Hike Distance: 9.0 miles Yearly Hike Distance: 671.4 miles
Elevation Gain: 2055 feet Yearly Elevation Gain: 89040 feet
I apologize for the delay in this trip report. It’s a bit difficult to wade through a huge number of pictures and narrow it down to something manageable. I therefore tend to submit the trip reports that are more easily generated.
This is one of those hikes that require a long drive but is so worth it! We headed out to the Dalles Ranch parking area, which is located at the Columbia Hills State Park. It was an extremely windy day (gusts up to 30+ mph) but there was no threat of any rain. It was forecast to be rainy, where we lived, which is one reason we drove out here. The other reason for driving here is that the Balsam Root flowers are at peak bloom and out in profusion! Lastly, the view north from Stacker Butte is incredible, with a stunning view of Mt. Adams when there are no clouds!
So, the first part of this hike is walking up a gravel road towards a gate where another parking area is located. The reason we started at the Dalles Ranch parking area is that the parking area near the gate is usually full (only about seven parking spaces). The gate at this upper parking area has always been locked. The road is what hikers walk on to get to Stacker Butte.
The road walk from the lower to upper parking areas has some outstanding views. To the west is majestic Mt. Hood, but we could only see the base of the mountain due to some high clouds. The rolling hills are quite stunning in this area, and the Balsam Root flowers painted some of the hillside and most of the areas around the road. It’s very arid in this area so the large Balsam Root flowers stand out in stark contrast. 🙂
It’s about 1.5 miles from the lower to the upper parking areas, and there was some traffic seen along the way. I wouldn’t recommend driving this road unless you have a high clearance vehicle due to the ruts. At the upper parking area, near the gate, there is a board for posting information. We easily went around the gate, where the road starts to ascend with some nice elevation gain. There is about 2000 feet of elevation gain so I would be sure you’re aware of this before attempting it. The out-and-back hike is about six miles if you park at the upper parking area. Also, remember to bring plenty of water as there are no water sources and it gets hot and dry out here!
Ascending up the road the views become impressive and are vast. We sometimes joke that this area is a visual eye-gasm (haha)! The wind gusts can push you around a bit but it’s so worth the effort. There were some other small groups of people walking up to the butte but they were spaced far apart. There are some cell/microwave towers up here but I don’t find them to be too distracting.
Just before reaching Stacker Butte we had stellar views looking east! You can see plenty of wind power generators in the distance. We finally reached Stacker Butte, and the mountain drops away to give a stunning view looking north! Unfortunately, Mt. Adams was primarily shrouded in the clouds, but you could still see the base. There is also some kind of old ICBM (?) installation at the top of Stacker Butte. It seems very out of place and is fenced off, but doesn’t obstruct any views.
You can continue walking down the road, past Stacker Butte, towards other cell/microwave towers, but we turned around due to the high winds. One thing to note is that the flowers bloom later as you ascend up in elevation, so not much was in bloom at the summit.
A fantastic day in paradise!