* Almost all of the trails you will be hiking on are shared trails so you will see lots of mountain bikers and maybe a few horses. The mountain bikers are riding very fast so please keep your eyes and ears open. They come up behind you quickly and the trail intersections can be a bit sketchy.

Distance: 4.8 miles if you are taking the Sky Chair, 9.8 miles if you are hiking out and back.

Elevation: With the lift: You will lose 1,400 feet of elevation hiking from Skyline Road back to your car, but you will also have to hike out from the lake which is 507 feet. If you are hiking out and back: 1,400 feet plus the lake loss and gain.

Difficulty: Moderate

Pet Friendly: We saw dogs down at the base but none on the trail. Call before taking them.

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: Yes by the ticket store.

Parking Fee: None

Seasons: Varies. It depends when Skibowl opens for summer attractions.

Popular: Very busy down by the Alpine Slide. Lots of Mountain bikers but not many hikers.

Overall: This was a fun hike. The Sky Chair added something new and gave us great views. The lake was nice and quiet and the hike was fun.

Disappearing Lake (Summer)

Directions: Take I-84 East to Cascade Locks and cross Bridge Of The Gods ($2 toll). Go right onto Highway 14 and after a little over 14.5 miles take a left onto Cook Underwood Rd. Follow this road for about 5 miles and take a left onto Willard Road. Willard Road turns into Oklahoma Road, follow it a short distance until you see a sign for Forest Road 66. Take a left onto FR 66 and follow it for over 12.5 miles (the last couple miles of this road is gravel) until you come to two lakes. Disappearing Lake is on the left, South Prairie Lake is on the right.

Disappearing Lake is a seasonal lake in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, it’s a VERY short lived seasonal lake, lasting for only about 4 weeks. Our first visit was at the end of this last May while the lake was still about 8 feet deep. To see our first post and to compare the difference click here.

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Obviously the most dramatic difference was the lack of water. We went from seeing this fairly good size lake with tall trees in the middle of it, to this huge meadow with bright green grass! It’s very pretty no matter if there is water or not. We were wondering if it would be wet and boggy but to our surprise it was very dry. We were able to walk all over the meadow and explore.

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We didn’t see the rare Iris, I think we were a little too late for that. We’ll just have to come back a little earlier next year 🙂

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It was great seeing all the huge trees, we could still see some faint water lines too! It was just really interesting seeing this place without water. There were dragonflies everywhere and lots of flowers throughout the meadow! We also saw lots of signs of elk that must hangout in the meadow in the morning and evenings.

This is definitely a place we will be coming back to every year. At least twice a year so we can kayak and hike!

Distance: Depends. You could walk around for a few minutes or get a couple miles in walking around the lake.

Elevation: 50 feet

Difficulty: Easy

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: None

Parking Fee: None

Seasons: Very short kayaking season (4 weeks, mid to late spring) and summer to fall for hiking

Popular: No

Overall: Love this place. So interesting and very quiet and peaceful!

Bald Mountain (Summer)

Directions: Take Highway 26 to the town of Zigzag. Go left onto Lolo Pass Road and follow it for about 4 miles where you will fork right onto road 1825. In a little less than 1 mile go straight onto road 1828 (it’s unsigned but it’s right before a bridge), this road is paved but has some pretty big potholes you’ll need to watch out for. Drive another 5.5 miles and go to the right onto road 118 (it’s gravel and quite narrow). Follow the road for about 1.5 miles until you reach the Top Spur Trailhead. This is a busy trailhead so parking can get interesting.

From the trailhead you’ll be going uphill on a trail thats covered in tree roots and rocks. In most places it’s almost like steps with all the roots. It’s moderately steep but nothing too terrible. After a half mile go right on the Pacific Crest Trail and just a short distance later come to a big trail intersection with a wilderness registration box. After filling out the paper head to your right and uphill slightly, make sure you see the sign on a tree that says Timberline Trail no. 600 Muddy Fork. Follow the trail through woods of skinny trees for about a third of a mile.

