Swatting away blackberry bushes and other overgrown bushes I could only wonder if I had picked the right trail when I decided to hike Hood River Mountain. I couldn’t see anything other than crowding bushes and trees, which thankfully were shielding me from the wind roaring past overhead.
I was just hoping that at some point it would be worth the effort.
The answer: Yes. Yes, yes and yes again.
As I approached the end of the 600 feet in elevation gain and near the top, the blackberries gave way to fragrant lilac bushes, and glimpses of sunlight through the canopy.
Then you hit the summit and the only possible word is WOW.
The canopy of trees shielding you from whipping wind is gone, but so is the brush obscuring your view.
And it is an amazing view.
The entire Hood River Valley opens up before you, and you can see from the Columbia clear to Mount Hood.
On the river you can see tiny wakes being kicked up across the waves — kiteboarders and windsurfers dancing over the water.
To the west you can see the Cascade foothills poking through the mist; to the north Mount Adams and in front of you, the roofs of agricultural buildings glinting in the sunlight and a dark green carpet of fields.
It’s simply magnificent. Rolling out like a welcome mat for Mount Hood are purple wildflowers that dot the summit of Hood River Mountain and the ridge that extends from it.
I lingered at the top for awhile, relaxing as much as I could when I was not occupied with running after my hat, which was repeatedly blown off my head.
After reaching the top, you have two options: You can either go back the way you came up, or you can continue along the ridge which heads to the south.
The ridge will eventually take you down a gravel access road for vehicles coming up to service the microwave antennae on the ridge. It does present a brief view of the river and the eastern Washington side. It does also present an interesting contrast, as you seem to be entering the eastern half of the state more and more with each step.
The gravel path eventually links up with Elder Road, which takes you back to the trail head, and unless you want to hike back down a road, I recommend just coming back down the way you came in.
However, if you want to bike the trail, I recommend riding up Elder Road, and then riding down the trail from there.
The trail is too narrow on some of the uphill portions to safely ride, and you would have to walk the bike up; and on the narrow trail, that may not be too fun.
However you decide to go up the Hood River Mountain trail, the view at the top is completely worth the three mile round trip hike, and one you will not soon forget.
Getting there: From Hood River, go south on Highway 35. Take a left at Eastside drive and then another left on The Old Dalles Drive. Follow the road for about two miles. Just before the road turns into Elder Road on a sharp south turn. The trail head on is on the right, and there is room for three or so cars at the trail head.
There is no cost for using the trail.