Memaloose Hills Wildflower Hike
Every spring, wildflowers take over the eastern side of the Columbia River Gorge. There are plenty of hikes to check out the colorful slopes, but our favorite is Memaloose Hills: it’s dog-friendly, fairly easy, uncrowded, and you don’t need a permit to park, either.
Since this is usually our first hike of the season, something like Dog Mountain is a bit intense. Memaloose is the perfect hike to get us back in shape: altogether it’s about 5 miles and 900 feet of elevation gain, if you start at the (unmarked) Rest Area trailhead.
You’ll see more variety right after the Overlook: red Indian paintbrush, purple lupine, and yellow balsamroot. As you get higher, the balsamroot really takes over, and once you get to the top of Marsh Hill, it’s everywhere!
The wildflowers are usually present April through May, but it’s worth it to try and catch the hills at peak bloom. My suggestion is to check out the map and trip reports at OregonWildflowers.org. I’ll also usually do a search for Memaloose on Instagram; you can get a pretty good idea of where the flowers are at by looking at other people’s photos.
Things to watch out for:
- Ticks – The Pacific Northwest is a “low risk” area for Lyme disease, but we still want to prevent bites. Since Rigby is short-coated and the little buggers are fairly easy to spot, we skip the more intense creams that kill ticks (like Frontline), and instead opt for a “repelling” tick collar, and a natural eucalyptus spray (that may not actually work, but she hasn’t been bitten yet!). If you do find an attached tick, remove it as quickly as possible, pulling straight and steady with tweezers or your fingers.
- Rattlesnakes – The only poisonous snakes you’ll find in Oregon are two subspecies of rattlesnakes. Keep your dog on leash and on the trail to prevent an encounter, but if a bite does happen, don’t waste time with folk remedies like sucking the venom out. Most dogs survive with prompt professional treatment, so keep your pup calm and get to a vet immediately.
- Poison Oak – There’s a lot of poison oak on the trail between the Rest Stop and the Overlook. Dogs aren’t nearly as susceptible as we are, but it’s still important to wash the oils off of their fur if they brush up against the plant (this vet recommends using Dawn). If you notice your dog is particularly itchy, get to the vet for some topical treatment.
After the hike, we stopped off at Hood River for some food. I’m used to Portland, where most all restaurants with outdoor seating allow dogs, but Hood River required some sleuthing.
Dog-friendly food & drink
We ended up at Solstice Wood Fire Cafe, which had a nice pet-friendly patio and sunroom.
Some other options we’ll check out next time:
- Double Mountain Brewery – If you want to visit a brewery in town, this seems to be one of the only ones with any dog-friendly seating (a couple of sidewalk tables).
- Naked Winery – If wine’s more your thing, the folks at Naked Winery will let you bring your dog into their tasting room!
- Pine St Bakery – Your pup can eat with you at the sidewalk tables (next to Lucky, the dog statue), and they serve up homemade dog biscuits.
After we ate, we walked a few blocks to The Spit, a sandbar that juts into the middle of the river where dogs can play off-leash.
Three sides are surrounded by water, obviously, and while the fourth side is unfenced, we felt okay letting Rigby loose since it was reasonably far away from any traffic.
Her recall has also been really great lately!
The size of the sandbar changes with the water levels, so (going off of photos I’ve seen) the water gets much shallower later in the summer, and more land opens up to explore. It also looks like it gets much more crowded, so I appreciated the clouds!
Finally, we walked up and down Oak Street, Hood River’s main shopping strip. We stopped by a friendly little pet store, Gorge Dog, and I finally picked up a Hol-ee Roller for Rigby.
I recently joined the Canine Enrichment Facebook group, which has so many great ideas! A popular one is to wrap treats in strips of fleece, and stuff them inside the Hol-ee Roller. So long as your dog isn’t prone to eating fabric, this is a great puzzle that combines treats, chase, and the fun of disemboweling a stuffed toy.
Do you have any favorite spots to take your pup in the eastern Gorge? Share in the comments below!