- Rating: Moderate
- Activity: Hike
- Distance: 5.3 miles
There are two reasons why relatively few Portlanders make the trek to the Gorge’s Deschutes River Trail: Its distant location near The Dalles and its high-desert scenery. (Sagebrush, after all, is hardly considered the stuff of a classic Gorge hike.) What makes the trail a winner is its neat scenic divide.
ROUTE: The lower trail ambles near the Deschutes River, beneath a haphazard canopy of alders and blackberry bushes that gives way to numerous viewpoints overlooking the river, total elevation gain is about 700 feet. Connect to the middle and upper portions of the trail via a 400-yard path, however, and the vegetation morphs into sagebrush and bitterbrush. Suddenly you find yourself in an arid landscape kissed by a paltry 11 inches of precipitation a year. Ferry Springs Trail, the system’s uppermost link, is the hallmark of the hike. The middle and upper trails are far less traveled, narrower and wilder—so wild, in fact, that rattlesnake sightings are a possibility. Map: Download a park map from www.oregonstateparks.org/park_37.php.
DIRECTIONS: From eastbound I-84, take Exit 97 and turn left on the frontage road for 2.5 miles. Cross the bridge to Deschutes River State Recreation Area.