Summary: The easy start to this hike may confuse those who heard “this is the hardest hike in the Gorge” but do not fret, as you turn towards the uphill section of this hike they will soon forget the beautiful waterfalls and noisy traffic along the interstate. This trail is considered by many as a harder climb than if you were to summit Mt. hood. I have been told by some that climbers of Mt. Hood regularly use this as a training trail. I would agree it fits the bill for a long slow uphill workout. Once you reach the 4100ft. mark you get a breathtaking view to the north of the Cascade Range, the Columbia Gorge, and all the smaller hills that dot the horizon. The rest of the trail is in the trees and offers little to do but scan the trail ahead. The trail intersects with the Starvation Ridge trail just West of Warren Lake, a popular return route. Once on top you have an unobstructed view of Mt Hood to the South.
Trailhead: To find the trailhead you must follow I-84 to exit 55 the Starvation Creek State Park rest area. If you are coming westbound there is no exit and you have to go past to the Cascade locks exit and backtrack. Once at the parking lot the trail begins by taking you along the shoulder of I-84 (behind a fence) for almost a mile before the uphill begins. Along this first mile is where you will see waterfalls and creeks. Do not be fooled by this easy beginning, as once the trail turns uphill it climbs relentlessly. (Lat:45.68843 Lon:-121.69026)
Trail Guides for Mt. Defiance Trail-Columbia Gorge:
Hiking the Columbia River Gorge
by Russ Schneider (Falcon Guide)
100 Hikes in Northwest Oregon
by William L. Sullivan (Navillus Press)
Best Seasons: Fall, Spring, Summer,
User Groups: Hikers,
Ranger Contact: Hood River Ranger Station 6780 Highway 35 Mt. hood-Parkdale, OR (541) 352-6002
Localhikes Reporter: This hike was submitted by Drew Furnia, who has posted 23 other hikes on this site. To visit this reporters web site, click here.
Trail Reviews Page 1 of 9 Submit your own review
Reviewed by Molly on 5/15/2013
I knew this was going to be tough, so I was not shocked. It does keep going and going, but it is definitely do-able if you hike occasionally and are at a decent level of fitness. If you like the intensity of Dog Mountain but want much more, then this is the hike for you. However, it is not as scenic, especially today. I was also surprised there was snow at about 4000 feet. My feet hurt a lot right now, but otherwise I'm okay. It took about 6 hours and I'll do it again.
Reviewed by CMM on 4/21/2013
First time doing this hike, and unfortunately, we were in the clouds by roughly 3000 ft, so can't comment on the views. Trail was in good condition, top 1000 ft or so still has snow. You know the trail is steep when it takes longer to get back down than to make the ascent. Thought we climbed at a good pace, but even with very few breaks, it was a 9 hour round trip (up Defiance, down Starvation). For training, and just to say you've conquered it, it's great. For anything else, it's long, brutal and your knees will hate you.
Reviewed by Dave T on 8/13/2012
Hiked this on Sunday 8/11. Got started at 7:30am to beat the heat. This was definitely the most difficult hike my daughter and I have done to date. We did this for the challenge and got that and more. The ascents were steep in several places getting the pulse up and burning the quads. The trail conditions also made this more difficult. There were several logs across the trail (but maintenance cut notches to make them passable). Some parts of the trail had loose dirt and gravel and the rocky sections were tough on the ankles. We made it to the top in a little over 3 hours. The views up and at the top are good. The trek down was slow (on purpose) as we did not want to slide. That took little over 2 1/2 hours. I would not do this again.
Reviewed by JF on 7/20/2012
This was by far the best workout among the hikes I've completed in the Gorge. However, I was very disappointed with the lack of view from the top in comparison to all of the other beautiful, yet less strenuous, hikes. And the bees/insects invading your lunch space at the top was a big negative. Won't be doing this one again, but was able to cross it off my list.
Reviewed by Tony on 7/14/2012
The second time I did this really tough hike. The view and challenge were worth doing it again. Nice and clear with great views of Hood, Adams, and St. Helens at the rock clearing at 4100 ft. The estimation of 7 hours up and down is somewhat optimistic. Took me and my GF about 8.5 hours with a decent rest up top and many short rests on the way up. The very top might disappoint some with a big radiotower up there, but there is probably no better view of Mt. Hood to be found anywhere in the Gorge and if you go all the way up you at least met the challenge and were not defied by this well-named "hill". Expect sore legs for the next day or two after the hike, and expect sore knees on the way down. Bring plenty of water (3-4 liters p per).
Reviewed by Seth C on 9/5/2011
I thought it was a great hike, yet my hiking company will never go again. And as a reminder to all Please take a flashlight when hiking this trail as it may take longer than you think. I had to run down the last several hundred feet back to my truck and get more flashlights for another group of 5 or so hikers that were crawling down the trail. I returned to them with lights and all was well BUT pack correctly for a known tuff hike. I loved the hike and the weather was warm, views were great , trail was good.
Reviewed by Ian on 8/7/2011
This trail has no mercy for about the 3 1/2 hours getting to the top, but once up there the views on a clear day are amazing. I just got back from this hike and I know I'll be sore tomorrow but I'll go back sometime soon hopefully. Just need to find more people to go with because everyone else that went today is never going back....
Reviewed by Viewer on 7/4/2011
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