A steep, 12.7 mile out and back trail to the summit of Mount Defiance. Being the highest peak in the Columbia River Gorge at 4,960 feet, this hike offers incredible views of the surrounding area. This, and the Mount Defiance Starvation Ridge loop are known as the two most difficult hikes in Oregon. Starting at 130 feet above sea level, the trail climbs a total of 4,840 feet to the summit. The trail is in good shape and easy to follow. Even in the winter when there is quite a bit of snow on the summit, the trail is packed out. It is a great training hike for mountaineers being that it is a comparable elevation gain from Timberline Lodge to the summit of Mount Hood.
Start by heading West for about half a mile along the paved path. Take a left at the junction for the Mount Defiance trail and continue up past the picnic tables to Hole In the Wall Falls. The trail then crosses a wooden bridge and through about a mile long section of loose rocks. After this, the trail heads up never ending switchbacks, gaining over 3000 feet in the next three miles.
As you get closer to the summit, a temporary sign at a junction offers two different routes to the summit. Going left offers a straight shot to the summit, while the right takes a more scenic route, circumnavigating the upper part of the mountain, then taking a sharp left turn up to the summit.
On the summit you will see great views of Mount Hood, Mount Saint Helens, Mount Rainer, Mount Adams, and many other peaks in the Columbia River Gorge. At last, this steep hike finally pays off. Remember to bring trekking poles for the steep descent to save your knees.
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