Best Columbia River Gorge Hikes: A Local’s Guide- 2024 Version

Tucked away amidst the dense forests of the Pacific Northwest are five Columbia River Gorge hikes that offer a breathtaking retreat from the hustle and bustle of city life. All of us at Backwoods Cabins live and breathe this area and adventure outdoors A LOT! We know that nothing compares to seeing this beautiful landscape up close and personal. So, journey with us through the best hikes Columbia River Gorge offers this summer. 

Fall Creek Falls 

Trail: 6 miles round trip

Elevation Gain: 1,279 foot gain 

Moderate Hike

Standing at a staggering 335 feet tall, Falls Creek Falls is a testament to the awe-inspiring power of water. Fed by the pristine waters of Falls Creek, the falls create a mesmerizing spectacle as they plummet over sheer cliffs, sending mist billowing into the air and rainbows dancing in the sunlight.

To reach this natural marvel, journey through old-growth forests and along rocky trails and immerse yourself in the sights and sounds of the wilderness. With its steep inclines and rugged terrain, the hike is not for the faint of heart, but the reward at the journey’s end is well worth the effort. This is a bucket list hike for any Columbia River Gorge explorer!

When you arrive at the falls, you are greeted by the thunderous roar of cascading water and the cool embrace of misty air. A wooden viewing platform provides the perfect vantage point to marvel at the sheer grandeur of the falls and capture that perfect Instagram-worthy shot.

Swimming holes and perfect picnic spots make Falls Creek Falls an ideal destination for a day of exploration and relaxation in the heart of nature.

How To Get There From Backwoods Cabins:

It’s a 25-minute drive to the start of the Falls Creek Falls trail. Drive north on Wind River Highway toward Deborah Way for 13 miles. Turn right onto Meadow Creek Road/ NF 30, then turn right onto NF-3026 for 2 miles to find the trailhead. 

Image of Columbia River Gorge. View of ridge and river with cumulus clouds in the sky with bright blue sky.

The New Luxury is Offline and in the Backwoods

Dog Mountain

Trail: 6.5 miles round trip

Elevation Gain: 2,900 foot gain.

Intermediate to Advanced Hike

Renowned for its wildflower displays and panoramic views, this iconic hike offers an unforgettable journey through the rugged beauty of the Pacific Northwest.

The Dog Mountain trail offers a diverse landscape. The ascent begins through dense forests, where towering evergreens provide shade and serenity, offering a cool respite from the sun’s rays. This hike is extremely popular and not for the faint of heart! It offers beautiful views of the gorge and is definitely one of the best hikes for wildflower viewing and photography! 

As the trail winds its way upwards, the scenery transitions, revealing expansive vistas of the Columbia River Gorge unfolding below. Sweeping panoramas of majestic peaks and winding waterways stretch out in all directions, captivating the senses and igniting a sense of wonder.

But it’s during the spring months that Dog Mountain truly comes alive as the hillsides explode in a spectacle of color. Blankets of vibrant wildflowers carpet the landscape, painting the hillsides in purple, yellow, and red hues. The air is filled with the sweet fragrance of blossoms, creating an immersive sensory experience unlike any other.

Reaching the summit, you are rewarded with unparalleled views that stretch as far as the eye can see. Mount Hood looms majestically on the horizon while the Columbia River snakes its way through the gorge below. The view will make you feel like time is standing still, embracing one of the best views in the US. This hike gets very busy and populated on the weekends. During peak season, it’s recommended you take the shuttle from the fairgrounds in Stevenson, as parking fills quickly! 

How To Get There From Backwoods Cabins:

Turn south on Wind River Highway toward Plum Drive.  At the traffic circle, take the second exit onto W-14 East. After 6.3 miles, the trailhead will be on your left.

Beacon Rock

Trail: 1.5 miles round trip

Elevation Gain: 574 foot gain 

Moderate Hike

This towering basalt monolith has long captivated the hearts and minds of adventurers seeking a thrilling outdoor experience.

The journey to the summit of Beacon Rock begins with a hike along a well-maintained trail that winds its way through lush forests and rocky terrain. As you ascend, the landscape unfolds, revealing breathtaking views of the Columbia River and surrounding cliffs, providing a glimpse into the rugged grandeur of the gorge.

But it’s not just the scenery that makes Beacon Rock a must-visit destination. This geological marvel offers a bounty of recreational opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts of all stripes. From rock climbing to hiking, fishing to birdwatching, there’s something for everyone to enjoy amidst the natural splendor of Beacon Rock State Park.

For those seeking a challenge, the climb to the summit of Beacon Rock is an experience unlike any other. Carved staircases and metal handrails guide you along the sheer face of the rock, offering a thrilling ascent that culminates in panoramic views that stretch for miles in every direction.

