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Warren Lake to Mount Defiance Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Warren Lake (bobcat)
Bear Lake from the Mt. Defiance Trail (bobcat)
Cardwell's penstemon (Penstemon cardwellii), Mt. Defiance Trail (bobcat)
Mt. Hood from Mt. Defiance (bobcat)
The hike to Mt. Defiance via Warren Lake (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: USFS/Caltopo
  • Start point: Warren Lake TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Mount Defiance
  • Hike Type: Lollipop loop
  • Distance: 4.7 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1340 feet
  • High Point: 4,959 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: Summer into fall
  • Family Friendly: Yes, for older kids
  • Backpackable: Yes
  • Crowded: No



A long drive but a short loop allows you to experience some of the high country features of the Columbia River Gorge: dwarf montane forest, lots of talus, a wilderness lake, and views from the highest point in the Gorge, Mount Defiance. If you have younger children, this can even be an overnight backpack, with a very short hike (less than half a mile) in to Warren Lake to set up camp, and then a loop with lighter packs up to the Mount Defiance summit.

Across from the parking pullout, there's an information kiosk at a bermed road. Hike this old track under a shady canopy of Douglas-fir and mountain hemlock, with chinquapin, vine maple, and huckleberry in the understory. The trail drops gently to cross an abandoned logging road, and then swings left to pass a row of wooden bollards at the old Warren Lake Trailhead. A short distance later, you'll arrive at the multi-signed Mitchell Point-Warren Lake Trail Junction.

Keep left here to enter the Mark O. Hatfield Wilderness and make a level traverse through vanilla leaf, bunchberry, and arnica. Begin a gradual descent to pass a campsite and walk through a lush understory of huckleberry, arnica, and Oregon grape to reach the shore of Warren Lake. There are a handful of campsites at the small lake and ripe huckleberries in August. The trail rises through Douglas-fir woods before reaching a vine maple skirt at the base of a talus slope. Rise steeply. A diversion to the left will give you a view over Warren Lake. Several large cairns mark the route as you continue to ascend. The trail then traverses through stunted trees and offers glimpses of Mount Saint Helens, Mount Rainier, and Mount Adams. Reach the well-marked Mount Defiance-Mitchell Point Trail Junction in an area of lodgepole pines.

Make a left here, and rise about a quarter of a mile to the Mount Defiance-Mount Defiance Cutoff Trail North Junction; in 2018, this junction was marked only with temporary signs. To make the loop over the summit of Mount Defiance, stay right here. Cross a talus slope to get another view of the snow-capped Washington volcanoes. Between the river and Mount Adams, you can make out the top of Dog Mountain, Augspurger Mountain, Big Huckleberry Mountain, and the spine of Indian Heaven. Wind up in a shady montane forest, and begin a traverse of a lengthy talus slope. Look down on Bear Lake and across to Green Point Mountain. Mount Saint Helens can be seen to the northwest. Reach the Mount Defiance-Mount Defiance Cutoff Trail South Junction, with its broken sign down on the ground, and go left.

Hike up the talus slope, getting a magnificent view of Mount Hood to the south. Clumps of common juniper and Cardwell's penstemon have found purchase on the jumbled andesite. The trail reenters the woods and arrives at the summit with its radio tower and fenced compound. To your right, you can find a perch above a slope of large boulders. Gawk at the expansive vista towards Mount Hood and east to the Hood River Valley for as long as you like. Views to the north and west can be obtained by walking around the summit area.

For the return section of the loop, hike around the communication compound, and find the Mt. Defiance Trail leading down into the trees. Reach the maintenance road, and resume the trail at a High Voltage sign. Continue descending through a huckleberry understory under a canopy of mountain hemlock, noble fir, and silver fir. Cross the service road again, pass a wilderness sign, and keep dropping on a rocky tread. When you reach the Mount Defiance-Mount Defiance Cutoff Trail North Junction, stay right and descend the quarter mile to the Mount Defiance-Mitchell Point Trail Junction. Make a right here on the Mitchell Point Trail to hike down to Warren Lake and out to your vehicle.

Another option is to simply walk back to the Warren Lake Trailhead by turning right on the service road below the Mount Defiance summit rather than retracing your steps on the trail via Warren Lake.

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • none


  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • Warren Lake Trail #417A (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
  • 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

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • One Night Wilderness: Portland by Douglas Lorain

More Links

Page 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.