Dog Mountain is a beautiful and popular hike in the Columbia River Gorge. Right off 84, it's just a few short steps from your car to the trail. But once you start hiking, be prepared to feel the burn. The trail soars up into the mountains and does not relent. There is no technical difficulty to this hike, but it does require tenacity and endurance. For a less intense hike, you can turn around at the viewpoint after 1.5 miles. In the spring, the grassy meadow at the top is filled with yellow balsamroot flowers. The views, looking down at the Columbia River far below, are spectacular.
This is a popular trail for Oregonians and travelers alike, so if you are planning a trip up the trail, be sure to arrive early (6 - 7 am), or later (after 5 pm) to secure a spot in the parking lot. On weekends between March 31st and July 1st, you'll need a trail permit for each hiker, plus the Northwest Forest Pass. You can reserve permits 6 months in advance for $1.50 each, though if you are using the shuttle you will not need to worry about permits or order in advance. If you are driving in, make sure you have cash in the car, as the Bridge of the Gods charges a $2 toll each way.
Once you cover all the logistics, you'll start from the trailhead and hike up Trail 147 for .7 miles. Then you'll arrive at a junction. To the left: the older, more difficult trail, which has less impressive views. To the right: the less difficult trail. Take this one (trust us!) up another grueling 1.2 miles to the lower viewpoint. If you go in the Spring, keep an eye out for white phantom orchids, Indian paintbursh, and purple lupine.
If your thighs are still in working order, continue up the trail for half a mile and soon you'll begin to glimpse views of the summit's green meadows. It won't be an easy hike, but you'll reach a junction where the older, more difficult trail joins back up with the easier one. The trail will get steeper as you climb up another half a mile to the old fire lookout spot. This is a good place to rest and take a few pictures of the views.
Two trails continue on from the lookout. The main trail goes to the left, toward a gorgeous meadow that does usually have high winds. After about half a mile, a sign will point you to the right and you will circle around the Summit Loop Trail. Explore the top of the meadow to your liking, stop and take some pictures, or sit down for a snack and enjoy the views of Mount Hood and Mount Defiance.
After you've enjoyed the summit, you can either turn back and go down the mountain the way you came up, venture up to the Auspurger Trail to extend your hike, or you keep moving forward, southeast on the Summit Loop trail which meets the main trail at Puppy Dog Lookout. The hike downhill is steep; it will be difficult to refrain from running and is a little hard on the knees. It's also less scenic, but the surface is steadier and more sheltered if it's getting late, cold, or windy.
Before colonization, the Pacific Northwest was populated by hundreds of different tribes. Chinook, Yakam, Nez Perce, and Molalla tribes would all have moved about the area, though no remaining documentation of their time at the site remains.
The first Western exploration of the area is documented as occurring on April 13, 1806. Meriwether Lewis and William Clark were making their historic expedition of the Wind River, which they dubbed the "Cruzats River." Clark went up the Washington side of the Columbia looking for the hunters they were supposed to meet, while Lewis went down to the Oregon shore in order to buy a new canoe. Since Clark did not find the hunters, he moved upstream and made camp at the very base of Dog Mountain, right next to the western mouth of Dog Creek. Clark writes about the experience in his journal:
"... I with the two large Canoes proceeded on up the N.W. Side with the intention of getting to the Encampment of our hunters who was directed to hunt in the bottom above Crusats River, and there wait the arrival of Capt. Lewis. I proceeded on to the bottom in which I expected to find the hunters but Could See nothing of them. The wind rose and raised the waves to Such a height that I could not proceed any further. We landed and I sent out Shields and Colter to hunt ... I walked to Crusats river and up in 1/2 a mile on my return to the party found that the wind had lulled and as we Could See nothing of our hunters. I determined to proceed on to the next bottom where I thought it probable they had halted at the next bottom formed a Camp and Sent out all the hunters. I also walked out myself on the hills but saw nothing. ..." [Clark, April 13, 1806]
In 1931, a fire lookout was built on Dog Mountain at 2,480 feet. In 1953, a new lookout was built, and in 1967 it was taken down. Staff from the Mount Hood National Forest manned the lookout, which gazed down upon the Gorge and the river.