Mount Defiance, while not one of the big Cascade Peaks, offers some of the best views of Hood and Adams from the northwest Oregon area. Rainier and St. Helens can also be seen as well as fantastic views of the Columbia River Gorge. It is the highest point in the Gorge and overlooks it right between Hood and Adams.
There are two trails to the top. The north trail offers an excellent training hike of 5.9 miles with an elevation gain of 4800 feet. Many use this as a Mount Hood trainer since the elevation gain is relatively the same on this mountain less than half the size of Hood. Some even think it's a bit harder than Hood's summit. There is also a south trail of 2.4 miles with a 1500 foot elevation gain. There is a long gravel road to the trailhead for the south trail while the north trail starts right off I-84 near Hood River.
Click here for an interesting description of a North Side trip report I found on the web.
There is a radio tower at the summit. Mount Hood is seen to the south and dominates the sky. You can walk left past the fenced station and follow a short path through the trees to a large rock on a cliff edge. Scramble onto the top of the rock for great views of Adams, Rainier and St. Helens. This view is also seen from a rock field a few hundred yards down the north trail and just west through the forest.
For the north trails from Portland (Mt. Defiance Trail and Starvation Ridge), drive I-84 east of Cascade Locks 10 miles to the Starvation Creek exit near milepost 54. Ignore any "closed" sign that are there which refer to the restrooms, not the trail or the parking area. Walk back (west) along the trail that parallels the highway and goes along it's shoulder. If you are coming from the west on I-84, you'll have to take the Wyeth exit #51, turn around and drive back east to exit 54. Again, please note that the trailhead starts a bit west of the parking area (behind you if you are looking at the restrooms) and you area actually walking back along a trail by the shoulder of the road to get there.
For the south trail you can get there by taking I-84 to Hood River, OR and exiting on West Hood River Exit 62. Drive towards Hood River 1.1 miles, turn right on 13th Street and follow signs to Odell for about 3.5 miles. Pay close attention to the signs or you'll miss a few turns like I did. Right after you cross the Hood River Bridge take a right-hand fork past Tucker Park for 6.3 miles. You'll fork again to the right heading towards Dee, cross the river, take another right and follow the signs for Rainy Lake. Follow Punchbowl Road 1.4 miles and then gravel road number 2820 for 10 bumpy miles to a sign on the right for the Mount Defiance Trail. Park on the shoulder.
The North Trail is open year round. The South Trail from June to mid-October due to road closures from snow.
No permits are required at either the south trailhead or the north trailhead parking lot. It's a day-use deal.
When To Climb
You can climb year-round the North trail but as mentioned above, snow usually closes the road to the trailhead on the south trail from mid-October though May.
Nearest campground is about a mile east of the trailhead at Viento State Park Campground. It is open March - November. This site also has links to other nearby campgrounds. This will add a bit more distance to the hike if you start from that point. Otherwise, this is a day use area.
You may want to check the Mount Hood page for current weather conditions info as this mountain is just a few miles north of Mount Hood. You can also check Yahoo weather for Hood River, OR.