Why it’s great: Even in April, the School Canyon Trail promises a Gore-Tex-free exploration of Mount Hood’s seldom-visited eastern flanks. The trail basks in the Cascades’ “rain shadow,” revealing a world of crisp golden hills, ancient white oaks, and spring wildflower bloom. Starting up a faded jeep track, the trail climbs open terrain to the base of Ball Point, a 4,100-foot rise topped with a gray crown of pines scarred from a massive 2007 wildfire. To the south, take in farmland views and the silhouettes of Mount Jefferson and the Three Sisters. Continue on through more singed pines and dark basalt outcrops before ending at a quiet meadow, where a side trail leads to series of spindle rock pinnacles.
Don’t forget: Hardy hikers can continue about 4 more miles to Flag Point Fire Lookout, which accepts reservations for overnight stays through May. recreation.gov
Post-hike watering hole: Baldwin Saloon Dating back to 1876, this handsome redbrick space in The Dalles has served as everything from a saddle shop to a coffin storage site over the years. The Baldwin now features a shiny mahogany bar, massive oil paintings, plentiful local taps, house-ground burgers, and bacon-wrapped dates. Closed Sunday. 205 Court St, The Dalles; 541-296-5666.
Trailhead directions: From Portland, follow I-84 east to The Dalles. Take Exit 87 and turn right (south) onto US 197 toward Tygh Valley. Near milepost 33 turn right onto Shadybrook Road, go approximately 1 mile, and turn left onto Fairgrounds Road. Continue .7 miles and turn right onto Badger Creek Road. Drive 6.6 miles and turn right onto Forest Service Road 27. Drive 2 mile; trailhead on the left. No fees or permits required.