It may seem that winter’s gloom clings tenaciously through May, but on Dog Mountain the abundance of wildflowers proves that spring has sprung. Blooms on this popular Washington trail are at their peak in May, when the slopes seem practically spray-painted with fantastic colors. The summit offers a wildflower bonanza, plus fantastic views of the Columbia River Gorge, Mount Hood and Mount St Helens.
ROUTE: You’ll work for it: The entire way out is uphill, beginning with a steep 700-foot climb of no fewer than 10 switchbacks, from which sharp eyes may spot wild strawberry or coral root orchids. At the half-mile mark, veer right for better views; the left trail goes through a dense forest and is more strenuous. At the next major junction, take the left-hand spur for a more direct route and spectacular views, or the right-hand spur for wooded paths and rarer blooms. No matter how you ascend, you’ll end up at the open slopes at the top, which by mid-May are a riot of lupine, yellow balsamroot, larkspur and paintbrushes—a sight certain to put the spring back in your step.
DIRECTIONS: From Portland, drive east on I-84 to Cascade Locks Exit 44 and cross the Bridge of the Gods. At Rte 14, head right for 12 miles. The Dog Mountain Trailhead is between Mileposts 53 and 54.