Portland Hiking News, Conditions and Outings for March 8-9

Welcome to the 2014 Hiking Season!

…. and my (more or less) weekly updates on news, conditions, and hiking suggestions.

Sure, some of you may have been hiking all winter, but for me, it starts in March, with the first reports of wildflowers blooming in the Columbia River Gorge and the possibility, however unpredictable, that we’ve seen the last of snow down in the valley.

Behold the messenger of spring!
Behold the messenger of spring!

And really, it’s about the first spotting of a grass widow, which for me was in this post PortlandHikers from the Coyote Wall area on March 4. Yay grass widows!

This is the time of year when I start to compare the Portland forecast, which currently says rain from Saturday afternoon all the way through Sunday, with The Dalles forecast, which says … well, the same thing at this point. But less rainfall! Pretty soon Hood River and The Dalles will have sun when we don’t. Stay tuned on that.

We could also check the Government Camp forecast, with snowshoeing in mind; alas, it says rain, too. Not much worse than that.

The Wilson River is one of the best winter hikes near Portland.
The Wilson River Trail is a nice option for this time of year.

Okay, so it looks like Saturday morning and early afternoon is the target time for this weekend, which works out because the Timbers are playing Saturday night, and I do love me some soccer.

So, where to go this weekend? Let’s start with the snow levels, which according to this PortlandHikers post about Larch Mountain seem to be about 2,800 feet in the Gorge. So something like Devils Rest should be clear – same for Hamilton Mountain, which if anything has less snow than Larch.

Friends of the Columbia Gorge has announced their annual hiking season, with 67 outings to choose from. They are also doing a “Histories and Mysteries” Challenge, where you explore 20 geologic and historic features hidden in Gorge landscapes.”

Between March 15 and Oct. 31, you can join Friends on a hike or go exploring on your own to learn about the Lyle Convict Road, Ice Age Floods, Oregon Trail, Pillars of Hercules, and more. Members of Friends of the Columbia Gorge will receive a prize upon completing the challenge.

For more, read their release online.

The Oregonian points out that we might consider a wildlife refuge this time of year; they tend to be lower elevation (thus snow-free) and filled with birds. They suggested Jackson Bottom in Hillsboro; I would add Steigerwald Lake in the Gorge.

The Salmonberry River is a unique Oregon Coast Range hike.
Along the Salmonberry River hike.


Another possibility is the Salmonberry River canyon, where you can walk down an abandoned railroad. This report said it was snow-free on March 1, so I’m sure it still is. For more information, read my posts on the upper and lower sections of that trail – or stay tuned for the new edition of my 60 Hikes guidebook, where the Salmonberry will appear once again. In fact, you can pre-order that book now.

News and Events


Oregon State Parks has released its updated 2014 guide, which according to the Oregonian has info on “more than 200 of Oregon state campgrounds, day-use areas, trails, bikeways and heritage sites” and includes all the info you need to visit these sites as well as an expanded map.

Get one in print from the Portland office (2501 SW 1st Ave., Suite 100) or online at oregonstateparks.org/parksguide.

Speaking of State Parks, Spring Whale Watch Week is coming up. From March 22 to 29, volunteers will fan out along the coast to help volunteers spot whales and teach them all these amazing migratory beasts. Also stop by the Whale Watching Center in Depoe Bay. For more info, see the State Parks’ whale watching site.

Sunset from Angel's Rest
Sunset from Angel’s Rest

That same week, Trailkeepers of Oregon is doing some trail work at Angel’s Rest. Here’s their release about that:

Volunteer Trail Work Party

Angel’s Rest Trail, Columbia Gorge

Saturday, March 22

Join the Trailkeepers of Oregon at the popular Angel’s Rest Trail in the Columbia Gorge. This heavily used trail needs some work to keep it usable, safe and scenic. We have multiple spots to work on the trail, including fixing a cut through that is causing the trail bed to break down, fixing and installing drain features, and restoring vegetation to an abandoned section of the trail. In particular, we want to restore the vegetation on the abandoned trail while the local vegetation is still winter dormant, which allows for easier transplanting.

This work party is a great opportunity to learn trail deconstruction and nature restoration techniques. No prior trail work experience is needed. TKO provides the tools, safety equipment, and instruction.

Please sign up here.

Questions? Please email [email protected].

Group Hikes Coming Up

Washington Park is one of the best Portland hikes in the wintertime.
Viewing platform in the redwoods / sequoia collection, Washington Park.


You can always just pick a local group that leads hikes and go with them. Here’s a quick introduction to what I see happening coming up:

  • If you’re single and between 28 and 45, and a member of Match.com, I’m leading a hike for them Sunday in Washington Park.
  • The Mazamas are off this Friday to Forest Park; Saturday to Lyle Cherry Orchard, Nesmith Point, North Lake, and a ski to Teacup Lake; Monday to Tryon Creek and Benson Plateau; and Monday to Mount Defiance.
  • The Adventurous Young Mazamas (roughly under 40) are going to Nesika Lodge with the Trails Club.
  • The Sierra Club doesn’t seem to have anything until the 23rd, but if you join their Meetup page you might learn more.
  • The Oregon Nordic Club has a ski to Tilly Jane on Friday, a GPS practice tour on Saturday, and a trip up McKenzie Pass on Saturday.
  • Friends of the Gorge has a few events next week, including their first Histories and Mysteries hike, a stewardship outing on Mosier Plateau, and a hike to Lyle Cherry Orchard followed by a wine tasting.
  • Mount St. Helens Institute has a snowshoe trip to Elk Rock set for next Saturday, the 15th.
  • Oregon Wild has a snowshoe to Marilyn Lakes (leaving from Eugene) on the 22nd.
  • And of course there are about a dozen local hiking-related groups on Meetup.com. Search for them here and join one.

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