Columbia Hills up to Stacker Butte

Seeking some sunbeams, I headed east to Washington’s Columbia Hills State Park for the afternoon, parking off of State Route 14 at the lot by Eightmile Creek. The trails here offer an open expanse of the Gorge, looking down the Columbia as it flows towards the Columbia and Mt Hood, and east to the open, dry expanse of the Columbia Plateau. The trail winds up and around the hills toward the Dalles Mountain Ranch. Popular for the spring balsam root blooms, the area around the old Ranch and the natural area above sees less traffic the rest of the year. I continued on the road above the ranch, climbing up to Stacker Butte at 3219 feet and views of the Klickitat River canyon and landscape stretching on towards Mt Adams and Mt. Rainier beyond. I hustled down the road with dwindling afternoon light, and back onto the trails for the last leg to return just as the sun fell behind Mt. Hood, a total round trip of 15 miles.