Looking for a Columbia River Gorge type climb in April or May, then head over to the Dry Ridge Trail in the Roaring River Wilderness. The 5.3-mile trail has around 3500′ of elevation gain. Even in April, the trail lives up to its name. Except for some stream crossings, the bed of the trail is made up of dry fir needles and cones.
The Dry Ridge Trail starts at the confluence of the Roaring River and Clackamas River, from the Roaring River Campground. There are two small parking areas outside the campground. One is on the Northside of Roaring River and the other is on the shoulder of HWY 224 across from the campground entrance. The trailhead can be difficult to find at first, but it’s at the north end of the campground and along the south side of the Roaring River.
The start of the trail runs next to the Roaring River, then shortly after, starts climbing through the old-growth forest of the Roaring River Wilderness. Trilliums and rhododendrons bloom about a mile up from the start, and then mountain wildflowers appear as the elevation increases. There is a view of the Clackamas River Canyon about two miles up the trail.
Newts and millipedes populate the trail as it heads toward Grouse Creek. This crossing is actually three rushing streams meeting just below the trail. It can be challenging to get around, but the bubbling creek can be refreshing on a hot day.
The trail continues to climb to a boulder field that makes the Road 4635 junction. Continue climbing until another stream crossing. The trail begins to level out. Lots of blowdown in this area, however, there was a crew working on the trail as we went by. The trail begins to narrow, so expect some scratches on bare legs from bear grass and huckleberry bushes. There is a small descent just before the Grouse Point Trail is reached. Head back or continue right for another 1.5 miles to Grouse Point. When back at Roaring River Campground, cool off by soaking the legs in the snowmelt runoff of the Roaring River.