There is no better trail in the Columbia River Gorge for ascent per mile than Mt. Defiance. The trail has almost no switchbacks in the five-mile climb to the 4960′ summit. The top of Mt. Defiance offers one of the best views of the Cascades and the Hood River Valley in the Gorge. Since the climb starts at Starvation Creek Rest Area on exit 55 of Interstate-84, most people loop it with the Mitchell Point Trail and Starvation Ridge Trail for a 13-mile effort.
Start on the Mount Defiance Trail 413 at the west end of the parking area running parallel to I-84. Skip the Starvation Ridge Cutoff Trail 414A and continue on the path on a footbridge over Warren Creek below Hole-In-The-Wall Falls. The trail crosses Warren Creek again near the junction of Starvation Ridge Trail. The loop will come back to this point. Stay on Mt. Defiance Trail to Lancaster Falls.
As of now, the ascent has been relatively tame. However, the steep climbing starts when the trail reaches the ridge. A few switchbacks over the next mile reach a trail junction to a viewpoint of Mt. St. Helens, the Gorge, and Wind Mountain on the Washington side of the Columbia.
At 4 miles is a permit box for the Mark O Hatfield Wilderness Area. Fill out the permit and continue upon the talus slopes to Mitchell Point Trail. Make a mental note of this trail as the loop uses this trail on the way back to the trailhead. Persist until a microwave tower comes into view and onto the summit. Stay at the summit to catch your breath, take in some nutrition, and enjoy the views.
Jeep roads loop back to the trail, but it’s best to avoid getting lost and start the descent down Mt. Defiance Trail to the Mitchell Point Trail #417, as mentioned earlier. Mitchell Point connects to Starvation Ridge Trail in a mile by Warren Lake.
Get the quads ready and turn left at Starvation Ridge Trail #414 for a 3000′ descent over the next three miles. Follow the trail past the Viento Ridge Spur Trail #417 and the Starvation Ridge Cutoff Trail #414A and back to the junction of Mt. Defiance Trail. Turn right on Mt. Defiance back to the parking lot.