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Mitchell Point Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Mitchell Point (right) and Mitchell Spur (left) from the highway (Tom Kloster)
View from the powerline saddle to hikers near the summit of Mitchell Point (bobcat)
Grass widows (Olsynium douglasii), Mitchell Point (bobcat)
View to Dog Mountain from Mitchell Point (bobcat)
An toppled transmission pole from a bygone era on the slopes of Mitchell Spur (Tom Kloster)
The imposing summit of Mitchell Point as seen from the Spur (Tom Kloster)
Descending the powerline road to the Wygant Trail (loop option) (bobcat)
MitchellPointMap.jpg
  • Start point: Mitchell Point TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End Point: Mitchell Point
  • Trail Log: Trail Log
  • Hike Type: Out and Back
  • Distance: 2.6 miles round trip
  • Elevation gain: 1,270 feet
  • High point: 1,178 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: All year
  • Family Friendly: No
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: On sunny weekends
Falling
Poison-Oak
Ticks

Contents

Hike Description

The short hike on state park land to Mitchell Point, known to Native Americans as Great Storm King, covers a lot of scenery in just 2.6 miles. The trail is often steep and rugged, so you'll feel like you made a longer trek, especially when you consider that you will gain nearly 1,300 feet in that short distance! However, the rewards make the trip well worth the effort—lots of views, wildflowers, and interesting terrain throughout the hike. Note that the 0.3 mile side trip to Mitchell Spur is included in the mileage and elevation totals for this hike. Like most eastern Gorge trails, this route has several patches of poison oak that you'll need to watch for, and you should check for ticks when you get home. Long pants are recommended for this trip. The very top of Mitchell Point's summit ridge is exposed and can be very windy - not the place for small children or dogs. The trail can get crowded in spring, so for a quieter route back to the trailhead you can make a loop using the powerline corridor.

The trip begins at the Mitchell Point Trailhead, located at Exit 58 on Interstate-84 eastbound. Walk out to the overlook, reconstructed in 2012, on the north side of the parking area. You'll get a view across the Columbia to Chemawa Hill, Drano Lake, the Highway 14 tunnels, and the remains of the Broughton Flume. To your right, a cliffside fence extends along the former route of the old highway where a viaduct took it into the "Tunnel of Many Vistas," constructed in 1915 by engineer John A. Elliott through Mitchell Spur with five arched windows offering vistas across the river. The construction of the freeway in 1955 at a much lower level made the tunnel obsolete, and as its condition deteriorated, it was destroyed in 1966 (A new tunnel for cyclists and hikers is one of the options being considered for full restoration of the highway as a trail.). Then walk back towards the restrooms. Three rock walls form terraces in front of you. The lowest was a retainer for the old Gorge Highway; the second level was the foundation for a motel that existed here until the construction of the freeway; the third level was the site of the Little Boy Ranch, a summer home constructed in 1912 for Charles and Helena Parker on the old Mitchell Point Grade, a narrow switchbacking wagon road which preceded the Old Gorge Highway. The property later became Elsie "Babe" Tenney's roadhouse, serving customers who plied the "new Gorge Highway." It later became the home of the motel owners.

To the left of the restrooms, a paved path heads into the trees. Keep left at a spur leading to a picnic table and memorial plaque for Anna and Vinzenz Lausmann, who donated this land to Oregon State Parks. Take this gravel path uphill through a carpet of ivy until it begins to follow the old Mitchell Point Grade, the wagon/early automobile track which preceded the Old Gorge Highway. Hike up above a gully, and switchback below a concrete cistern. Switchback up twice more in shady forest where the Mitchell Point Grade continues left to pass between Mitchell Spur and Mitchell Point (You can't actually hike this section of the old road, however, because a dangerous slide has obliterated a short section.). Keep right to reach another switchback and the trail junction for Mitchell Spur (If you're planning to do the powerline loop mentioned above, then this would be your chance to visit Mitchell Spur.). Cross a talus slope, heading steeply up above a gnarly and ancient Douglas-fir to get views back to Cook Hill and Dog Mountain across the river. Four more switchbacks take you into shady woods and across more scree, getting views up to the dark cliffs of Mitchell Point. Arrive at a ridge crest, and continue hiking through mossy boulders and tall Douglas-firs. Reach a powerline corridor (This is where you'll find poison oak!), and come to the Mitchell Saddle Junction at a pylon. Look west for a good view of forested Wygant Peak.

