A handful of very popular hiking areas in the Columbia River Gorge are seeing a large increase in daily usage. Dog Mountain and Multnomah Falls are two great examples.
However, many hiking trails see little usage. It seems to me that it would be a much better outcome for the Gorge environment if hikers would distribute more evenly across the 30-40 main trails available.
On a mid-May cloudy morning I decided to put my observation to test, parking at the Wyeth trailhead about 50 miles east of Portland.
My destination was North Lake, a shallow lake in the Mark O. Hatfield Wilderness underneath the cliffs of Green Point Ridge.
The first one-half mile of the hike was relatively flat, eventually crossing Harphan Creek. The next two miles stayed underneath a mature forest (mainly Douglas fir and various types of maple) gaining over 2,000 feet in a series of very steep switchbacks.
After crossing a small stream the trail began an even steeper ascent of a relatively open ridge, gaining 800 feet in the next one-half mile. The open ridge offered some very pretty rock gardens of purple larkspur, yellow parsley, red paintbrush and chocolate lilies.
The next mile gained 1,000 feet in nine switchbacks to the rim of the Harphan Creek Headwall.
Hoorah! The tough climbing was over. Now it was only a little over one-mile to North Lake where I enjoyed a well-deserved lunch.
All in all the hike was 12 1/2 miles in length with 4,300 feet of cumulative elevation gain.
Returning to my original observation about trail usage in the Gorge, I did not see one other person during the eight-hour outing. If I had done Dog Mountain nearby, I would have seen wave after wave of hikers.
It proves my point. If you want to enjoy a more “wilderness outing”, take one of the lesser-used trails in the Columbia River Gorge.