written by Bronte Dod | photo by Nina Pollock
New snow may still be accumulating in the mountains around Oregon, but soon enough it will melt away and leave meadows of wildflowers in its wake. If you can’t wait until summer, though, these lower-elevation hikes are dotted with wildflowers earlier in the season.
Columbia River Gorge: Sevenmile Hill
The Columbia River Gorge is a popular region for hiking during the spring. Like other trails in the area, the Sevenmile Hill trail leads to a viewpoint overlooking the Gorge and the Columbia River. The views will take some climbing to reach, so the hike is best for families with older children. Wildflowers are usually in season in May and June. The trailhead is more than an hour’s drive from Portland, but there are few places to find seemingly endless fields of wildflowers.
Distance: 4.8-mile loop
Coast: Kings Mountain Trail
At the summit of the Kings Mountain Trail, you should be able to see Mt. Hood and Mt. Adams. The trail begins off Highway 6 between Portland and Tillamook, and winds through coastal forests. Expect a lot of switchbacks as you gain almost 3,000 feet in elevation. Throughout the hike you’ll find wildflowers with names like phantom orchid, paintbrush and beargrass.
Distance: 5 miles round trip
Willamette Valley: Mount Pisgah
Mount Pisgah and the surrounding area in the Willamette Valley have an abundance of wildflowers in the spring. The 1.5-mile hike to the summit is also easier than other climbs to see Oregon’s wildflowers, making it an ideal hike for families with young children. After the hike, you can also explore the 209-acre living tree museum at the base of the mountain.
Distance: 3 miles round trip
Southern Oregon: Red Buttes
Tucked away in the Rogue River and Klamath National Forests, the Red Buttes of Southern Oregon offer wildflower views without the crowds. Because of the remote location that doesn’t draw a lot of day hikers, expect to hike through slightly overgrown trails. There’s a good turnaround point at a springs a little less than 5 miles into the trail.
Distance: 10 miles round trip
Central Oregon: Scout Camp Loop
Spring hiking in Central Oregon means you’re bound to run across balsamroot and other wild desert flowers. The hike follows a ridge and canyon along the Deschutes River. While the hike is short, there are a lot of steep climbs and rocks and boulders that you’ll have to navigate around. The hike doesn’t offer much shade, so spring is the best time to hike here, before the weather gets too hot.
Distance: 2.3 miles round trip