Dog Mountain Trail.
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The Dog Mountain Trail in Washington

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The Dog Mountain trail promises adventure, stunning vistas, and a touch of wilderness. If you’re a seasoned hiker or someone looking to challenge themselves in nature, this trail offers up a truly epic reward at the top!

We LOVE this hike in Washington, and we are sure you will, too. Here’s a quick rundown of everything you need to know before you tackle it.

Dog Mountain Trail

Distance: 6.5 miles
Type of Trail: Loop
Difficulty: Hard
Elevation Gain: 2,988 feet

Other important notes:

  • Dogs are allowed
  • This trail has a fee – display a NW Forest Pass or pay $5.
  • On average, people take about 5 hours to complete this trail.
  • Restroom facilities are approximately 100 yards up on the trail.
  • A special permit is required to hike Dog Mountain on Saturdays and Sundays during peak wildflower season. You can find the specific dates each year here.
Groups of hikers making their way up the Dog Mountain Trail.
Groups of hikers making their way up Dog Mountain Trail.

Getting There and Parking

Finding your way to the Dog Mountain trailhead is relatively straightforward. Located in Washington’s Columbia River Gorge area, you’ll want to set your GPS to guide you to this trailhead parking lot.

A wooden and rustic looking pay station with information signs for Dog Mountain.
The self-service pay station in the parking lot.

However, be prepared for an early start; the parking lot fills up quickly, even as early as 7:45 AM (which is when we got here, and we got the LAST spot!).

Some fortunate hikers find spots on the grassy edges when the lot is full, but those trying to park along the highway might be ticketed.

Nina hiking along Dog Mountain Trail surrounded by giant trees.
Nina near the beginning of the trail.

The Trail: Difficult vs. More Difficult

After parking, you’ll immediately start heading uphill, and you won’t stop until you summit!

After passing the on-trail restroom and a few initial switchbacks, the trail presents a choice between the “difficult” and “more difficult” paths, offering varying levels of challenge.

The 'difficult, more difficult' sign along the Dog Mountain trail.
Which one would you pick?

Most hikers tend to favor the “difficult trail” on the right, while the less-trodden “more difficult” trail is on the left. Surprisingly, the latter isn’t as much more demanding as you might expect. I mean, there’s no avoiding going uphill, so it really doesn’t matter.

We chose the “more difficult” simply so we could beat out some of the crowds, and we were happy with our decision.

Nina and other hikers heading up Dog Mountain trail towards the summit in the midst of yellow wildflowers.
Take the “more difficult” route for less crowds.

Summiting Dog Mountain

As you venture further into the hike, you’ll find yourself surrounded by a lush, shaded forest. The terrain steadily climbs, but the tree cover offers respite from the sun’s rays, thankfully!

Beautiful yellow wildflowers on the edge of Dog Mountain trial while people hike up.
The first leg is shaded from the sun.

It’s only once you near the summit that the tree shade starts to fade away, and the Columbia River Gorge starts to peep out and provide you with epic vistas!

But— The one notable feature of Dog Mountain is its wildflower displays in spring.

Three hikers along Dog Mountain Trail with a view across the Washington landscape.
Summiting Dog Mountain provides magnificent views!

Vibrant and colorful, these wildflowers paint the trail and add a magical touch to the hike. This was why we were here and why most people do this hike.

Nina enjoying the view across mountains and rivers from the summit of Dog Mountain.
The Gorge with the pops of yellow is just perfect!

Soon, the green and dirt path turns into a burst of yellow flowers that lead you the rest of the way to the very top of Dog Mountain!

Here is where you can see some stunning views while munching on your well-deserved snacks (definitely bring snacks; you’ll be hungry after this hike).

Heading Down Dog Mountain

We took the “difficult” route down to help our knees out a bit and to try the other route. Either way, it’s a steep descent, so don’t think you’ll get off easy.

Garrett hiking along a trail besides yellow wild flowers near the summit of Dog Mountain.
Time to head back down!

Watch out for loose rocks and dirt on the final descent, as they can make your footing uncertain and potentially dangerous. Plus, there are lots of roots to trip on once you’re back in the forest.

Overall, I think both routes are very similar, but WOW, did our knees ache on the downhill. This is a steep trail, so keep this in mind.

Female hiker in fedora sitting on the edge of Dog Mountain overlooking a view of the forest and river.
Be sure to take breaks if necessary. It’s not an easy climb!

Best Time to Hike Dog Mountain

One of the highlights of the Dog Mountain hike is the wildflower season, which is in spring. The trail comes alive with a riot of colors as wildflowers bloom along the path.

Plan your visit early in the morning to enjoy this spectacle and beat the crowds. We saw people sweating buckets going uphill midday, and we were glad we were already on our way down by that time.

Stunning foreground of yellow wildflowers.
Wildflower season at Dog Mountain is breathtaking!

The hike is good any time of the year, but the end of April until mid-June or so is the best to catch the wildflowers, which really makes this hike awesome!

Tips and Recommendations:

  • Timing is Everything: Arrive early to secure a parking spot and enjoy a cooler hike with fewer people. Avoid afternoon hours when the trail can get crowded and hot!
  • Parking: Don’t park on the highway. We saw people getting ticketed on our way out.
  • Safety First: Bring essential hiking gear, stay hydrated, and be mindful of the challenging sections, especially during descent. Keep an eye out for loose rocks. Trekking poles might be a good idea to save those knees.
  • Wildflower Permit: During wildflower season, a permit is required for your hike on the weekends.
  • Fee: Consider obtaining a Northwest Pass or having $5 in exact change on hand.

We absolutely LOVE the Dog Mountain hike, particularly in spring. We hope this helped you plan your visit!

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