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Mount Defiance from Wahtum Lake Road Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

View to Mt. St. Helens, Wind Mountain, and Mt. Adams from Mt. Defiance (bobcat)
Bear Lake from the Mt. Defiance Trail (bobcat)
View to Mt. Hood from Mt. Defiance (bobcat)
The Mt. Defiance Trail from the road (bobcat)


Hike Description

The Mount Defiance Hike is well-known as the most difficult hike in the Gorge. The approach normally considered, however, is the Mount Defiance Trail starting at the Starvation Creek Rest Area on the shore of the Columbia River. This hike starts at the other end of the trail, with less than a quarter of the elevation gain. The trailhead is on Dead Point Road (FR 2820), formerly known as Wahtum Lake Road. You can also combine this hike with several other short hikes in the area, such as the Bear Lake Hike or the one-mile trip to North Lake.

From the Upper Mount Defiance Trailhead, head up the Mount Defiance Trail #413. The Wyeth Trail #411 soon branches off to the left at a large wilderness sign. Head up in mountain hemlock, Douglas-fir, noble fir, and silver fir woods with lots of huckleberry bushes. In a little more than half a mile, you'll come to the junction with the Bear Lake Trail, marked by a small cairn. Keep right on the Mount Defiance Trail. The trail climbs about 600 feet in the next mile. Pass across a talus slope. The woods are mostly silver fir here with some lodgepole pines. The trail gets a little steeper. Pass more talus with vine maple turning in the fall. There’s a view of Mount Hood. The trail switchbacks on talus and heads up past noble firs, silver firs and lodgepole pines. There’s a view through the trees down to Bear Lake and over to Mount Saint Helens. Come out on another talus slope and reach the Defiance Cutoff Trail.

From here, it's only 1/4 mile and another 100 feet to the summit of Mount Defiance. Head up the talus past copses of subalpine fir and mountain hemlock with some lodgepole pines to reach the summit with its communication towers. Find a rocky lookout and enjoy the views to the Washington Cascades, down to the Columbia River, and back down the Oregon Cascades to Mount Jefferson.


  • Green Trails Maps: Hood River, OR #430
  • Green Trails Maps: Columbia River Gorge - West #428S
  • Geo-Graphics: Trails of the Columbia Gorge
  • National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map: Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area
  • Discover Your Northwest: Mt. Hood National Forest North
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Hood River Ranger District
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Mt. Hood National Forest

Regulations or restrictions, etc

  • none

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • 50 Hiking Trails: Portland and Northwest Oregon by Don & Roberta Lowe
  • 105 Virtual Hikes of the Mt. Hood National Forest by Northwest Hiker
  • Day Hiking: Columbia River Gorge by Craig Romano
  • 100 Hikes in Northwest Oregon and Southwest Washington by William L. Sullivan
  • Oregon's Columbia River Gorge: Camping & Hiking by Tom Stienstra & Sean Patrick Hill
  • Oregon Hiking by Sean Patrick Hill

More Links


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.