At the summit, discover awe-inspiring vistas that showcase the beauty of the Columbia River Gorge. Two things stand out about this hike: #1- Who else can brag that they’ve climbed a volcanic plug? It’s also the second-largest free-standing monolith in the Northern Hemisphere. #2-  The journey to the summit offers multiple amazing viewpoints – you don’t have to get to the top to see the good stuff! 

How To Get There From Backwoods Cabins:

Beacon Rock Trailhead is an 18-minute drive from the Backwoods Cabins. Head south on Wind River Hwy toward Plum Drive. At the traffic circle, take the first right onto WA-14, heading west. Drive 12.7 miles until you reach the trail parking lot on your left. You can’t miss the giant monolith! Discover Pass is required—pay on-site or online before you go to

Image of Columbia River Gorge. View of ridge and river with cumulus clouds in the sky with bright blue sky.

The New Luxury is Offline and in the Backwoods

Hamilton Mountain | Rodney Falls

Trail: 2.9  miles round trip

Elevation Gain: 1,185 foot gain. 

Intermediate Hike

Starting at the trailhead, a canopy of lush greenery hints at the adventure ahead- almost like entering Narnia. The ascent up Hamilton Mountain is no easy feat, but the panoramic views awaiting at the summit make every step worthwhile. Along the way, you will encounter a variety of scenic landscapes, from dense forests to open meadows, each teeming with wildlife and flora unique to the Pacific Northwest.

One of the highlights of the hike is Rodney Falls, an 80-foot majestic cascade that mesmerizes with its sprawling spill. The trail winds its way alongside the falls, offering stunning photo ops and the touch of misty spray gracing your skin.

As you continue, the trail presents a series of semi-challenging switchbacks and rocky terrain, keeping you on your toes and adding to the thrill of the adventure. At the summit of Hamilton Mountain, you will stand in awe of the surrounding vista and see the reward of your hard work up the mountain! This trail is absolutely stunning, with trees along the entire adventure. The hike will have you cross a couple of bridges. It can be steep in some areas, but it is a favorite, and the waterfall at the end is the icing on the cake!

Before embarking on this adventure, it’s essential to come prepared with proper gear, plenty of water, and a sense of respect for the environment. Additionally, be mindful of trail conditions and any potential hazards, especially during inclement weather.

How To Get There From Backwoods Cabins:

Drive south from the Backwoods Cabins toward Plum Drive. At the traffic circle, take the first exit onto WA-14 West. After 12.7 miles, watch out for Beacon Rock on your left and turn right toward Hamilton Mountain Trailhead. 

Wind Mountain 

Trail: 2.4 miles round trip

Elevation Gain: 1,141 foot gain

Moderate Hike

The hike begins with a steep ascent at the trailhead. Wind Mountain’s rugged terrain demands sturdy footwear and a spirit of determination, but the rewards awaiting at the summit make every step worthwhile. 

Along the way, you will have panoramic views of the Columbia River. As you ascend higher, the trail becomes enveloped in a sense of tranquility, with only the sound of the wind whispering through the trees to accompany your thoughts.

One of the most captivating aspects of Wind Mountain is its unexpected art installations, scattered throughout the trail as if left by ancient spirits. These eclectic pieces add an element of mystique to the hike, prompting contemplation and reflection as you make your way to the summit.

At the pinnacle of Wind Mountain, discover sweeping views that stretch as far as the eye can see. From the majestic peaks of the Cascade Range to the meandering waters of the Columbia River, the vista is nothing short of awe-inspiring. Bring a flashlight and stay to watch the sunset if you dare (and want to see a breathtaking vision of the river swathed in pink, purple, and gold). This is a nice alternative to Dog Mountain or Beacon Rock.

How To Get There From Backwoods Cabins:

It’s just a ten-minute drive from the Backwoods Cabins! Head south on Wind Mountain Highway toward Plum Drive. At the traffic circle, take the second left onto WA-14 headed East. After 3 miles, turn left onto Wind Mountain Road, and take a right to stay on Wind Mountain Road after 1 mile. Turn right onto Girl Scout Road, and you’ll be ready for a new favorite hike!

Hiking Columbia River Gorge

Calling all outdoor enthusiasts and casual nature lovers to our little slice of heaven. Here at Backwoods Cabins, we promise an unforgettable experience that will leave you in awe of the natural wonders that abound in the Pacific Northwest. Laugh by the firepit, lace up your hiking shoes, or take in the giant star-filled sky. Whatever your adventure, be ready to be enchanted by the raw beauty that surrounds you. And, of course, always pack water for your favorite Columbia River Gorge hikes. 

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