Are There Fences on Dog Mountain? What to Know Before You Go

Overview of Dog Mountain

Dog Mountain is a popular hiking destination located in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area on the Washington state side. Located approximately 70 miles east of Portland, Oregon, Dog Mountain is situated within the Gifford Pinchot National Forest and offers spectacular views of the Columbia River and the Cascade Mountain Range (https://www.oregonhikers.org/field_guide/Dog_Mountain_Hike).

The hiking trails on Dog Mountain were developed in the 1980s by the US Forest Service to provide better access to the scenic meadows on top of the mountain. The peak was named Dog Mountain due to its steep sides resembling the shape of a dog’s head when viewed from the north. The main purpose of the trails today is to allow hikers to experience the beautiful subalpine wildflower meadows and panoramic views that Dog Mountain provides (https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/crgnsa/recreation/hiking/recarea/?recid=29902&actid=50).

Trails at Dog Mountain

There are several hiking trails that lead to the summit of Dog Mountain. The most popular and direct route is the Dog Mountain Trail, which begins from the Dog Mountain Trailhead parking area off State Route 14. According to the U.S. Forest Service, the Dog Mountain Trail is one of the most strenuous hikes in the Columbia River Gorge, gaining over 2,800 feet in elevation over just 2.8 miles (Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area – Dog Mountain). The trail climbs steeply through forest switchbacks before breaking out above the trees, with non-stop views across the Gorge along the way. The upper section traverses grassy slopes with spring wildflowers.

For a slightly less difficult hike, the Augspurger Trail begins from a separate trailhead on the northeast side of Dog Mountain. This trail climbs more gradually over 3.5 miles to reach the summit. The Augspurger Trail provides beautiful scenery through oak woodlands and wildflower meadows (AllTrails – Dog Mountain Trail). Both trails lead to the grassy summit plateau with panoramic views of the Columbia River and surrounding mountain peaks.

The difficulty level of the main Dog Mountain Trail hike is considered very strenuous, with an elevation gain of over 2,800 feet in less than 3 miles. The Augspurger Trail is a challenging but more moderate hike. Hikers should be prepared for steep terrain, bring plenty of water, and watch their footing. The trails are accessible from approximately April to November, with spring and fall offering the most pleasant hiking conditions.

Safety Concerns

Dog Mountain is known for its steep and challenging trails. The hike to the top is approximately 3 miles round trip with an elevation gain of 2,500 feet. Many sections of the trail are very steep, with inclines over 30 degrees in some areas.

steep trail with warning signs posted for dog mountain hikers

The steepness and rugged terrain of Dog Mountain can lead to injuries if hikers are not adequately prepared. Sprained ankles, twisted knees, and falls are common due to the steep drop-offs and loose rocks along the trails. Exhaustion and dehydration are also major concerns, as the ascent requires a high level of cardiovascular fitness.

According to an article on ColumbiaGorgeNews.com, officials reported four separate rescue missions on Dog Mountain in a two week period due to injured hikers [1]. The article states that the trail’s steepness and length often lead to exhaustion and injuries.

The potential for injuries due to falls or overexertion is quite high at Dog Mountain. Hikers should be prepared with proper footwear, hiking poles, water, and snacks. Knowing your limits and not pushing too hard is key to avoiding injuries on this challenging mountain trail.

Accessibility

Dog Mountain is not fully wheelchair accessible due to the steep and rugged terrain. The main trailhead has accessible parking spots and an accessible vault toilet, but the hiking trails themselves are not suitable for wheelchairs or mobility devices.

The Dog Mountain Trail climbs nearly 3000 feet in 3.7 miles, making it too difficult for most wheelchair users. The trail surface is uneven with rocks and roots. Similarly, the Augspurger Trail has a very steep start with over 1000 feet of elevation gain in the first mile.

There are scenic viewpoints at the parking lot and picnic area that allow people with disabilities to still enjoy the beautiful scenery of Dog Mountain without accessing the upper trails. Leashed service animals are allowed.

viewpoint area accessible for disabled visitors to dog mountain

While experienced wheelchair athletes have traversed sections of the trail, it requires extensive upper body strength and specialized equipment. The Dog Mountain management recommends most people with mobility limitations avoid the trails. Instead, they can experience the area through the viewpoints near the parking area.

For more on accessibility, see the US Forest Service site and Oregon Hikers forum.

Amenities

Dog Mountain provides some basic amenities to make your visit more comfortable and convenient. According to the Recreation.gov website, the main trailhead parking lot is gravel and can accommodate approximately 25 vehicles. There are also vault toilet restrooms available.

In terms of water, there are no drinking fountains or bottled water for sale at the trailhead. The Dog Mountain website recommends bringing your own water for both you and your dog. They suggest carrying water in a hydration pack or portable collapsible dog bowl.

