Ales on trails: Eleven epic hikes I did this summer

spent most of my weekends this summer exploring the Columbia River Gorge. Here are some of my favorite places I visited.

1. Silver Star Mountain (8 mi): Not technically in the Gorge but within a couple hours of Portland. Assuming you don’t get lost en route and that your car survives the 10-mile drive on pothole-ridden forest service roads (my car broke down a week later. Coincidence?), this trail involves just 1240 feet of elevation gain and you feel like you’re hiking in the Alps. Win-win.

2. Dog Mountain (7 mi): One of my first and favorite hikes I did in the Gorge. It’s a bit of a climb but the view is amazing for the last mile or so of the ascent. And, conveniently (as with all hikes in the Gorge), McMenamins Edgefield Pub is on the way back.

3. Cape Horn (7 mi): There are only a couple of viewpoints and most of the hike is in the forest. The viewpoints are worth it, though. One of them overlooks Cigar Rock. The trail is still being developed and not well marked. You’ll come across a bunch of identical and useless signs saying “Horses <-, viewpoint ->.” Just take the paths toward the viewpoints and you’ll find your way.

4. Beacon Rock (1.9 mi): Short, sweet, steep, with some great views the entire way. Cons: lots of tourists.

5. Hamilton Mountain (7.5 mi): Right next to Beacon Rock and Dog Mountain. Went with Henry Olson. Lots of switchbacks but a great view of Hood and Adams at the top. There’s also a geocache. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to find it. Oh, and watch out for cougars.

6. Munra Point (5 mi): The scariest, most vertigo-inducing-est hike I’ve ever done. More of a scramble than a hike, and there are some sections where you literally have to boulder up on jagged rocks. The climb eventually culminates in the “Death Ridge” at the top. If you walk to the end of this ridge, you’ll be rewarded with an incredible view of the Gorge near the Bonneville Dam. A few words of advice: 1. As you go up, don’t think about how you’re going to get down. You’ll figure it out out of necessity. 2. Plan on getting cut up. 3. Bring Tecnu if you’re allergic to Poison Oak because there’s a ton of it up there.

7. Eagle Creek (9 mi): Pretty vertigo-inducing at some points with its cliffs that drop off a couple hundred feet. If you survive the dizziness, you’ll find some excellent views of Punchbowl Falls, Tunnel Falls, and others. Plus you get to walk behind Tunnel Falls and up on some more cliffs, which is badass and you’ll feel like Indiana Jones.

8. Multnomah Falls (2.6 mi): Really really touristy because of its proximity to Portland. Expect like a million people there. It’s cool to look down the falls from the top if you don’t mind the crowds. Once you get to the top, it’s not so crowded, and there are other waterfalls to explore there.

9. Angel’s Rest (4.8 mi): It’s got a lot of tourists and casual hikers. But it’s definitely worth doing. One of the best views in the Gorge with the least effort required to get there.

10. Misery Ridge (4 mi): Okay, this one isn’t in the Gorge at all. It’s in Central Oregon. Smith Rock State Park, to be specific. But still. Do it. It’s worth the three-hour drive from Portland. You get some excellent views of the High Desert along the way and the hike brings you very close to Monkeyface, a world-renowned rock climbing destination. Just don’t go when it’s hot out because that can be, well, miserable. Unless, of course, you’re planning on going to Bend Brewfest immediately afterward.

11. Tom, Dick, and Harry Mountain (6 mi): Funny name, gorgeous hike. It passes by the pristine Mirror Lake at the beginning and features views of Mt. Hood all along the way.

Written on September 26, 2013