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Mount Defiance Trail

HARD 323 reviews

Mount Defiance Trail is a 12.4 mile heavily trafficked loop trail located near Cascade Locks, Oregon that features a lake and is only recommended for very experienced adventurers. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from April until October. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

Distance: 12.4 miles Elevation Gain: 5,072 feet Route Type: Loop

dogs on leash

camping

hiking

nature trips

walking

bird watching

forest

lake

partially paved

river

views

waterfall

wild flowers

wildlife

rocky

scramble

washed out

Starvation Ridge Cut-off trail #1414B, managed by Oregon State Parks, is closed due to a washout on the trail. Starvation Ridge Trail 414 is still accessible via Mt. Defiance Trail #413. Hike to the highest point of the Columbia Gorge with amazing views of Mt. Hood, Mt. St Helens, and Mt. Adams Many consider this hike Oregon's hardest trail. As you climb this six million year old shield volcano, you will find breathtaking views of the Columbia Gorge, Mt. Adams, and Mt. St Helens. While the top is marred by a bunch of communication equipment, you will still find one of the best views of Mt Hood.

hiking
1 month ago

I led a group up here with the Mazamas. It was perfect weather and we nearly went to Warren Lake, but were pressed for time. Had views of St Helens, Rainier, and Adams along the way, plus Hood at the top. But seriously, nothing compares to the architecture some have called radio towers at the top. To behold such a relic of human and technological progress through a lens other than the eye belies the true practicality of such an artistic as well as functional creation. RECOMMENDED!

hiking
1 month ago

We went up the Mt. Defiance Trail and Back on Starvation Ridge Trail. All the trail were open when we were there, except for the Starvation Ridge Cutoff. If you can deal with the walk along the interstate and the radio tower at the top of the mountain the trail is a lot of fun. The view from the top is OK, but we did the hike as more of a challenge than anything. It certainly is steep, and we had some muscle soreness for a few day afterward. We hiked counterclockwise, hoping that the way down would be less steep, but both trails felt pretty similar.

hiking
1 month ago

Summited 10/12/19. Went Mt Defiance Trail (follow the paved trail along the highway that eventually turns left to the Hole in the Wall Waterfall) --> summit --> back down Starvation Ridge Trail (which is currently CLOSED so when you hit the junction on the way down follow Mt Defiance BACK and finish the same way you started - which adds some mileage - because you will end up at a dead end like I did if you don't pay attention). Starts out easy and flat for a little then with some mild elevation gain. Once the switchbacks start, it gets pretty steep for quite some time. Eventually you'll hit a straightforward part of the trail that gives you some time to catch your breath.... and then it starts shooting back upward. At around 3k? 3.5k? elevation, there is some snow as of right now. Never more than a few inches and mostly with dirt poking through but there are a few icy areas so watch your step. Once you hit the junction between mount defiance and mitchell point, you'll be heading up some rocks. About .25 miles away from there is a temporary sign: you can go left to the slightly shorter way (through the forest and past the service road) or to the slightly longer/more scenic route. You're not too much further from the top here. When you go back down from the summit, to go back down the slightly shorter way, turn right into the forest at the "HIGH VOLTAGE" sign (reassuring, right?). Follow the Mitchell Pt Trail/Warren Lake signs and then eventually turn back down onto Starvation Ridge Trail... just make sure to turn back onto the Mt Defiance Trail when you see a sign for it :)! It took me about 6.5 hours (with getting a little lost. About 7 hours with breaks). Clocked ~14 miles with a little over 5000 ft elev gain. Parking lot was empty @7:30 am and full when I left @2:30 pm (though with some side parking avail). Didn't see that many people on the trail as I was going and had the summit (and radio towers) to myself. View was great but the trail was difficult. Can definitely get similar views for less work but great for training and also getting to say you were at the the highest point of the Gorge!

hiking
2 months ago

meh, Bonneville to Table Mountain via heartbreak ridge is harder imo.

hiking
muddy
rocky
2 months ago

This was the hardest thing I have ever done. The descent was titanically brutal. If you are not a mountain goat do not attempt this route.

hiking
over grown
2 months ago

hiking
3 months ago

The first 1/4 was burnt in a fire, road noise is present but many beautiful viewpoints. Terrain is steep, this is a difficult trail. Once you get higher the forest is nicer as it remains for the duration of the hike. Top is a cell tower, which is very anti climatic despite breathtaking views.

hiking
rocky
scramble
3 months ago

First 1.5 mile after the point “climb begins” has lot of loose gravel. And with steep slope and narrow pathway it’s tricky in there. Beautiful views at ~4100 feet and then again at the top apart from the antenna. Definitely a hard hike with not many people on it. Definitely recommend 4 liters of water per person.

hiking
3 months ago

This hike was difficult in terms of sheer incline & length, but there were no technical aspects involved. Although you walk next to (and very clearly hear) I-84 at the beginning of the hike, once you get deeper into the trail towards the Ghost Forest (roughly 3 miles in), the noise completely disappears. Near the trail junction between Mt. Defiance Trail and Mitchell Point Trail, there are North-facing views of the three major Washington mountains on a clear day. These are probably the best views considering the peak of Mount Defiance has tree coverage surrounding most of the edges as well as a rocky service road and antenna broadcast station. The effort is at least rewarded with some good views of the South-East valley and Mt. Hood from the backside of the peak. We only did an out-and-back, but the hike can be turned into a loop by taking the Mitchell Point Trail at the junction (which adds roughly 2 extra miles partially due to Starvation Ridge cut-off being closed). There were very few mosquitoes. We each took 2L of water and were fine, but 3L would be smart. Took us approximately 4 hours from parking lot to peak and 2.5 hours back down from peak to parking lot. Would definitely recommend the hike, but the effort to reach the very top leaves one slightly disappointed that there aren’t broad 360 or 180 degree views of surrounding Gorge/Hood wilderness (which can be attained in other hikes such as Angel’s Rest, Munra, Dog Mountain, etc.). In addition, the road and antenna structure kind of hinder the natural vibe & satisfaction of reaching the peak. In general, the hike provides many beautiful and grand scenes of the Gorge & SE valley, and walking through the Ghost Forest is quite the experience. The hike is also great for those looking to practice steep and long elevation gain trips.

