Hood River Mountain Trail has to be the best view possible for the least amount of effort. A great hike for little ones, there aren’t too many steep ledges (there are just a spots toward the top) and it’s not too long, but be prepared to carry toddlers at least part of the way. Almost immediately I was regretting that I gave away our Ergo baby carrier already, but then I remembered how he used to kick me in the back when I put him in it and decided it was better off at its new home. I ended up carrying KZ on my shoulders some, and there weren’t too many spots where I had to duck to avoid low hanging foliage, but all of this ended up being a great leg work out.
If you hike the full trail, you’re in for 3 miles, but just to the summit for the amazing view of the valley, it’s just under a mile. Once you get to the top, behold the glorious view you’ll be rewarded with:
This may look like a steep drop, but that’s actually a more rolling hill behind KZ. Not a place to let them roam unsupervised, but not imminent threat of death either. Below is one of those spots that had a bit of a steeper drop (just before the summit) that also offered a gorgeous view of the river.
Besides those glorious wild, yellow daisies that dot the hillside, there were several different and colorful flowers along the trail. I saw so many that it was hard to decide which ones to photograph, let alone the best one for this blog. Here’s the one I picked, but I have no idea what it is.
At the top we got an extra bonus: a colony of friendly blue belly lizards. My grandpa calls them blue bellies, but according to online sources they’re actually called fence lizards and they’re found all over the Western US. These particular ones, I’m guessing, are Cascade Fence Lizards. They’re quick, but they’re also not terribly shy so we got a couple of good shots of them. This one gave us an aloof pose, but you can still see his colorful belly.
I think the best thing about this hike is that it’s one you can totally accomplish despite nap schedules. We tried to hit the trail pre-nap, but KZ was asleep by the time we got there. So we headed home and tried again after. That put us on the trail at 5pm, but we were still back at our car long before dark. There was so much to see that it was sometimes hard to prod him along the trail, but on the way back down after chasing lizards, finding (and abandoning) about a million cool sticks, and naming several trees along the way KZ was positively giddy.
Things to bring:
Water, obviously. It gets hot up there.
A snack. Although it’s not so far that you need to refuel, it’s such a good place for a picnic why not?
Carrier for toddlers.
How to get there:
If you’re coming from Portland, take I-84 to Exit 64. Take right onto Button Bridge Road (a.ka. US 30). Go straight through the stop sign at China Gorge which will put you on OR Hwy 35. Drive 1/2 mile on Hwy 35, then turn east (left) on East Side Road. Drive another 2 miles, then turn east (should be left again) on Old Dalles Road. Drive another two miles on a fairly narrow gravel road, and park on the side of the road, but don’t block the gate. Look for the unsigned trail on the south side. Note that the map below actually shows the final destination as the summit, not the trail head. Silly Google Maps!