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Pacific Northwest



Mt. Defiance

Hiked:   April, 2002
Length:   11.8 Mile Loop
Elevation Gain:   4800 feet
USGS Quad:    Mt. Defiance
GPS Coordinates:    N: 45 38' 53"
 W: 121 43' 15"
Photo Gallery:    Mt. Defiance Photos

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To Reach (From Portland):

Take I-84 eastbound approximately 50 miles, ten miles past Cascade Locks.  Take the Starvation Creek exit near milepost 54. (From Hood River take Wyeth exit #51 turn around and head back east).  The "closed" sign is only for the restrooms, not the trail or parking area.

The Trail:

This trek to the highest summit in the Columbia River Gorge gains nearly 5000 feet in less than six miles, giving even the most well-conditioned hiker a real workout.  Mountain climbers use this trail as preparation for climbing mountains (or as we've heard, they climb mountains to prepare for this trail!).  There are easy trails that you can take in the area, such as the 2.5 mile option to Hole-In-The-Wall Falls, but most people take a deep breath and go for it. 

Once at the trailhead, follow the path along the shoulder of the freeway to the west , until it veers into the woods.  You'll pass Cabin Creek Falls, and after 0.8 miles, cross a footbridge below 100-foot Hole-In-The-Wall Falls (so named because it comes out of a tunnel in the mountain).  In another 0.1 mile, you'll come to the Starvation Ridge Trail.  Continue straight past the Starvation Ridge Trail junction for another 0.2 miles to 20-foot Lancaster Falls.  At this point, you're thinking "this isn't so bad!".  That's where the fun begins...

After another 0.5 miles or so, the trail launches upward.  You'll follow switchback after switchback  through the woods for three miles or so before coming to Mitchell Point Trail.  Continue uphill to the right for 0.2 miles, until you come to an unmarked trail to the right.  Take this unmarked trail and clamber across the rocks, taking in great views along the way.  Curve to the left up to the microwave towers at the summit.

To return, walk past the fenced microwave building to an old wooden trail sign.  Take the road downhill, past two dirt road crossings.  When you hit the Mitchell Point trail, turn right.  You'll drop down to Warren Lake, where you can take a swim on a hot day.  After the lake, continue for another half mile where you'll take a left on the Starvation Ridge Trail.   Continue downhill, wincing at the pain in your knees, until turning right on the Starvation Cutoff Trail at the bottom to return to the car.

Our Take:

We hit this trail to help prepare for the summer's mountain climbs, and it certainly did that!  Pat, Gabe, Tom, Sandra, and I went with the Ptarmigans Outdoor Club during our training with their mountaineering school.  It was late April, and the snow level was still about 2,500 feet.  We should have brought snowshoes, since there was some pretty serious postholing up above. 

I carried a pack full of rocks and water on this day, and made it without much trouble, so I felt good about hitting the snowpeaks.  Tom struggled a bit, wondering what he was thinking, and Sandra shrieked in pain as her torn meniscus was aggravated by the postholing.  The weather was fine, and our trekking poles (highly recommended) got a good workout on this one .

This trail is not for the faint of heart, but if you want a good workout, and your knees are good, it is a pleasant hike, and quite fulfilling, with creek crossings, waterfalls, and views.  The trail is often obscured by snow until late June.  For more information, visit our photo gallery by clicking the link below or visit the sites in the table at the bottom of the page.


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