I haven't gone hiking in the Columbia River Gorge in nearly two years. For two long, long years I've been living in Virginia pursuing my Master's Degree in Sustainable Urban Planning and have only visited Portland a few times for short visits focused on seeing family, friends, and wedding planning. We weren't sure if we'd end up back in Portland after graduate school, as I planned to apply to urban planning jobs up and down the West Coast this past spring. COVID-19 turned that quite upside down, with most urban planning jobs evaporating as municipal budgets were reallocated to COVID-19 relief. The upside is that we're back in Portland for the foreseeable future and I'm focusing on learning how to enjoy free time again after an endless year of full-time graduate school, part-time contract work, serving as Vice President on my student government council, and wedding planning for a celebration that is now postponed.
We drove across the country from Virginia to Portland and spent our first two weeks back in Oregon in strict quarantine. Luckily for us, the majority of those 14-days were signature PNW weather, full of clouds, fog, drizzle, and outright downpours, so we found it much easier to stay inside, curled up on the couch reading or playing online boardgames with friends. Also luckily for us, our first day out of quarantine was a picture-perfect blue sky summer day and we decided to go hiking in the Gorge on a trail new to us.
The Coyote Wall hike is on the Washington side, just under ten minutes East of the Hood River-White Salmon bridge. It's a lollipop loop of sorts (more like a figure-8, honestly, but the signage is clear so don't worry) with 1,200 ft of elevation gain across the 7.7 miles roundtrip. It's more or less straight up and down, which definitely puts it in the leg-burner category, and I'd highly suggest folks with bad knees like me take a trekking pole or two to help ease the nonstop downhill.
Nearly the entire hike is exposed, and you'll have excellent views of the Columbia River the whole way. Mt. Hood decided to poke out of some persistent clouds as we got close to the top when we went, so you might have some nice mountain views too. From a few spots we could also see the cluster of windsurfers just West near Hood River - I think the pro tip here is to pack a lunch and grab a nice spot at the top to relax and enjoy the view before making your way back down the hill. Be warned though, it can be pretty windy in some spots, so try to find one with a little cover so you don't lose any lunch!
The only part of the hike that's not exposed is the very top. Once you get to the high point you're treated with an extra little loop through some forest that we found a very welcome respite from the wind and sun that were relentless on our way up, and I have a soft spot for the higher-elevation forests with gnarled, bent, shorter trees and other scrub brush.
Final pro-tip of the post - please bring a mask with you! It's absolutely possible to continue recreating responsibly outside, and is so important to our mental health to continue exercising and connecting with nature. However, in order for all of us to continue to do that we all need to support each other by wearing masks whenever you pass other hikers on the trail.