Pets allowed
Elevation Gain
5,000.00 ft (1,524.00 m)
Trail type
12.00 mi (19.31 km)
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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.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)




Parking Pass

Not Required


Great view. Close to Hood River. Low congestion. Restrooms and ample parking.


Few views until the summit. Heavily shaded.

Trailhead Elevation

160.00 ft (48.77 m)


Backcountry camping
Big vistas
Old-growth forest


Nearby Lodging + Camping


This trail was challenging but doable. There was no snow, and the views of the waterfalls, lake, and gorge were great! My gps had the total ,Ike age at about 13.5 miles.
Did the loop today -- up Starvation Creek and down Defiance. It was a chilly day (51 degrees in the parking lot when I left at 8:30am) and wet. Starvation is currently in solid shape, though a bit overgrown in places. The summit was socked in and probably cold enough for snow (though thankfully I got some respite from the precip there). The Defiance trail is in rougher shape after last summer's fire. The first 1/3 of the trail is a bit eroded in some areas, and today the pine needles were quite wet making a *very* steep and slippery down. IMO poles are a must on that trail right now. There are lots of rocks on the trail, some downed trees and branches, and a few narrow areas. I would leave the little ones and less adventurous, sure-footed pups at home for now as trail maintenance continues. Still, an excellent loop hike and a good one for training!
This was our second time on Mt. Defiance, the first time we made it all the way to the radio towers...this time we hit too much snow, but got pretty close! I forgot just how intense this hike is, but I soon remembered why it is used by those training to summit Mt. Hood, and is known as the big daddy and toughest gorge hikes! This killer hike starts at ground zero 130 ft. above sea level and gains 3000 ft in the first 3 miles alone! It's brutal and straight up, no stopping! This mountain will challenge every single inch of you mentally and physically!! From the first step out of the parking lot and onto the Starvation Ridge trail, the trail climbs NON STOP straight up for 3 miles with a 3000 ft. elevation gain to the top of the power lines, then over a ridge, and on to the back mountain which is Defiance. From there it's upward again thru 4 rock fields with no letting up until we hit the plateau onto the Mitchell Point trail 5hrs later and onto Warren Lake, one of the gorge's many alpine lakes at 3720ft. This is the only water source on the entire trail... a stagnant lake, so a quality water filter is a must! After a short rest and a wad into the lake to refill our bottles, it was upward again for the final scree scramble up on the way to the summit at 4960, where we climbed up thru snow until it was too deep to continue, about 300 ft from the radio towers at the summit. Hiked back down thru the snow to set up camp at the lake. No doubt THE MOST grueling, steepest, non stop upward hike ever! Going down on the Starvation Creek Trail was 10 times worse, like seriously 30% grade down...down...down... my knees will never be the same! But great endurance hike! The last mile down on this trail is VERY sketchy, lots of trail erosion and exposed along the Gorge very careful on this one!
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