The Mystery of the Yellow Wildflowers at Dog Mountain

Introducing Dog Mountain

Dog Mountain is located in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area in Washington state. Rising to an elevation of 3,624 feet, Dog Mountain offers spectacular views of the Columbia River and surrounding Cascade peaks. The hiking trails on Dog Mountain were constructed in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps.

The hike to the summit of Dog Mountain is considered one of the most popular and scenic hikes in the Columbia River Gorge. However, the steep, rigorous uphill climb also makes it one of the most strenuous hikes in the area. The peak wildflower blooms in spring attract crowds during April and May.

The Meadows of Dog Mountain

meadows offer views and wildflowers

One of the main attractions of Dog Mountain is its beautiful subalpine meadows located near the summit. At an elevation of over 3,400 feet, the meadows provide spectacular views of the Columbia River Gorge and the Cascade Mountains. The meadows stretch out over gradually sloping hills covered in colorful wildflowers during spring and summer.

The meadows consist of open grassland interspersed with groves of fir trees and rocky outcroppings. They provide a pleasant contrast to the dense forest encountered earlier in the hike. Hikers emerging from the trees into the sunny meadows can take in sweeping panoramas of the Gorge below. The meadows are an excellent spot for a leisurely break before the final ascent to the summit.

The meadows’ high elevation means spring arrives later than at lower elevations. Late April to early June is the prime time to see dazzling displays of wildflowers carpeting the meadows. The bloom progresses up the mountain through early July as the snow melts.

Spring Wildflowers

In the spring, the meadows of Dog Mountain burst into a colorful display of wildflowers. The mountain is located within the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, where the variety of microclimates allows different flowers to thrive. The peak blooming season is typically from mid-April through early June.

Some of the most common spring wildflowers found on Dog Mountain include:

  • Columbia Windflower (Anemone deltoidea) – A delicate white flower that carpets portions of the mountainside.
  • Thimbleberry (Rubus parviflorus) – A flowering shrub with showy white blooms.
  • Western Serviceberry (Amelanchier alnifolia) – A small tree that produces clusters of delicate white flowers.
  • Broadpetal Strawberry (Fragaria virginiana) – A low, spreading plant with cheerful white flowers.

The meadows contain a mix of colorful wildflowers that create a patchwork of vibrant yellows, whites, purples, and reds. It’s a fleeting seasonal display that draws visitors during the peak spring hiking season.

The Yellow Flowers

focus on yellow wildflowers

The yellow wildflowers that blanket the hillsides of Dog Mountain each spring are a stunning sight. There are four main yellow blooms that contribute to this colorful display: arrowleaf balsamroot, Oregon sunshine, golden pea, and balsamroot (Source).

Arrowleaf balsamroot (Balsamorhiza sagittata) is one of the most prolific yellow blooms on Dog Mountain. These bright yellow sunflower-like flowers can grow over 2 feet tall and bloom from March to June, covering entire hillsides in vibrant yellow (Source). The arrow-shaped leaves are fuzzy white underneath.

Oregon sunshine (Eriophyllum lanatum) blooms April through June with golden daisy-like flowers up to 2 inches across. They are a key part of the yellow blanket on Dog Mountain. The lance-shaped leaves are woolly white underneath (Source).

Golden pea (Thermopsis montana) blooms a bit later, May through July, adding more golden-yellow lupine-like flowers to the mix. They grow 1-2 feet tall on stiff upright stems (Source).

Balsamroot (Balsamorhiza deltoidea) rounds out the yellow blooms with its sunflower-like heads up to 5 inches across. It blooms March through June, overlapping with arrowleaf balsamroot (Source).

Balsamroot

Balsamroot (Balsamorhiza sagittata), also known as arrowleaf balsamroot, is one of the most prominent yellow wildflowers blooming on Dog Mountain in the spring. This perennial plant is a member of the sunflower family and grows from a taproot with lance-shaped leaves clustered at ground level. The plant reaches 1-2 feet in height and produces bright yellow composite flower heads, made up of ray and disc flowers, from April to June [1].

balsamroot key yellow bloom

Balsamroot was an important food source and provided medicinal value for many Native American tribes. The roots were roasted or dried and ground into flour, while the leaves and stems were eaten as greens. A tea brewed from the roots was used to treat sore throats, stomachaches, and coughs [2]. Today, balsamroot still has traditional medicinal uses and is also valued for its aesthetic beauty in the landscape.

During spring, balsamroot carpets the hillsides of Dog Mountain in vibrant yellow, creating a stunning wildflower display. However, the plants quickly die back to large taproots after setting seed in early summer. The leaves and stems completely disappear until the next growing season. Planning a spring hike to catch balsamroot in bloom is highly recommended.

Arrowleaf Balsamroot

Balsamorhiza sagittata, or Arrowleaf Balsamroot, is one of the most plentiful and vibrant wildflowers on Dog Mountain during spring. Arrowleaf Balsamroot is a perennial herb and member of the sunflower family native to western North America (Methow Conservancy). It gets its name from the arrow-shaped leaves arranged alternately on a thick stalk and the balsamic fragrance of its resinous sap.

arrowleaf balsamroot prominent

Arrowleaf Balsamroot grows at elevations between 500 to 6,500 feet and is commonly found in dry valleys, foothills, mountain slopes and meadows. Its native range includes British Columbia, Alberta, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming (USDA Forest Service). The blooming season is April to June and the flowers grow up to 1.6 feet tall. The bright yellow flowers have 8-21 petal-like rays surrounding a prominent brown center disk. When the flowers finish blooming, they produce achenes with light brown seeds.

