The Columbia River Gorge is a great place for any hiking enthusiast or waterfall lover. Those of us who live in the area love the Gorge and always recommend it for visitors. Dog Mountain is a hike on the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge. I completed this hike this morning, so I thought I would share what I learned!
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Quick Facts: Dog Mountain Hike
Elevation at Start: About 148 feet
Elevation at Top: 2948 feet
Dog Mountain Trail (difficult): About 3.8 miles to the top, steep climb.
Dog Mountain Trail (more difficult): Slightly shorter distance than the difficult trail, slightly steeper climb.
Augspurger Mountain to Dog Mountain Trail: Adds about 0.9 miles to hike, is the least steep.
Total Time: 4 to 6 hours round trip.
Getting to Dog Mountain
From Vancouver, Washington (the main city across the bridge from Portland), driving to Dog Mountain takes a little over an hour. A quick Google search of Dog Mountain will take you to the parking lot. The parking lot is pretty obvious as it is on the side of the main road, but it is not huge and can fill up quickly on a nice day. I recommend getting there earlier rather than later if you want to guarantee a parking spot. We arrived around 10:30am and we were nowhere near the first people there. If you want to hike the “difficult” or “more difficult” trails, start on the right of the two trails at the sign that simply says “Dog Mountain”. Right up this path is also where you can find an outhouse. If you want to try the Augspurger Mountain trail, start at the left trail at the sign that says “Augspurger Mountain” and “Dog Mountain”. As you go, make sure you pay attention to signs so you don’t miss where the trail splits. At this point you need to turn right to get to the top of Dog Mountain. Otherwise you would keep going towards Augspurger Mountain.
Is The Dog Mountain Hike Right for You?
Dog Mountain can be hiked as either a loop or an up-and-back path. This day-hike is on well-traveled paths, so you do not have to worry about climbing over logs or large rocks. That being said, the trail is fairly steep at the beginning and gets steeper as you go. I would not recommend this hike if you have difficulties walking up or down hills. I would recommend this hike for anyone who has enjoyed hiking in the past and has good cardiovascular health. Although the name mentions dogs in it, I would not recommend taking your dog unless you have worked with your dog and built up the stamina for this length of a hike. I did see some dogs on the trail, but some ended up being carried and one even had shaky legs from climbing uphill for so long. A two mile round-trip hike is about the longest hike I would take my dogs on.
What to Expect While Hiking
By now you have probably gathered Dog Mountain is a steep hike. That means it will work every one of your leg muscles VERY well! The zig-zag fashion makes it a bit easier and provides opportunities for frequent water breaks on flat land. Plenty of water is a necessity, especially in warmer months. That means you should pack a backpack to carry water bottles and snacks (or a full lunch for a picnic at the top!). To carry the weight of water bottles, you should use a backpack with a waist strap like this one to take some pressure off your back. Because of the steepness, I would also recommend taking hiking sticks. While I did not have any, my dad pulled them out half way up and they really took some pressure off his legs. Hiking up took us about 2 hours, and we took the “difficult” route as labeled earlier. The way down was easier (as downhill usually is) and took us 1.5 hours. Going down we noticed how many little pebbles there were, so we took our time. We slid on pebbles and loose dirt a few times, and the hiking sticks really saved my dad from falling. I would recommend taking it easy and watching your step as you make your way down.
While most of the trail is covered by shady trees, there are a few viewpoints worth stopping at on your way to the top. At about 1600 feet in elevation you reach the lower viewpoint. Of the three trails up, the “difficult” trail is the one passing through this viewpoint. The “difficult” and “more difficult trails meet up just before the second viewpoint: puppy dog overlook. This is at about 2500 feet in elevation. The very best view is, of course, at the top of Dog Mountain. From here you see amazing views of the Oregon side of the Gorge, the top of Mt. Hood, and you get a feel for how high you have really hiked. You can even follow the path a bit further and see Mt. St. Helens on the other side of Dog Mountain.
Want more information? Check out what the Washington Trails Association says about Dog Mountain.