The Best Wildflowers Near Portland, Oregon

15 of the Best Places to See Spring Wildflowers Within Two Hours of Portland

Spring has just sprung and we’re on the cusp of wildflower season in the Pacific Northwest. And luckily for the flower-obsessed the season is pretty long, with wildflowers blooming well into the summer. In fact there are flowers here nearly all year-round, one of the many reasons we love living in Oregon. Having both come from New York, we can attest that all the flowers here are pretty unreal, but the wildflowers were truly an unexpected and magical surprise—a literal explosion of colors on the hillsides come early spring.

The cherry blossoms are just peaking now at the end of March, sunny yellow daffodils are everywhere, and we’re finally starting to see tulips pop through the ground. It won’t be too much longer, probably mid-April, when the wildflowers really start popping off. We’ll never forget the first time we experienced the crazy Arrowleaf Balsamroot blooms in the Columbia River Gorge. When we think of spring wildflowers in the Northwest, balsamroot is the first that comes to mind because it simply dominates in this region. It’s a pretty yellow flower in the sunflower family that’s common in cold dry areas, like mountain fields in many western states. Another name for this type of balsamroot is the “Oregon sunflower.” These beautiful flowers aren’t just for looking at, Native American groups also used them for food. The roots can be baked or steamed, the seeds are edible, and the root can serve as a coffee substitute. Other wildflowers commonly found among the thick fields of balsamroot include Blue Lupine, with purple petals that really compliment the yellow sunflowers, and sprinkles of fiery red-orange Indian Paintbrush. There are more species of wildflowers throughout the region, but the three aforementioned are the most abundant in many locations listed below.

This list features 15 of the best places to see wildflowers, all within two hours of driving distance from Portland, Oregon. Most spots are in the Columbia River Gorge, and I’ve broken them down between the Oregon and Washington sides of the gorge.

Wildflowers in Oregon

Tom McCall Nature Preserve

The Tom McCall Nature Preserve is our favorite place in Oregon to view wildflowers. It’s also one of the best hikes in the Columbia River Gorge that doesn’t involve a waterfall. We love it for a few reasons: there are fields full of balsamroot, lupine and Indian Paintbrush for pretty much the entire hike, it’s a solid distance at a little over three miles, and on clear days you’re rewarded with banging mountain and Columbia River views. Both Mount Hood and Mount Adams sometimes make an appearance on this moderate 1.7 mile one-way, out-and-back trek. Note that this trail is closed from November to April. This mostly exposed, sunny trail is also a favorite for the local rattlesnakes—seriously, I’ve seen or heard one each time I’ve been there, so be aware, be cautious, and don’t play with a snake if you see one.

When to go: April-May

How to get there: From Portland, drive about 75 miles (one hour and 20 minutes) on I-84 East to Exit 69 for Mosier. After exiting, drive six miles to the obviously signed Rowena Crest Viewpoint and park at the trailhead.

snowcapped mountain peak across river from field of yellow wildflowers
Views of Mount Adams from the Tom McCall point on the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge.

Rowena Plateau

Visit the Rowena Plateau if you don’t want to work hard to see fields popping with flowers. The easy and flat one-mile, one way out-and-back loop is pretty heavily trafficked during peak season, so we recommend avoiding visiting on weekends if possible. Walk the whole trail or until you’ve seen enough wildflowers (if there is such a thing).

When to go: April-May

How to get there: Same as Tom McCall above. From Portland, drive about 75 miles (one hour and 20 minutes) on I-84 East to Exit 69 for Mosier. After exiting, drive six miles to the obviously signed Rowena Crest Viewpoint and park in the gravel parking area.

hiking trail through field of yellow and purple wildflowers
Views along the flat trail of the Rowena Plateau in the Columbia River Gorge

Memaloose Hills

Memaloose Hills is in the same general area as Tom McCall and Rowena. There are two different routes, a three-ish mile hike from the Memaloose Hills Overlook or a 5.2 mile hike from the rest area on Interstate 84.

When to go: April-May

How to get there: There are two ways to reach Memaloose Hills depending on whether you’re starting at the overlook or the rest area. From Portland, drive about 75-80 miles east on I-84 (about one hour and 20 minutes). To hike the three-mile trail, exit at Mosier (69) and drive toward the Rowena Crest Viewpoint; on the way you’ll pass the signed Memaloose Hills Overlook. For the longer hike, drive past the Mosier exit, and 0.8 miles after milepost 72 you’ll exit at the rest area.

