Wildflower Viewing Areas in the Columbia River Gorge of Oregon and Washington

Memaloose Trail Loop

Memaloose State Park and Adcacent Forest Service Lands

View from Memaloose Viewpoint, looking north across the Columbia River toward Catherine Creek and Major Creek.

Memaloose Viewpoint is a good destination for viewing early season wildflowers, with good bloom extending from the grass widows and desert parsleys of February and March to the lupines and paintbrush of May, with decent bloom extending into late June most years. As shown above, the view looks to the north towards Catherine Creek and Major Creek.

Several trails criss-cross the area, but one must beware of the cliffs along the viewpoint. A trail which heads downhill towards the north may be found approximately 40 yards west of the viewpoint. This takes you eventually to the eastbound rest area off Interstate 84. A nice trail extends south of the viewpoint parking area, wandering through the oak forests to eventually climb several hills with good views west, east and south. Depending on the season, the trails may range from well marked to confusing. A good cross-section of wildflowers may however be found here though, and the balsamroots, lupines and paintbrush on Castilleja Hill at the southern tip of the loop can be photogenic in March and April.

Take care in venturing off the paths as poison oak is abundant here, and rattlesnakes may be found here too.!


Westbound Directions:

Westbound from The Dalles on Interstate 84, take exit 76 at Mayer State Park. Cross under the freeway and then turn right (west) onto US 30. Proceed uphill several miles past Tom McCall Nature Preserve, then dip downhill into a small canyon. Climb again and then slowly descend through open oak forests and meadows. Memaloose Viewpoint is on the right (north) side of the road about 4 miles west of Tom McCall Nature Preserve.

Eastbound Directions:

Eastbound on Interstate 84, exit onto US 30 at exit #69. Exit the freeway southbound (to the right). Proceed uphill, winding through beautiful oak forests and meadows for about 3.25 miles. Memaloose Viewpoint is on the left side of the road, with a striking view north across the Columbia River towards Catherine Creek and Major Creek on the Washington side of the river.


Castilleja Hill/Memaloose Loop Trail

This loop trail is accessed only from eastbound Interstate 84. If you are coming westbound from The Dalles, you will either need to exit the freeway at Rowena and then reenter the freeway eastbound at Mosier, or drive the freeway west to Mosier where you would exit and again reenter the freeway eastbound.

Exit the freeway at the Memaloose Rest Area and park at either the east or west ends (leaving room for those who urgently need to stop and use the restroom facilities). Walk east on the sidewalk past the westernmost restrooms for about 50 meters where you will come upon a gravel road that climbs south into the woods at a gate. Proceed through the gate entering the forest, where you will immediately see a number of wildflowers you'd expect further west. As you climb uphill, proceeding west at this point, the meadow openings increasingly appear, with numerous balsamroot, lupines and paintbrush to be seen by mid to late April. After about one-half mile or so, the trail crests the ridge. Follow the path to the left which winds through open oak forest of desert parsleys, grass widows and shooting stars before reaching old Highway 30 near the Memaloose Viewpoint.

A path should be seen across the old highway from the viewpoint parking area which proceeds south through the oak forest. In mid April through May, one may find chocolate lilies and large, colorful drifts of large-flowered blue-eyed Mary beneath the trees. After about one-half mile, the trail turns and climbs a ridge to the east. There should be a path here that proceeds straight south, following on the east side of a small creek and wetland that skirts the east side of the looming, conifer and oak covered hill. Continue along the east side of the wetland until you see a path that climbs the open southern slopes of this hill (locals refer to it as Castilleja Hill due to the numerous paintbrush here) for views west down the Columbia, south, and east towards Tom McCall Point.

Descend the hill the way you came, then hike across the fallow field to the east to Marsh Cutoff Road. Hike north along Marsh Cutoff Road, looking for the raucous Lewis' woodpecker in the oaks, and also being aware of approaching traffic. Upon reaching Old Highway 30, turn right (east) and carefully walk the north side of the roadside for about 150-200 meters where you will pass a fenceline at a small ravine. There should be a path that proceeds along the west side of the ravine downhill (north), and eventually turns northwest back to the Memaloose Rest Area. Note: The path can be difficult to find in this area, so you might want to hike this with NPSO or Friends of the Gorge with leaders who know the route (and can teach it to you). There is an eastern loop that adds another two miles, but again, do this with a group that knows the route!

Watch for poison oak and ticks throughout this entire route!


Plant Lists for the Memaloose Area:

March 16, 2016

March 2, 2016

March 27, 2015

March 31, 2014

March 23, 2014

March 22 & 24, 2013 - An NPSO hike.

May 26, 2012

April 8, 2011

April 29, 2010

April 26, 2009: Memaloose State Park and Surrounding Federal Lands - (A Native Plant Society of Oregon Hike.)

April 15, 2001

March 4, 2001

February 21, 1999

February 15, 1998

April 5, 1997


Paul Slichter