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You will leave the woods and come out to a clearing. This trail has one of the best reveals we’ve seen. Round the first corner of the clearing and come to absolutely spectacular views of Mt. Hood. You’re head on with Hood and to your left are wildflowers growing on the side of Bald Mountain, to your right is a valley of trees. It’s hands down one of our favorite views of Mt. Hood. Continue on the trail as you skirt along the edge and pass quite a few awesome viewpoints. You’ll briefly reenter a wooded area and then pop back out to a second clearing with more views of the mountain.

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When you finally reenter the forest follow the trail to a signed junction. Go left as the trail heads uphill for a bit before leveling out and coming to another junction. Go left again towards signed Top Spur Trailhead. This trail takes you back to the big intersection with the wilderness booth, go right and head back down the way you came in.

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Distance: 2.3 miles

Elevation: 400 Feet

Difficulty: Moderate. You gain all the elevation quickly in the beginning so it’s only steep for a little bit.

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: Almost everyone. May not be the best for young kids, the area with the views has steep drop offs.

Bathrooms: Portable toilet at the trailhead.

Parking Fee: NW Forest Pass required

Seasons: Spring through Fall.

Popular: Very popular trailhead and most of the trail is busy as well.

Overall: Great hike. We’ll be coming back to do other hikes in the area.



Steigerwald National Wildlife Refuge (Summer)

Directions: Take I-205 North to exit 27. Merge onto Highway 14 East and follow it for about 12 miles. Take a right at the sign for Steigerwald National Wildlife Refuge.

From the parking area get on the trail near the bathrooms. The first part of the trail follows along a grassy/marshy area with Steigerwald Lake off to your left. The lake isn’t very big and almost looks like a very slow moving creek. The grassy area is pretty and you can see Crown Point and Larch Mountain off in the distance. Next, you will come to an area with Cotton Wood trees that offers some much needed shade if you’re visiting in the warmer months. At the junction go left through the metal art doorway.

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After passing through the door follow the trail with the marsh to your left and the trees to your right. Here is where you will really get to see a lot of wildlife. We saw numerous different types of birds (Osprey, Bald Eagles, Great Blue Heron, Hairy Woodpecker, Pileated Woodpecker, Bollocks Oriole, Common Yellowthroats, Northern Harrier, and much more!). We also saw a coyote pup and deer. The trail continues as you leave the refuge briefly and get onto the Columbia River Dike Trail. Go right here and follow this trail a short distance, you will pass by white birdhouses that have Purple Martins in them! Soon you will come to a split in the trail, go right and enter back into the Wildlife Refuge.

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As you continue on the trail you will pass a tall wildlife sign and come to a bridge that takes you over Redtail Lake. After the bridge, continue on the trail as you round right and come to a second bridge (take a moment to look up here, there is a large Osprey nest high up in the trees). After this bridge you are back at your first junction. Go left here and follow the trail you came in on back to your car.

Distance: 3 miles

Elevation: 0

Difficulty: Easy- good for all ages.

Pet Friendly: No- dogs are not allowed in the wildlife refuge.

Bathrooms: Vault toilet at trailhead

Parking Fee: None

Seasons: Year round (some parts are closed Oct-Apr)

Popular: Yes

Overall: Very easy hike (more of a walk) that is great for wildlife viewing, or a quick place to get outside and get moving.


Summer Hikes

Looking for a nice summer hike? Here’s a list of some of our favorites 🙂

If you’re looking to stay in Portland and the surrounding cities check out Oak Island, Mt. Talbert, or Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge. They are all easy hikes that have decent shade and lots of birds.


We love hitting up all the great trails that the Mt. Hood area has to offer during the summer months. Tamanawas Falls and Umbrella Falls are great options if you are looking for a waterfall hike. For a lake hike check out Mirror Lake (and Tom, Dick, and Harry Ridge!), and Lower Twin Lake. Zigzag Canyon is also a really fun hike, go in mid to late June while the lupine is blooming!