Mosier Plateau

The Mosier Plateau was the very first place I ever went in Oregon to see wildflowers. There’s a 2.5-mile and 3.5-mile loop option at the plateau, one of the newest hiking trails in the gorge. Shortly after beginning the hike you walk through the Mosier Pioneer Cemetary and encounter a nice little waterfall with a swimming hole.

When to go: April-May

How to get there: From Portland, drive about 70 miles (one hour and 10 minutes) on I-84 East to Exit 69 for Mosier. Exit and park along highway 30 near the Mosier Creek Bridge. Nearby there’s a bench with a sign for the cemetery and a trail leading up the hill behind it.

pioneer gravestone surrounded by tiny purple wildflowers
A gravestone surrounded by wildflowers at the Mosier Pioneer Cemetery.

Sevenmile Hill

Sevenmile Hill is across the Columbia River from Dalles Mountain Ranch, and has a display of wildflowers that’s just as magnificent. This is a moderate-to-difficult, off-trail 4-6 mile hike. The “trailhead” is off of Sevenmile Hill Road in The Dalles, Oregon.

When to go: April-May

How to get there: Drive about 90 minutes east from Portland on I-84 to The Dalles Exit 82.

Bald Butte

I’ve heard that the wildflowers at Bald Butte are just as awesome as uber-popular Dog Mountain on the Washington side of the gorge—maybe even a little sweeter because it doesn’t have the crowds. Located south of Hood River, near Parkdale, Oregon, Bald Butte explodes with wildflowers during late May and into June. This hike also offers extensive views of Mount Hood, Mount St. Helens, Mount Rainier and Mount Adams. Bald Butte can be reached via a 8.5-mile strenuous hike beginning at the Oak Ridge Trail. I’ve heard there might even be a shorter, two-mile loop hike to Bald Butte too.

When to go: May

How to get there: Bald Butte is about 80 miles (90 minutes) from Portland. Drive east on I-84 to exit 64 for Hood River. The trailhead is south of Hood River, off of OR-35.

Trillium Lake

Trillium Lake is located in the Mount Hood National Forest near Government Camp, about a 90-minute drive from Portland. It’s named for the trillium flower which begins blooming in early spring, anytime from late February to June, after the snow has melted. There’s an easy and flat two-mile loop hike around the lake at this popular recreation area on Mount Hood.

When to go: April-June

How to get there: From Portland, drive east on US-26 for 40 miles to Government Camp. Three miles past Government Camp turn right at the sign for Trillium Lake. 

Tryon Creek State Natural Area

The Tryon Creek State Natural Area is a great location for urban hiking in southwest Portland, and the only state park in Oregon located in a major metro area. The park has eight miles of hiking trails, along with a bicycle path and horse trails. The sweet trillium and other wildflowers beginning springing to life in April.

When to go: April-May

How to get there: Drive about 15 minutes south of the city on OR-43. The address for Tryon Creek State Natural Area is 11321 SW Terwilliger Blvd., Portland.

Camassia Nature Preserve

The Camassia Nature Preserve is a 22.5 acre natural area with over 300 plant species, hiking trails and wildlife viewing located in West Linn, Oregon. The park is named for the camas, a flower that blooms like crazy from April to May. According to their website, the preserve is still closed due to COVID at the time of writing this post (March 2021).

When to go: April-May

How to get there: The Camassia Nature Preserve is 15 minutes south of Portland off OR-43, located at 4800 Walnut St., West Linn, Oregon.

Forest Park

At 5,200 acres, Portland’s Forest Park is one of the largest urban forests in America. The park has over 80 miles of trails, fire lanes and forest roads available for recreation. Each spring the Conservancy also hosts a wildflower walking tour in May.

When to go: May

How to get there: Forest Park is about 10 miles (a 15-minute drive) north of the Portland city center off US-30. If you drive this far north of Portland, we recommend making a quick stop by the Portland Troll Bridge.

Wildflowers in Washington

The Dalles Mountain Ranch

We absolutely love the Dalles Mountain Ranch, which is why we keep going back there each spring. The fields explode with colorful varieties of wildflowers, and the gorge and mountain views just don’t quit. There’s also a neat old rusted out car in one of the fields that makes a nice photo prop; if you know where to look, it’s SO easy to find. The Dalles Mountain Ranch is located at the Columbia Hills State Park, which also has other popular trailheads like Horsethief Butte and Crawford Oaks. Crawford Oaks is an eight-mile, figure eight loop, the Dalles Mountain Ranch to Stacker Butte is a four-mile out-and-back hike, and the Dalles Mountain Ranch loop hike is seven miles long. Honestly, we don’t do any of these hikes anymore, we just go straight to the old car!

