Dalles Mountain Ranch

  • Level: Easy (Beginner level: challenging)
  • Length: ~5.5 miles
  • Elevation: >1,000 ft. gain
  • Type: loop
  • Open: all year, peak wildflower time is mid-April to mid-May
  • Permit: Discover Pass or $5
  • Drive time from Portland: 1h30m
  • Google map: “crawford oaks trailhead”
  • Features: Eastern Gorge, spring wildflowers, waterfall

Every day that has passed in the week-and-a-half since I did this trail, I’ve felt like I was hoarding it. It was so unbelievably beautiful. You must go before the flowers go to seed and it gets too damn hot. There’s very little shade and it’s been so gross in Portland that I wasn’t even thinking about sunscreen yet and got pretty badly burnt. WEAR SUNSCREEN.

I got the route from Oregon Hikers, which means I got turned around at least twice due to their overly detailed, long-winded, yet still somehow incorrect directions and the stats feel exaggerated.

From the Crawford Oaks Trailhead, you’ll see Eightmile Creek Falls immediately. Avoid bushwacking up to it in the spring and summer months due to poison oak. Trust me, I tried. I may just try walking through the creek next time. Take the trail to left of the bathroom, an old road, for about a mile, eventually passing the top of Eightmile Creek Falls and a farm gate to the left.

Poison oak! Stay away from this shit! There are dif varieties, look for shiny green and red leaves of three. Sometimes, the leaves are lobed. “Leaves of three, let them be.”
Old road at the trailhead
The top of Eightmile Creek Falls

Bear right on the Vista Loop:

I know those flowers are enticing, but bear right anyway. You’ll actually be coming back the other way on the loop.

If you think this is magical, just wait.

The Columbia. Always roaring through my heart.

Follow all trail markers saying “Vista Loop.” After rounding to the other side of the big hill the trail seems to be circling, you’ll start seeing markers that say “Ranch Route.” Don’t worry!

The first of two signs for the Ranch Route, but you are still on the Vista Loop!

Just when you start wondering if you’re really still on the Vista Loop you’ll find this trailmarker. Turn left and follow markers for 8 mile Creek.

The trail kinda zig zags around at this point. I had already abandoned the Oregon Hikers directions, so I wasn’t entirely sure where I was going, but followed my intuition.

It’s all so fucking romantic.

As I walked along the creek, away from the direction of the trailhead, I started bugging a little, but then the trail mercifully crossed this spot and the return became super clear.

Enjoy traipsing among the wildflowers. When you get back to that first trailmarker for the Vista Loop, veer right and follow the old road back to the trailhead.

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The things I have already had to put up with today…

A post shared by Jenny Bruso (@unlikelyhikers) (@jennybruso) on

My sorrows were no match for yesterday's hike. . #unlikelyhiker #forceofnature #itakethelongway

A post shared by Jenny Bruso (@unlikelyhikers) (@jennybruso) on

All of my purple life.

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