hiking
3 months ago

Straight up and down, very steep down - watch out if you’ve knee problems, bring your brace. Beautiful views, silly radio tower at the top. Me and friend are moderate hikers and this was the first trail of this height and distance. Took us 7.5 hours (excluding stops) to complete. Took 3L of water, wish I had 4, because I ran out 3/4 the way down. Pack water in your car to drink when you finish. Great Mountain Views along trail, some wildlife (ospreys, lizards, bugs) and unique nature (different terrain at different elevation).

hiking
3 months ago

Great hike. More moderate than hard. Lots of rock fields. Lovely to see the green coming back to the burn area. Saw an eagle's nest on the 14 mile Tower 3 power tower. Definitely a good workout! Oh, and, best bathrooms at the trailhead I've ever seen, LOL!

hiking
3 months ago

up up up from the very beginning with little respite until the very top. lost our way on talus section near the top and went off trail to the radio tower in sight. downhill on starvation trail was steep. take at least 4l water. we went through 3l each and it wasn't very hot.

hiking
bugs
off trail
rocky
3 months ago

hiking
rocky
scramble
washed out
3 months ago

I read the reviews before going on this hike yesterday— that it was all uphill. I didn’t quite believe it then, but believe me, it’s very real. 5000 feet straight up. Also, the way down is worse because you’re fatigued and some areas of the path are very narrow. Hard to keep your balance when you’re fatigued. Other than that, it’s a great hike! I prefer longer hikes that take all day when I find time to hike. Got to Starvation Creek Rest Area around 7am and summited at 11:15am. Had a half hour lunch break and then the way back down began at 11:45. I got back to my car around 2:30. Go early. It’ll get hot walking up that mountain.

hiking
rocky
4 months ago

I arrived at Starvation Trail at about 5:45 AM and there was only a handful of cars in the parking lot. I worked the trail counterclockwise with the intentions of training by trail running. I started my hike at 6 and the first mile or so was on a nice paved trail and got to see a couple waterfalls before “the climb”. For the next 4 miles your gaining roughly 4000 feet of elevation. Only time I really ran on the way up was to avoid bees (I hate when they buzz in my ear). Every now and then there was glimpses of open green that made the climb feel not so bad. There is a split trail near the summit to go the easier trail or the trail with the views. I chose the trail with the views and it was well worth the extra toughness. I figured it can’t be much tougher than what I had just endured. I stopped at the very point where you can look directly across and see a clear Mount Hood looking back at you. TOTALLY WORTH IT! I ran down as safely and swiftly as possible and finished the loop in under 4 hours. Amazing hike but bring plenty of water and a good attitude because Mount Defiance will test you.

hiking
over grown
rocky
4 months ago

Straight up hill! You really realize how steep it is when you head back down but it was a beautiful hike and super fun!

hiking
over grown
rocky
4 months ago

Completed 7/31/19, 16.7 miles, 6 hours, moderate speed. Going clockwise, summit was 8.1 miles and took 3 hours, 20 minutes and it was a beast! I actually took 7 hours for the entire hike, but took an hour break between the summit and a dip in the lake- both are worth it! The view from the summit is definitely worth it- beautiful hike! Very odd telecommunications towers on the summit. Given, this was a Wednesday morning, but trail was all mine besides electricians on the summit. I went clockwise and thought it was nice to get the climb out of the way at the beginning. If you struggle with knee problems, do not do this hike. Pretty steep both ways, but if you do clockwise is probably a bit easier as it’s less decline. Good hike, not sure if I’d do it again, however, a bit steep in places. At the end, I cut off the last 1.5 miles with a “closed” trail that had been washed out. I was able to get through, but it was a bit difficult. PROS: Beautiful hike, great views, very quiet- only one other hiker- pretty lake. CONS: Difficult summit! (Coming from someone who summited Mt. St. Helens a month ago), pretty steep declines both ways.

hiking
bugs
over grown
rocky
4 months ago

I completed the loop today in 6 hours. It was 14.04 miles from the parking lot and an elevation gain of 5,205’ over the course of the hike according to my Apple watch. It was my first time hiking this trail. I went up the Mount Defiance trail and took the Starvation Ridge trail down. Great views as you get close to the top. It was the most challenging hike I’ve accomplished. The difficulty takes some of the enjoyment out of hiking in my opinion, but if you’re looking for a challenge do it! Just be careful. I didn’t use trekking poles, but I can see how they’d be helpful. I saw one person running on the trail. They probably know what they’re doing, but I would advise against it. A cougar could chase you and it would also be easy to break your foot on the rocky trail. I saw several people with dogs too and unleashed. I suggest not taking them with unless you want them to become cat food.

hiking
blowdown
rocky
scramble
4 months ago

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