For some, spring is the best time of the year. The snow—usually—has stopped falling, and if you're willing to put some miles in on your hiking boots or trail running shoes, you can take mom to see great vistas with some added color in the form of wildflowers.
- Chris Miller
- A trillium sprouted near Hood River this spring.
The Columbia River Gorge probably has the highest number of wildflower hikes, as it gets a lot of sun and is at lower elevation than Central Oregon. A good hike is the Rowena Plateau near Mayer State Park, about 10 minutes west of The Dalles. The 2-mile roundtrip has great vistas of the Columbia River and hikers can see balsamroot, bachelor buttons and white yarrow.
But don't worry, wildflower lovers, as you can still get some great spots close to Bend as well.
Scout Camp Loop—located on Bureau of Land Management land just north of Terrebonne, is a good place to see wildflowers in the spring. It's a 2.2-mile loop hike with views of the Deschutes River canyon—and wildflowers. During a good spring, hikers can see goldthread, yellow bell and bitterroot.
Iron Mountain Trail—located on the other side of the Cascades—is another great springtime hike that's well worth the drive. The area is home to more than 300 different types of wildflowers, including flax, penstemon, yarrow and saxifrage, which are all popular with hummingbirds—a bonus! The hike is a 5-mile loop that you can add on another 1.4-mile loop that leads to a nice lookout platform. It's located near Sweet Home in the Willamette National Forest.
- Flicker.com/Jeff Hollett
- The sunrise lights up wildflowers at Rowena Crest in the Columbia River Gorge.
Green Lakes Trail—off Cascades Lakes Highway (which should open in mid-May) can be another great spot for flower viewing. Depending on the snowpack, the flowers can come anytime from the spring to summer. Magenta paintbrush, lupine and Lewis's monkeyflower generally bloom in late summer. The moderate trail is 4.5 to 6 miles, and remember to keep dogs on a leash. A word of warning: This area can get crowded—so much so that next year, the National Forest will launch its quota and permit system on trails, including this one.
If you're feeling more adventurous, drive to the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument near the small town of Mitchell, Ore. The Clarno Unit trails have Mariposa lilies, orange globe mallow, purple sage and more. The five Painted Hills trails usually have golden bee plant, hedgehog cactus and bitterroot through May.
Really though, the Columbia River Gorge is something of a mecca of wildflower hiking in Oregon and Washington. It would take an entire section in the Source to describe all the areas to go. Our recommendation is to get one of the many books on hiking in Oregon. To get mom going for the season, buy her an Oregon hiking guidebook, such as William L. Sullivan's "100 Hikes in Northwest Oregon" or "100 Hikes in the Central Oregon Cascades" as part of her Mother's Day gift. Sullivan's books have trail descriptions, and often describe when and which flowers are blooming.