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Nesmith Point Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

TKO put tools to trail here.png
View from Nesmith Point (Jeff Statt)
Tiger lily (Lilium columbianum) along the Nesmith Point Trail (bobcat)
Hiker making a traverse on the Nesmith Point Trail (bobcat)
Beacon Rock, Hamilton Mountain, and Birkenfeld Mountain from the Nesmith Point Trail (bobcat)
Abandoned outhouse, now collapsed, at Nesmith Point (Jeff Statt)
Map of Nesmith Point area with GPS track
  • Start point: John B Yeon TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Nesmith Point
  • Trail log : Trail Log
  • Hike type: Out and back
  • Distance: 9.8 miles round trip
  • High point: 3,872 feet
  • Elevation gain: 3920 feet
  • Difficulty: Difficult
  • Seasons: Mid-spring - mid-fall
  • Family Friendly: No
  • Backpackable: Yes
  • Crowded: No


Hike Description

Closed since the 2017 Eagle Creek Fire, the Nesmith Point Trail reopened in October 2022 due to the hard work of Trailkeepers of Oregon volunteers and our partners! TKO thanks all who were involved in this project, especially our donors and volunteers. Please visit the Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area's website for the most recent trail conditions, status and information..

So you think you want to climb mountains, huh? This climb is a good stamina builder, and it's often used by mountain climbers in training. You'll have some great views along the way, and you'll burn a few carbs too. The destination is an old lookout site atop the red cinder cone of a Boring volcano, intruded into Columbia River Basalts less than a million years ago. The Nesmith volcano was sheared in half by the Bretz (Missoula) Floods at the end of the last Ice Age, resulting in an unstable lower slope that gives rise to frequent, and sometimes massive, landslides. Along the way to the viewpoint, you'll get views to Cascade peaks and Gorge features across the river in Washington, encounter some small groves of impressive old growth, and come close to the boundary of the Bull Run Watershed Management Area, which is closed to the public.

This hike starts in the John B Yeon State Park parking lot. This place might be the highest-theft lot in the Gorge. Leave your valuables at home! You'll start up the trail, pass an old water tank, switchback, and come to a trail junction, all in the first 50 steps. Take the right trail fork, marked as the Nesmith Point Trail #428.

The first mile of the trail doesn't climb too steeply. The 2017 Eagle Creek Fire swept right through here, much of it canopy burn. A dense understory of sword fern, trailing blackberry, cherry, thimbleberry, and three species of maple (big-leaf, Douglas, vine) is recovering under both dead and living conifers. The trail turns left to rise to a switchback and then traverses towards a steep-sided rubble gully. You'll head up above the gully to the former trail junction with the Gorge Trail #400. (The section of the 400 west of here was completely wiped out by a 1996 landslide and is now overgrown with slide alder and obliterated by debris flows.) You'll get a view down the gully of Table Mountain and Greenleaf Peak.

The trail switchbacks at the junction, crosses a scree slope, and passes along a basalt face, offering glimpses through the burned forest to the Columbia River below. There will be two more switchbacks up to a pyramidal outcropping, and then the trail turns up a sheltered, steep-sided valley. Across the way, you'll see the scorched, lava-layered cliffs of Nesmith Ridge. A bald eagle or two may be riding the air waves overhead. The trail crosses the defile and switchbacks, offering a view to Beacon Rock and Hardy Ridge. Seven more switchbacks take you up past three gnarly Douglas-firs that were killed in the 2017 fire. The next switchback leads to to a traverse across a basalt face, and you'll get your first sighting of Mount Adams. Five additional switchbacks take you up a scree slope as the defile narrows. There's a short, steep reroute here to avoid an unstable slope. Another six switchbacks among fire-killed conifers opens up clearer views, with Beacon Rock and Hamilton Mountain below, Silver Star Mountain on the horizon, the crown of Mount Saint Helens to the northwest, and even the snowy summit of Mount Rainier. The switchbacks don't end quite yet as there are seven more before you make a traverse and another switchback. A number of trees in this area survived the fire, and you'll pass a large noble fir and several cedars. After passing below a rock face, the trail arrives at Corky's Corner, the beginning of the old Nesmith Ridge user route down to McCord Creek.

The Nesmith Point Trail makes a right turn here and ascends while offering views to the long, severely burned spine of Wauneka Ridge. Soon, you'll enter a healthy, dense woodland of noble and silver fir which only experienced a light ground fire. You'll pass a pile of talus and reach a 90-degree turn in the trail where new signs are posted. This is the saddle between Nesmith Point and Palmer Peak. Shortly, the trail then takes you to the Nesmith Point Trail-Nesmith Point Road Junction at the old lookout road. Turn right on the road and hike about 500 feet to the end of the road and the location of an old fire lookout above the steep, reddish cinder slope of the Nesmith Point volcano, an eastern representative of the Boring Lava Field. Trees have grown up here, but you'll still have a good view north towards Silver Star Mountain. For a better view, continue down a small path past the lookout site and the old lookout outhouse, now collapsed. A short distance down the slope, there's a great lookout with a view of the entire gorge. Soak in the sights and return the way you came.

Climbers setting out for Nesmith Point in winter and early spring should watch trip reports for snow levels and trail conditions. While the lower part of the Nesmith Point Trail is navigable in moderate snow, it can disappear altogether on the upper reaches, causing hikers to misdirect straight up a ravine or simply kick-step a convenient path or two uphill. Route-finding skills and good judgment are essential.


Nesmith Point is named for James Willis Nesmith, a Canadian born lawyer and politician who moved to Oregon in 1843. He served as a captain in the militia forces during the Rogue River War in 1853 and the Yakima Indian War in 1855. From 1857 to 1859 he was superintendent of Indian Affairs for Oregon and Washington Territories and later was elected U.S. Senator from Oregon (1861-1867) after the state achieved statehood.

In March, 1915, the Oregon Historical Society working with the Mazamas and the Oregon Geographic Board, named the peak Mount Nesmith, noting that it was "the highest point immediately adjacent to the Columbia River between Portland and The Dalles." The naming was done "in honor of Oregon's pioneer Indian fighter and Senator Colonel James W. Nesmith, a pioneer of 1843."


  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • Green Trails Maps: Bridal Veil, OR #428 and Bonneville Dam, OR #429
  • 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
  • National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map: Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Zigzag Ranger District
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Mt. Hood National Forest

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • None

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • 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
  • 70 Virtual Hikes of the Columbia River Gorge by Northwest Hiker
  • Hiking the Columbia River Gorge by Russ Schneider, revised by Jim Yuskavitch
  • 100 Hikes in Northwest Oregon & Southwest Washington by William L. Sullivan
  • Columbia Gorge Hikes: 42 Scenic Hikes by Don & Roberta Lowe
  • 35 Hiking Trails: Columbia River Gorge by Don & Roberta Lowe
  • 50 Hiking Trails: Portland & Northwest Oregon by Don & Roberta Lowe
  • 70 Hiking Trails: Northern Oregon Cascades by Don & Roberta Lowe
  • Oregon's Columbia River Gorge: Camping & Hiking by Tom Stienstra & Sean Patrick Hill
  • Oregon Hiking by Sean Patrick Hill
  • Pacific Northwest Hiking by Scott Leonard & Sean Patrick Hill
  • Oregon State Parks: A Complete Recreation Guide by Jan Bannan

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.