Usually, I would hike Tom McCall Point in spring, when it’s one of the best wildflower hikes in the Columbia River Gorge. But I missed that this year. Still, there is a new piece of trail up there, and it’s always a nice hike, so I went to check it out at the end of June.
There really are two hikes at McCall, which is a few miles east of Mosier on the Historic Columbia River Highway at a beautiful spot called Rowena Crest. Either trail makes a nice break from a driving tour in the Gorge. From the lot, you can go across the road and down towards the Columbia, where there are two ponds on a wide, grassy flat which — in April and May — is covered with flowers.
The other way to go is up, to Tom McCall Point, named for a former Oregon governor. And all of this land is owned by the Nature Conservancy, who converted it from a grimy landfill into the treasure that it is now — a windswept, flowery vista over the Columbia River Gorge, with easy hiking and easy access.
The trail up to Tom McCall Point, which you can see from the parking lot (and in the photo above on the right) used to be 1.5 miles one-way. But the trail has been re-graded, lengthened and generally improved. It’s now 1.8 miles up to the viewpoint, meaning it’s a more gradual climb and it visits more of the meadows than before.
To hike it, just start on the south side of the parking lot and follow the trail behind the sign. It wanders around through the meadows before ducking into the trees and then turning uphill. Beware of poison oak in here, and be sure to check for ticks when you get home.
The old trail really stayed in the trees, but the new on seems to go out of its way to reach into the meadows. It’s also interesting to see a trail so soon after it was built, because you can see how much work goes into it, like putting in stone steps:
The views just get better and better, as you can see in my gallery below. Of course, it’s even better with flowers! It’s also, let’s say, interesting when the wind is blowing a constant 40something mph, like it was when I was up there. Here is a video from my Youtube Channel:
From the top, the view is grand in all directions: the Columbia east and west, Mount Adams one way, Mount Hood the other, and fascinating rock formations alternating with grass and flowers and trees all around. Here is but a sample:
Here is my Gaia track, which you can see in full here.
And here is my photo gallery (click on the first one to scroll through them all):
All in all, a fine hike, no matter the time of year. Just look out for the wind and the Hollywood types!