The hike to the summit of Mount Defiance is grueling-but-rewarding. Setting out from the trailhead, it may seem that you’re in for a scenic hike sprinkled with waterfalls and wildflowers with a modest elevation gain. One mile in, however, the experience quickly changes from easy hiking with a view of the Columbia River Gorge to some serious vertical elevation gain.
Overall, the Mount Defiance hike is known as one of the more difficult hikes in the Columbia River Gorge, and it is regarded as a training hike for some of the higher summits such as Mount Hood. You have two options to get to the top, the Mount Defiance Trail #413 and the Starvation Ridge Trail #414. Combining the two trails allows you to do a there-and-back loop from Starvation Creek State Park to the summit. Along the Mount Defiance Trail, you’ll spend most of your time hiking in the shade, with the occasional view over the Gorge to Wind Mountain, Mount St. Helens, Mount Adams and Mount Rainier. The Starvation Ridge Trail will provide fewer views to the volcanic peaks at higher elevations, but it will take you past Warren Lake and a number of camping sites. Once at the summit, you will have a panoramic view to Mount Hood over the Mount Hood National Forest.
With nearly 5,000 feet of elevation gain over more than 12 miles, the Mount Defiance hike can take anywhere from five hours for the fast-paced to more than seven hours for those with a more-leisurely pace. The trail can be very vertical at times with some loose rock, so trekking poles are recommended.