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Starvation Ridge Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

View to Wind Mountain from an oak meadow, Starvation Ridge Trail (bobcat)
Mt. Adams from the upper talus slope, Starvation Ridge Trail (bobcat)
Talus slope at the head of Starvation Creek, Starvation Ridge Trail (bobcat)
Warren Lake, below Mt. Defiance (bobcat)
The Starvation Ridge Trail in winter (Jeff Smith)
Crowdsourced GPS "average" track (awetir)
  • Start point: Starvation Creek TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Warren Lake
  • Trail Log: Trail Log
  • Hike Type:Out and Back
  • Distance: 8.8 miles
  • Elevation gain: 3855 feet
  • High point: 3,845 feet
  • Difficulty: Difficult
  • Seasons: May through October
  • Family Friendly: No
  • Backpackable: Yes
  • Crowded: No
Falling
Poison Oak

Contents

Hike Description

NOTICE: As of July 2018, the Starvation Creek Cutoff Trail #414B had been closed due to a dangerous slide. You will not be able to use this trail at the beginning and end of the hike; instead keep hiking to the Mount Defiance Trail, and make a left at the Mount Defiance-Starvation Ridge Trail Junction.

The Starvation Ridge Trail is one of the most relentless hikes around: It climbs 3,800 feet in less than three miles. To make matters even more interesting, the climbing isn't consistent. The trail builders seemed determined to stay directly on top of the ridge, creating pleasant, level ridge-top sections and knee-breaking climbs where the ridge gets steeper. Much of the hike is in the Mark O. Hatfield Wilderness. At the beginning, you are rewarded by clifftop vistas from powerline pylon perches. Higher up, open talus slopes offer views to Mount Adams. You'll segue seamlessly with the Mitchell Point Trail and arrive at your destination - little Warren Lake with its several campsites.

Begin hiking west next to the freeway on the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail. Get views to the the twin microdioritic intrusions of Shellrock Mountain and Wind Mountain as well as Dog Mountain right across the river. Enter shady maple woods, and look down to see markers dedicating this restored section of the Historic Columbia River Highway. In spring, candy flower blooms profusely alongside the paved surface. When you reach the Historic Columbia River Highway-Starvation Ridge Cutoff Trail Junction, make a left.

You'll be ascending 0.4 miles up this steep connector. A short set of switchbacks takes you to a traverse of a dangerous slide, the only truly sketchy section of this hike. Switchback up through a thimbleberry thicket and rise steeply. Then hike up from the nose of a ridge and a hanging meadow fringed by oak trees to the Starvation Ridge-Starvation Ridge Cutoff Trail Junction. Go left, and make two switchbacks through a steep oak meadow. A viewpoint here is partially blocked by encroaching brush. Six switchbacks take you in and out of forest and steep grassy meadow, getting ever expanding views west down the Columbia River Gorge. Exit the woods, and make three switchbacks up to hike under a powerline pylon to reenter the Douglas-fir/big-leaf maple forest and switchback again. Another three switchbacks take you up an open meadow that blooms with yarrow, balsamroot, gilia, wild onion, and lupine in the spring. You'll arrive at a powerline pylon that hosts an active osprey nest and offers commanding vistas. Dog Mountain is broadside on, and you can see west to the twin humps of Shellrock Mountain and Wind Mountain.

From here, continue up the ridge to pass through a wood of stunted oaks to enter a Douglas-fir forest where poison oak overhangs the trail. At about this point, you're entering the Mark O. Hatfield Wilderness although new signage has not been put up since the boundaries were extended north in 2009. Pass above a steep oak meadow with lupine, blue field gilia, and taper-tip onions as springtime blooms. You'll hit short level stretches of trail on this narrow ridge that lead to short steep rises. Thread through some venerable Douglas-firs as you ascend. Wind up a narrow crest; a viewpoint on the left offers a vista towards the upper meadows of Dog Mountain as well as Wind Mountain and Mount Saint Helens. Come to a talus slope where pikas may squeak at you in alarm. Keep ascending through a lush thicket above another talus bowl. You'll note paintbrush, alumroot, and heliotrope blooming here in late spring. Get a view of Mount Adams, and pass below a "headless" Douglas-fir whose main branch has taken up the role of new "head" or trunk. Make a long traverse, and then hike eight rising switchbacks before the trail traverses steeply up under large Douglas-firs above the headwaters bowl of Starvation Creek. Cross a steep talus slope that offers an outstanding view to Mount Adams, and leave the Mark O. Hatfield Wilderness as you enter a partial clearcut. Pass through a vine maple thicket, and come to the signposted Starvation Ridge-Mitchell Point Trail Junction. The western vestige of the Mt. Mitchell Trail disappears into the young conifers, but soon winds up at an abandoned logging road which connects with the roads and trails at the Post Canyon Mountain Bike Trail system.

You're now on the Mitchell Point Trail. As you head up, look back to get a view of Mount Adams and the summit of Mount Rainier. The clearcut is fast regenerating with young Douglas-firs and noble firs. Bear-grass blooms here in late spring. Wind up into unlogged forest where tall Douglas-firs shade the trail. You'll see the end of a logging road down to your left and pass through a vine maple thicket. The gradient of the route eases as you hike above the rim of the bowl that feeds Warren Creek and get a view up to the summit of Mount Defiance. Note a selectively logged forest to your left as you descend gently to the Mitchell Point-Warren Lake Trail Junction. To the left, you can see the bollards at the old trailhead for Warren Lake; the new trailhead is about 0.4 miles south of the junction.

Head right from the junction to reenter wilderness, and make a level traverse through vanilla leaf, bunchberry, and arnica. Descend past a campsite, and hike through a lush understory of huckleberry, arnica, and Oregon grape. You'll arrive at the shore of Warren Lake, where there are several campsites.

If you're staying the night, you can make a short loop from here to the summit of Mount Defiance. Day hikers who want to summit Mount Defiance should follow the Mount Defiance-Starvation Ridge Loop Hike.


Maps

  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • Starvation Ridge Trail #414 (USFS)
  • Mitchell Point Trail #417 (USFS)
  • 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

Regulations or restrictions, etc

  • Restrooms and picnic area at trailhead

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Afoot & Afield: Portland/Vancouver by Douglas Lorain
  • Hiking the Columbia River Gorge by Russ Schneider; revised by Jim Yuskavitch
  • 70 Virtual Hikes of the Columbia River Gorge by Northwest Hiker
  • 35 Hiking Trails: Columbia River Gorge by Don & Roberta Lowe
  • Oregon Hiking by Sean Patrick Hill

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.