Mt. Defiance

  • Region: Columbia Gorge
  • Length: 12 miles
  • Min Elev: 130 ft
  • Max Elev: 4950 ft
  • Season: Spring/Summer/Fall

Submitted By:

Joe Swank


take I-84 East to the starvation Creek Trailhead just west of Hood River. There is no exit from I-84 west. From the parking lot head west along the Freeway to find the trailheads.

Trail Description

This is quite a hike! It is definitely a challenging 12 miles when you factor in the steep elevation gains and losses, the down is probably worse than the up! But there are some incredible views from the top. Supposedly you can see all the mountains from the ridges above 4000 feet, we however chose to go on a rainy day in October and basically saw clouds the entire day. Which, I do admit, has a certain appeal.
Aside from the views of the mountain from the top there are some of the best vantage points in the whole gorge at the lower elevations on the way up. We expected this trail to be relatively uncrowded but actually ran into several people on a rainy day in October, so I would suspect that is actually does see a fair amount of traffic.
The hike starts walking along the freeway for a quarter to half a mile before you start trudging straight up the walls of the gorge. There are a couple of different ways to proceed. We chose to head up the western ridge of Warren creek, and then down the starvation creek trail, they are equally steep so either direction will work if you are trying to make a loop out of it. Within the first mile you gain significant elevation, but it is still hard to feel separated form the freeway until you reach about 2500 feet because of the constant noise from the trains and cars. But shortly after this you come into some skree fields at 3500 feet and get some spectacular views and isolation for the rest of the way up. The top is a little disappointing as you arrive to a mess of radio antenna and cross a service road a couple of times. Especially since I would imagine that you would have these same views lower down the mountain, but you do always just have to go to the top…
The trail down passed Warren Lake which is quite impressive and has what looked like a few choice camping sites if you chose to connect this trail with another along the gorge and make a longer trip out of it.
Overall it is an arduous trail with worthy rewards in terms of views and scenery, however, it is a little difficult to get away from traces of civilization with the noise from the freeway, power lines, and the radio antennae.


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I have hiked this trail a few times and am of the mind that the Starvation Ridge Trail (east route) is the better way to go up. It's steeper, but shorter, therefore making the trip down the west side a little easier on the knees. There seem to be fewer rocks and roots on the downhill (west route).

Anyone going on a climbing trip can use this hike as an excellent conditioner. Beyond Warren Lake, in the first part of the Starvation Ridge Trail, there is now a clearcut that you have to pick your way through.

Scenery: 4

Difficulty: 5

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