Some great summer Gorge hikes are Upper and Lower Latourell Falls, Gillette Lake, and Strawberry Island.


Summer time is full of Kayaking as well, be sure to check out Scappoose Bay and Lost Lake!


–Happy Hiking!


Banks-Vernonia Trail (Buxton Trestle) (Spring)

Directions: This hike starts at the Manning Trailhead. Take Highway 26 West to the town of Banks where you will take a right onto Pihl Road (it’s off of Hwy 26, if you see the Dairy Queen you’ve gone too far). Immediately cross Sell Road and the trailhead is on the right.

From the parking area go left on the paved path and cross the road. You will quickly cross a bridge over Dairy Creek. For about the first mile or so the trail will be going through farms. We saw cows, pigs, horses, and chickens. There area few houses and barns along the way as well. We even saw a Cricket match going on out in a field which was fun to stop and watch for a bit.

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Soon you will come to Pongratz Road, after you cross the road the trail becomes much more woodsy. You are still on a paved path but you are surrounded by trees and the trail starts to gradually head uphill. After a little over a mile you will come to the Buxton Trestle, it has been resurfaced for pedestrian use. You can see picnic  tables and a large grassy area below, you will be down there shortly 🙂

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After crossing the bridge take the side trail that takes you down to the Buxton Trailhead. Keep going past the trailhead and cross a bridge over Mendenhall Creek. Now you will come to the picnic table that you were seeing from up on the Trestle. You also get a great view of the trestle and can take in just how big it is. Continuing on this trail it takes you back up to the main trail. Go left and follow the trail back out the way you came in.

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This would be a good stop on the way to or from the coast. It’s very popular for bikers so be prepared for bicycles zooming past you the whole time. There are also nettles along the trail in the woodsy areas.

Distance: 5.8 miles

Elevation: 230 feet

Difficulty: Easy

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: Yes at the trailhead

Parking Fee: None

Seasons: All

Popular: Yes

Overall: We’ll be back with our bikes next time 🙂

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.

Columbia Hills State Park (Spring)

Directions: Drive I-84 East and take The Dalles exit #87. Cross the Columbia River Bridge and follow the road for about 2.5 miles. Take a right onto Highway 14 and a short distance later take a left onto Dalles Mountain Road. This road is gravel and you will follow it for almost 3.5 miles where you will round a corner and quickly come to a fork in the road. It’s marked with an old wagon and other old farm equipment. Stay left at the fork and continue on the road until you come to a gate and the parking area. The road is gravel but it’s in pretty good condition, there are some potholes but we saw all types of cars making it just fine.

It’s officially wildflower season!

Your trail on this hike is a gravel service road. The road climbs up Stacker Butte through fields of balsamroot, lupine, and other wildflowers. You have excellent views of Mt. Hood, the Columbia River and The Dalles on the way up. As the trail climbs the views just get better and better.

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After about a mile and a half you will start to see some of the FAA equipment in the distance. At about the two and a half mile mark the hike ends at the top of Stacker Butte. You have a great view of Mt. Adams and rows of wind turbines off in the distance.

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This hike is moderately steep on a well maintained gravel road. We got here fairly early and avoided most of the crowds. It’s not as popular as Rowena Crest but it still gets fairly busy during wildflower season, especially on the weekends. Make sure to watch for ticks and rattle snakes! This is an out and back hike.

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Distance: 5 miles

Elevation: 1,450 feet

Difficulty: Moderate

Pet Friendly: Dogs are NOT allowed.

Good For: This hike gets pretty steep, it may not be best for young kids and older folks.

Bathrooms: None

Parking Fee: $10 Washington Discover Pass, you must purchase this before you get to the trailhead (at Fred Meyer, etc.).

Seasons: All but best in spring.

Popular: Yes during wildflower season

Overall: Great views and tons of wildflowers!