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Wygant Peak Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

The trip begins in the imposing shadow of Mitchell Point (Tom Kloster)
Beautiful Perham Creek is a green oasis along the route (Tom Kloster)
This signpost marks the beginning of the trail (Tom Kloster)
One of Basil Clark's Chetwoot Loop signs along the way (Tom Kloster)
Mitchell Point from the lower Wygant viewpoint (Tom Kloster)
The view west to distant Table Mountain from the Wygant Trail (Tom Kloster)
  • Start point: Mitchell Point TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End Point: Wygant Peak
  • Trail Log: Trail Log
  • Hike Type: Out and Back
  • Distance: 6.0 miles round trip
  • Elevation gain: 1,200 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: all
  • Family Friendly: no
  • Backpackable: no
  • Crowded: never

Contents

Hike Description

NOTICE: Most trails on the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge are closed until further notice because of damage from the Eagle Creek Fire. The closure involves ALL trails between Rooster Rock State Park and Hood River. It is anticipated that most of these trails may not reopen until Spring or Summer 2018. Please check the list of Columbia Gorge trail closures before you plan for a hike.

This varied hike to Wygant Peak packs a lot of scenery into just six miles, but also happens to be a lightly maintained trail in the heart of poison oak country. If you are especially sensitive to poison oak, consider doing this hike from October through early April, when the plants are still leafless and dormant. Long pants are essential during the growing season, and a pair of trekking poles will be invaluable in navigating (or pummeling) the stuff! This trip can also be tailored to your ability or time constraints there are several good stopping points, depending on your interest, and all are described below.

WARNING: The Perham Creek footbridge has been destroyed as of 2016; the creek can usually be crossed by careful hikers, however. Also, the Chetwood Loop Hike described below should now be considered an off-trail adventure as much of the tread has been lost to slides and the rest is overgrown.

The trip begins at the Mitchell Point Trailhead, located at exit 58 on Interstate-84 eastbound. Park at the south end of the large parking area, where a paved path heads into the trees. Take the entry drive downhill until you see the Wygant Trail sign pictured on this page, on the left at a gate guarding an abandoned section of the Historic Columbia River Highway. The trail follows the old highway for a quarter mile before a short segment veers off the highway grade to the left, crossing Mitchell Creek on logs, then curves back to follow another abandoned highway stretch. After nearly a half-mile along this second piece of historic road, the trail leaves the road grade for good, turning left into a dramatic, cliff-lined draw. From this point forward, you will be coping with overgrown brush and plenty of poison oak - so take your time, and watch for those "leaves of three".

After climbing up the draw and exiting by way of a couple of switchbacks, the trail travels through open Douglas fir forest briefly, then arrives at the east junction with the Chetwoot Loop and a few feet beyond, the edge of Perham Creek canyon. The Chetwoot trail is a rustic path built by Portlander Basil Clark and other volunteers in the late 1970s, and provides a loop alternative for your return, "Chetwoot" is Chinook jargon for "bear" and commemorates an encounter that Clark and his fellow volunteers had in the area. However, this unique path has not been maintained recently and requires a ford of Perham Creek and negotiating a steep slide. For your effort, this alternate route along the Chetwoot Loop Hike saves you 0.4 miles and tours some scenic Gorge terrain. For now, continue on the Wygant Trail, following a sign that points to Perham Creek, and descending through a grove of gnarled Oregon white oak. Soon, you will enter the shady, green oasis formed by the creek - a sharp contrast to the dry oak savannah on the east canyon wall. Fill your water bottles here, if needed. This is the last water source until you return.

Cross the creek on a long footbridge (use care - the bridge was damaged in 2009), and begin a gentle climb of the shady west wall of the canyon, soon passing a tree-framed view of Mitchell Point, then arriving at a marked junction, where the main trail goes left, and the spectacular Lower Wygant Viewpoint is to the right, where the route squeezes between a couple of big firs. The Lower Wygant Viewpoint is a good stopping point for a short hike, with a round trip of 3.2 miles and an elevation gain of a couple hundred feet. The flat, moss-covered bluff is a nice picnic spot that provides views from White Salmon, Washington and Mitchell Point on the east to Table Mountain and Cascade Locks, to the west.

If you would like to see more, retrace your steps back to the main trail, turn right, and continue under the set of powerlines that have paralleled the route thus far. The trail curves east, climbing above the powerlines and up the shoulder of Wygant Peak. Climb a series of short switchbacks, then a longer set. Make sure to stop by the Middle Wygant Viewpoint (located by taking a short spur trail before reaching the west junction with the Chetwoot Loop Hike. Now that you've seen Perham Creek, you can decide if you want to take this route back, and make the upstream ford that is required.

The main trail climbs another 0.6 miles and a set of switchbacks before arriving at a fine viewpoint, on the shoulder of Wygant Peak. This is the upper viewpoint, and the recommended stopping point for this hike. To complete the hike, retrace your steps, or try the Chetwoot Loop Hike option, shown on the trail map below.

Beyond the upper viewpoint, the trail becomes more brushy over the final 1.6 miles, and the summit of Wygant Peak is now forested, limiting views. For the adventurous who are interested in completing this segment, consider a tip from Doug Lorain's "Afoot & Afield" guide, which suggests a short bushwhack from the true summit to a large meadow on the southwest face of the peak - this option is shown as the dotted cross-county route on the map, below.

Maps

Panoramic view from the Lower Wygant Viewpoint (Jamey Pyles)
Panoramic view from the Middle Wygant Viewpoint (Jamey Pyles)
WygantTrailMap.jpg

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • None

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Afoot and Afield Portland/Vancouver, by Douglas Lorain
  • 100 Hikes in Northwest Oregon - 3rd Edition, by William L. Sullivan

More Links

Contributors

Oregon Hikers Field Guide is built as a collaborative effort by its user community. While we make every effort to fact-check, information found here should be considered anecdotal. You should cross-check against other references before planning a hike. Trail routing and conditions are subject to change. Please contact us if you notice errors on this page.

Hiking is a potentially risky activity, and the entire risk for users of this field guide is assumed by the user, and in no event shall Trailkeepers of Oregon be liable for any injury or damages suffered as a result of relying on content in this field guide. All content posted on the field guide becomes the property of Trailkeepers of Oregon, and may not be used without permission.