Other amenities at the main trailhead include a picnic table for taking a break. While basic, these amenities provide the essentials for an enjoyable hike up Dog Mountain with your dog.

Rules and Regulations

Dog Mountain has a few rules and regulations that visitors should be aware of before their trip. According to the Dog Mountain Park Rules, dogs 6 months or older must be licensed and vaccinated against rabies as required by Vermont state law. Owners are responsible for keeping their dogs under control at all times.

Dogs must be kept on a leash no longer than 6 feet at all times on the trails and in the parking areas. Dog waste must be cleaned up and packed out to maintain the area. There are waste bags available at the trailhead. Violators can be fined.

In addition, the U.S. Forest Service notes that permits are required on weekends and holidays between April 23rd and June 12th each year. Permits help manage crowds during peak wildflower season. Permits can be obtained through Recreation.gov.

When to Visit

The best time to visit Dog Mountain is from mid-April through May to experience the peak wildflower bloom. According to Hike Oregon, the trail is blanketed with balsamroot, lupine, paintbrush and other native wildflowers during this period. The Oregon Hikers Field Guide concurs, stating “the upper slopes erupt in a blazing carpet of blooming balsamroot” from April to June (Oregon Hikers Field Guide). The spring weather is mild, with average highs in the 60s Fahrenheit, making it very pleasant for hiking.

spring wildflowers blooming on grassy dog mountain trails

Summer can also be a nice time for the hike, though the wildflower bloom will be past peak. Expect warm, dry weather, with highs in the 70s and 80s Fahrenheit. Fall brings cooler weather and the turning of leaves, creating beautiful scenery. Just be prepared for rain, as precipitation increases in the late fall. Winters can be snowy, so the trail may be inaccessible depending on conditions.

Fencing

Dog Mountain does not have any fencing around the perimeter or within the 150 acres of trails and land (Source). The area is surrounded by dense trees and vegetation, but there are no physical fences to keep dogs enclosed or to prevent them from accessing the ponds and other areas of the mountain.

Since there are no fences, it is important that dogs are well-trained and will return when called by their owners. Owners need to keep a close eye on their dogs at all times and have voice control, especially near the ponds and edges of the mountain trails (Source). Dogs should not be allowed to roam off-leash and out of sight.

The mountain and trails are entirely open with no fenced sections. Visitors should plan accordingly and be responsible dog owners to ensure safety.

Alternatives to Dog Mountain

forest trail with no fencing through trees near dog mountain

For those seeking hikes similar to Dog Mountain but without an unfenced ledge, there are several alternative trails nearby that offer gorgeous scenery without the same safety concerns. According to AllTrails, some of the top-rated hikes near Dog Mountain include:

  • Dog Mountain Trail – A slightly shorter but still challenging hike to the summit with views of the Columbia River Gorge. Rated 4.7 stars with over 4,000 reviews.
  • Augspurger Trail – Follows a ridge line through open meadows and evergreen forests with panoramic views. Rated 4.5 stars.
  • Bridal Veil Falls – A family-friendly waterfall hike with a more gradual elevation gain. Rated 4.4 stars.

For those looking for an off-leash area for dogs to play and swim safely, check out Rooster Rock State Park’s off-leash area just 30 minutes west of Dog Mountain. It offers over a mile of river access for dogs under voice control.

With so many trails to choose from in the Columbia River Gorge, you can find the perfect hike based on your experience level, preferences, and safety concerns. Dog Mountain offers spectacular panoramic views, but also comes with inherent risks due to the steep drop-offs. Evaluating alternatives like Augspurger Trail or Rooster Rock’s off-leash area can allow you to make the best choice for you and your furry hiking companion.

Planning Your Trip

Dog Mountain is located in St. Johnsbury, Vermont. To get there, take I-91 to Exit 23 and head east on Route 2 for about 14 miles. Then take a left onto Switch Road and follow the signs for another 3 miles to Dog Mountain (Dogmt.com). The drive from Burlington takes around 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Be sure to check the official website for current hours and policies before visiting. Dog Mountain is open year-round from dawn to dusk. There is no entrance fee. Well-behaved dogs are welcome in all areas except the Dog Chapel.

Visitors are advised to dress appropriately for the weather and wear sturdy shoes for hiking. Bring plenty of water for yourself and your dog. It’s also a good idea to pack dog waste bags. There are no trash cans on site, so be prepared to pack out what you pack in. Leashes are required in certain areas.

If hiking, be aware that the summit trails have steep and rocky sections. Visit earlier in the day during hot summer months. For easier walking, try the gentler lower loop trails. Take care with puppies or elder dogs. And remember to keep dogs under control and don’t let them approach wildlife (WTA).

Overall, Dog Mountain is a wonderful spot to stretch your legs with your furry friend. Take time to soak in the beautiful mountain scenery and appreciate this special community built in honor of our canine companions.

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