A short but sweet grind up leads to sweeping views and a sacred Indigenous site, which makes Washington’s Wind Mountain hike a great, quick trail for a big payoff.
The Wind Mountain hike
The out-and-back, 2.4 mile trail is mostly treed-in, and features a series of switchbacks. There’s not a lot of note along the route, and the narrow pathway can make it a bit of a challenge when passing other hikers.
There also aren’t any designated viewpoints or seating areas, so you’ll have to simply stand off to the side if you need a moment to catch your breath as you tackle the 1,148 foot elevation gain. About .75 miles in, there are glimpses through the thick Douglas fir trees of Dog Mountain and Augspurger Mountain.
The Wind Mountain hike is uphill the entire way, yet still suitable for dogs and older kids since it only takes about 45 minutes to reach the summit. There are some fallen logs, and points where you’ll walk along a talus slope.
Nearing the summit, there’s a sign noting the Wind Mountain Spirit Quest Site at the top, which was used by Indigenous people for spirit questing and training tribal youth. It’s believed the site was constructed 200-1000 years ago, when youths questing for their guardian spirits fasted and spent the night here away from their villages.
They’d complete strenuous physical tasks like building rock piles, pits and mounds during the quest, and a vision or dream eventually came which revealed the seeker’s guardian spirit which remained with that person for a lifetime.
Visitors can walk to the talus fields, but are asked to be respectful of the sacredness of the area and not walk on the features or restack any rocks.
While there aren’t 360-degree views at the summit due to trees, there are a couple of different trails with one leading to the scree field which has views down the Columbia River Gorge of Dog Mountain, Mitchell Point and Mount Defiance. On the opposite side, you can see Washington landmarks like Mount Saint Helens, Table Mountain, and the community of Carson.
Living up to its name, the summit can be exceptionally windy so hold on to your hat!
How to get to the Wind Mountain trailhead
The Wind Mountain trailhead is near Home Valley and Carson, Washington, just down the road from the popular Dog Mountain hike and Beacon Rock State Park.
Head down Hwy 14 (the Lewis and Clark Highway) and turn off on Wind Mountain Road, and from there it’s a five minute drive up the well-marked, winding road. There’s free parking on site, and to get to the trail you’ll start by walking down the gravel road.
Keep an eye out for the dirt pathway off to the right (it’s not marked as the trailhead, and the only sign is a warning about spreading seeds) which is the start of the Wind Mountain hike.
Note: There’s a rocky trail that starts directly from the parking lot, but don’t take this one as it’s much more difficult and there’s poison oak.
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Tamara Elliott is the travel editor and founder of The Gorge Guide, which highlights the best experiences in the Columbia River Gorge. She’s an award-winning writer based in Hood River, Oregon, who particularly loves the area wineries and waterfall hikes. Tamara is also the founder of Globe Guide, which offers savvy tips for exploring destinations around the world.