When to go: April-May

How to get there: The Dalles Mountain Ranch is in the Columbia Hills Historic State Park. From Portland drive about 95 miles (100 minutes) east on I-84 to Exit 87 for Dufur/Bend. Take Highway 197 north across the bridge into Washington, then turn right on WA-14 East. Drive approximately three miles until you reach the Dalles Mountain Road on the left. Horsethief Butte is to the right, and a little ways up the road on the left is a signed parking area for the Crawford Oaks Trail.

hiking trail surrounded by purple and yellow wildflowers with gate and barn in background
Hiking at the Dalles Mountain Ranch, Washington State

Dog Mountain

Steep, difficult trails lead hikers to expansive gorge views and copious amounts of wildflowers at Washington’s infamous Dog Mountain in the spring. There are three trails to the peak, which offer various loop options around seven miles in length. This hike has grown so much in popularity that trail permits are required on weekends from April 24 through June 13, available in advance on Recreation.gov. Even on weekdays you’ll want to arrive prior to 8:00 a.m. or after 5:00 p.m. between March to July to avoid frustrating crowds. Though we’ve never actually hiked Dog Mountain, the process sounds annoying; in our opinion there are plenty other places to go for banging wildflower viewing that are way less crowded.

When to go: May

How to get there: Drive east of Portland on I-84 for about one hour to the Cascade Locks exit. Drive over the Bridge of the Gods into Washington state, turn right on WA-14 and drive east to Dog Mountain between Stevenson and Bingen.

Coyote Wall

Coyote Wall is like a dividing line between the dry east and wet west areas of the Columbia River Gorge, a change in landscapes which is pretty sudden and dramatic. At Coyote Wall is a 7.8 mile loop hike with great wildflower viewing, a trail which has seen extremely heavy use during COVID. Coyote Wall is also popular for mountain biking. Watch out for rattlesnakes, ticks, and poison oak in this area.

When to go: May

How to get there: Coyote Wall is near White Salmon, Washington, about 75 minutes east of Portland. Travel east on I-84 to Exit 64 in Hood River, then cross the bridge to Washington and turn right. Travel east on WA-14 for approximately five miles until reaching the Coyote Wall trailhead parking area.

Catherine Creek

Catherine Creek is an easy, one-mile wheelchair accessible loop trail. In addition to an abundance and variety of wildflowers, a cute little 12-foot waterfall can also be found raging in the springtime. It’s almost difficult to believe this place used to be a literal junkyard until the Forest Service bought the land and cleaned it up. The gorge’s tallest arch, the Catherine Creek Arch, can also be accessed here via a 0.5 mile trail.

When to go: April-May

How to get there: Catherine Creek is about 75 miles (80 minutes) east of Portland in Lyle, Washington. You can get there by traveling east on I-84 to Exit 64 in Hood River and crossing the bridge to Washington. Turn right and drive east on WA-14 until reaching Old Highway 8.

tiny blue and pink wildflowers
A variety of wildflowers await at the Catherine Creek trail in Washington.

Hamilton Mountain

At Hamilton Mountain, a 7.5 mile loop trail provides opportunities for wildflower viewing. The first 1.2 miles of this trail is the most crowded because many hikers only travel this far to the waterfall area—to Rodney Falls and the Pool of the Winds.

When to go: May-June

How to get there: Hamilton Mountain is about 60 minutes from Portland. Drive east on WA-14 to Stevenson, either from I-84 to Cascade Locks and over the Bridge of the Gods, or by taking I-5 or 205 North to WA-14.

  • old rusted car in field full of yellow and purple wildflowers
  • purple wildflower surrounded by green leaves
  • snowcapped mountain peak views from a field of yellow wildflowers
  • hiking trail surrounded by purple and yellow wildflowers
  • male hiking on trail on side of hill surrounded by yellow wildflowers
  • purple and yellow wildflowers along hiking trail

Thank you so much for reading this post! Please be sure to tell us all about your wildflower adventures in the comments, including places that didn’t make it to our list.

Looking for more things to do in Oregon? Check out these posts:

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