Field Notes

Wildflowers and Sweet Silence on the Weldon Wagon Trail

A hidden Gorge hike near Husum offers rare blooms, valley views, and solitude.

By Benjamin Tepler April 23, 2019 Published in the May 2019 issue of Portland Monthly

If you’re a wildflower junkie, odds are you’ve already seen the displays at Catherine Creek and Dog Mountain, well-worn Gorge trails that reliably light up like the International Rose Test Garden every spring. To beat the crowds, head instead toward the quiet town of Husum, just north of White Salmon on the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge. One mile up the road from Husum’s two main river outfitters, find the Weldon Wagon Trail, a meandering hillside climb shaded in gnarled stands of Oregon white oak, with stellar views south to the White Salmon Valley and across the Columbia to stately Mount Hood.

From the trailhead, walk less than a quarter-mile on an old 4x4 road to a Weldon Wagon Trail signpost that points you toward winding vine maples and oak woodlands. A few stretches of very wide trail speak to its history as an actual wagon road, built in the 1900s by Elwin Weldon and Henry Hyndman to ferry produce from upper White Salmon River farmlands down to market in Husum. Roughly a half-mile in, snag your first view of the expansive valley south as wildflowers start to peek through the thinning forest.

Weldon Wagon Trail is home to the usual springtime blooms: flamboyant lupin, sunny balsamroot, delicate white prairie star, and aptly named bluebells. But it also boasts a few rare varieties of showy, tight-clustered desert parsley, including one known as Suksdorf’s desert parsley—a stamen-happy bundle of yellow and green.

Continue your uphill trek 1.5 miles through undulating hillside meadows to a sign designating the White Salmon Oak Natural Conservation Area—551 acres
devoted to Oregon white oak, a deciduous tree that’s rare this far north (it’s abundant along the Deschutes) and home to pileated woodpeckers, black-tailed deer, and wild turkeys. This is the spot to whip out your camera: Mount Hood looms in the distance while the valley, blanketed in gold, unfolds below. Turn around here or continue one more mile through a dense wooded area, skirting private land to the trail’s terminus at Sandborn Road.


Post-hike, pull up a stool at White Salmon’s airy Le Doubblé Troubblé Wine Co, where you can recover from your ramble accompanied by chatty locals who crowd in for sips of the house’s dry, refined gewürztraminer and unexpectedly heady pinots.

Drive Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Distance: 3–5 miles round-trip
Difficulty: Moderate 
Peak Season: Late April to mid-May

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