Go left to head directly up the south ridge of Mitchell Point. Hiking poles will be especially helpful along this final stretch where loose scrabble can make the steep path slick. Wildflowers bloom here in spring and summer, including grass widows, gold stars, prairie stars, western saxifrage, and biscuit root in late March and early April. Soon, pass dramatic cliffs and ever-expanding views as you reach the eroded ridge that forms the summit of Mitchell Point. This is a good spot to stop and enjoy the view - the cliffs beyond are dangerous should not be explored. Looking east you can see the towns of White Salmon and Bingen on the Washington side of the Columbia River. The snowy peak of Mount Adams appears just to the right of Chemawa Hill, and Silver Star Mountain caps the skyline between that prominence and Cook Hill. Downriver Dog Mountain, Greenleaf Peak, and Table Mountain are all visible. The summit of Mount Defiance can be seen on the Oregon side of the Gorge. Keep your eyes open for soaring vultures, ospreys, and bald eagles.

Side trip to Mitchell Spur:

The route begins from the unmarked Mitchell Point-Mitchell Spur Trail Junction on the scree slope. The trail is easy to follow as it descends under a Douglas-fir canopy to a low saddle below Mitchell Spur. The saddle also hosts the abandoned route of the Mitchell Point Grade/wagon road, a section of which was wiped out by a dangerous slide between here and the Mitchell Point Trail. From the saddle, the path gets faint, but the route is obvious—just make your way to the open summit straight ahead, which is dotted with wildflowers in spring and summer. A telephone pole disintegrates in the meadow. Note that this is also tick country, and a small elk herd sometimes beds down on wagon road just east of the saddle. From the top of Mitchell Spur, you will have more views, including the imposing pinnacle of Mitchell Point towering above you. To complete the hike, follow the side path back to the main trail, and follow it back to the parking area.

Optional loop using the powerline corridor:

From the summit of Mitchell Point, return to the Mitchell Saddle Junction at the powerline pylon. Keep left to reach the powerline maintenance road. Mountain bikers sometimes ride in here from the east as this track connects to the Post Canyon trail system. You will go right on a rarely hiked route. Descend a boggy slump which renders a section of the road unnavigable to vehicles. Head up a rise above a seasonal pond, and get a good view of Wygant Peak straight ahead. Momentarily enter the woods, and keep left at a junction to recross the powerline corridor. Stay left at a service spur for another pylon, and switchback down under alders and Douglas-firs with rushing Mitchell Creek audible to your left. Reemerge under the powerlines to get an expansive view downriver, and switchback at an oak tree. Switchback three more times to reach a tributary of Mitchell Creek. Go right to enter a forest of tall Douglas-firs, and descend the road to a TRAIL sign 60 yards above the Historic Columbia River Highway-Wygant Trail Junction (There's an old foundation just below you.). Go right to follow the old highway back to the Mitchell Point Trailhead. This option adds about 0.7 miles to the length of the hike.


Maps

  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • Green Trails Maps: Hood River, OR #430
  • Green Trails Maps: Columbia River Gorge - West #428S
  • Geo-Graphics: Trails of the Columbia Gorge
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service/Bureau of Land Management: Columbia River Gorge
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Hood River Ranger District
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Mt. Hood National Forest
  • National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map: Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Day use only: 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.
  • Restrooms, picnic table, interpretive signs

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Curious Gorge by Scott Cook
  • Day Hikes in the Columbia Gorge by Don J. Scarmuzzi
  • Day Hiking: Columbia River Gorge by Craig Romano
  • Afoot & Afield: Portland/Vancouver by Douglas Lorain
  • 100 Classic Hikes in Oregon by Douglas Lorain
  • 100 Hikes in Northwest Oregon & Southwest Washington by William L. Sullivan
  • Day Hike! Columbia Gorge by Seabury Blair, Jr.
  • 70 Virtual Hikes of the Columbia River Gorge by Northwest Hiker
  • Oregon State Parks: A Complete Recreation Guide by Jan Bannan

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.