Arrowleaf Balsamroot was used by Native Americans who boiled and ate the roots, leaves and seeds for nutrition. The sticky sap was used to treat insect bites and the roots to treat coughs and colds (Jake’s Nature Blog).

Oregon Sunshine

One of the most common yellow wildflowers blooming on Dog Mountain in spring is the Oregon Sunshine (Eriophyllum lanatum). Oregon Sunshine is a hardy perennial plant native to the western United States. It thrives in dry, open habitats like prairies, meadows, and foothills up to 9000 feet in elevation.

Oregon Sunshine gets its name from its bright golden yellow flower heads, which resemble miniature sunflowers. The flowers have long golden rays surrounding a central brown disk. Oregon Sunshine blooms from May through August, blanketing fields and hillsides with vibrant pops of yellow.

The Oregon Sunshine plant itself grows low to the ground, reaching 4-24 inches tall. It has woolly silver-green leaves clustered around the base. The leaves give off a pleasant balsam scent when crushed. Oregon Sunshine spreads by rhizomes to form dense mats and colonies in ideal habitat.

Native Americans used Oregon Sunshine medicinally for respiratory issues and pain relief. The leaves and flowers can also be used to make a vibrant yellow dye. Today, Oregon Sunshine is valued for its drought tolerance, low maintenance needs, and ability to stabilize soils and revegetate degraded habitats. Its bright blooms also attract butterflies, bees, and other pollinators.

Golden Pea

The golden pea (Lupinus argenteus), also known as silvery lupine or silver-leaved lupine, is a summer wildflower found throughout the western United States including the hills and mountains of Oregon (“Golden Pea”). This perennial plant in the legume family grows 1-3 feet tall and produces vibrant yellow flowers from May to July. The palmate leaves are covered in silvery hairs, helping reflect sunlight in arid habitats.

Golden pea grows best in dry, open habitats like meadows, pine forests, sagebrush, and slopes at 4,000-11,000 feet elevation. It thrives in nutrient-poor soils and can tolerate disturbance. The roots can fix nitrogen to enrich the soil. Golden pea spreads via rhizomes and seed pods that explode when mature, scattering seeds up to 20 feet away (Long).

All parts of golden pea are edible, though the seeds require proper preparation to remove toxic alkaloids. Native Americans ate the young shoots, leaves, and green seed pods. The roots can be dried and ground into a protein-rich flour. While beautiful, golden pea may be toxic to livestock if consumed in large quantities.

Enjoying the Flowers

The best time to view the wildflowers on Dog Mountain is from late May through early June, during the peak bloom period. According to sources like AdventuresPNW and LocalAdventurer, the wildflower viewing window only lasts a couple weeks, so plan your hike carefully if seeing the flowers is a priority.

When visiting Dog Mountain to enjoy the wildflowers, be respectful of nature by staying on designated trails. This protects delicate plant species from being trampled. Take care not to pick the flowers or dig up roots, allowing fellow hikers and wildlife to enjoy the meadows undisturbed. Follow any posted wilderness guidelines and permits required for the area.

Bring a camera to capture photos of the vibrant yellow blooms without damaging them. Take time to appreciate the diversity of wildflowers carpeting the mountainside. Seeing nature’s bounty firsthand is a privilege and a reminder of the beauty inherent in our natural world.

Planning a Visit

The directions to Dog Mountain are simple. From St. Johnsbury, Vermont, take Vermont Route 2 west and drive approximately 7 miles, then turn left onto Hoffman Road. Drive another 1.5 miles and look for signs for Dog Mountain on the right. There is a small parking area with room for about 20 cars. Be sure to arrive early, especially on weekends, as the parking area fills up quickly.

Dog Mountain has approximately 100 acres of land with a network of paths and trails, but the two main trails to see the spring wildflowers are the lower Main Trail Loop (0.6 miles round trip) and the upper Ridge Trail Loop (0.9 miles round trip). Most visitors stick to the Main Trail since it provides easy access. The Ridge Trail involves a steeper incline but provides panoramic views (The Fascinating Dog Mountain of St Johnsbury Vermont).

The best time to visit is during the spring wildflower season, from late April through early June. This is when the meadows come alive with colorful flowers like balsamroot, violets, trillium, and more. Summertime is also pleasant, though very hot days should be avoided as there is little shade on the trails and meadows. Fall brings a different sight with trees displaying vibrant red, orange, and yellow leaves.

Be sure to prepare and pack accordingly for your mountain hike. Bring plenty of water, snacks, sunscreen, bug spray, and comfortable hiking shoes. Dogs must be leashed at all times. While most of the trails are dog-friendly, the upper Ridge Trail has sections with steep ledges and cliffs, so use caution when bringing pets there.

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