Rowena Crest Viewpoint: A Scenic and Wildflower Wonderland in Oregon’s Columbia Gorge

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If you are looking for a scenic and rewarding destination in Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge, you should definitely check out Rowena Crest’s viewpoint and trailhead. This stunning spot offers panoramic views of the gorge, the historic highway, and the arid cliffsides.

Rowena Crest Viewpoint
Rowena Crest Viewpoint

It is also home to one of the most spectacular wildflower displays in the region, especially in spring when the hills are covered with yellow balsamroot, purple lupine, and other colorful blooms.

In this blog post, I will share with you some unique details about Rowena Crest, including things to do, what to expect, how to get there, parking and entry fees, and some tips to make your trip easy and rewarding.

Consider reading: Oregon Road Trip

I will also tell you about my personal experience of visiting this place and why I think it is one of the best hikes near Hood River.

Things to Do at Rowena Crest Viewpoint

Rowena Crest is not only a viewpoint but also a trailhead for two hiking trails that lead through the Tom McCall Nature Preserve.

The preserve is named after the former Oregon governor who was instrumental in protecting the gorge from development.

The preserve is managed by The Nature Conservancy, an environmental nonprofit that owns nature preserves around the world.

The first trail is the Rowena Plateau Trail, which is an easy 2.6-mile out-and-back hike that follows the edge of the plateau and offers views of the Columbia River, a hidden lake, and the curved highway below.

The trail is open year-round and is suitable for families and beginners. Along the way, you can see various wildflowers, such as paintbrushes, daisies, aster, trillium, penstemon, and phlox.

The second trail is the McCall Point Trail, which is a moderate 4-mile out-and-back hike that climbs up to the top of McCall Point, where you can enjoy a breathtaking view of the gorge and the peaks of Mt Hood and Mount Adams.

The trail is open from May through October and is more challenging than the plateau trail. It has a moderate incline and some exposed sections that can get windy. You will also encounter more rattlesnakes on this trail, so be careful where you step. 

The reward for your effort is seeing the stunning display of balsamroot and lupine flowers that cover the hillside in spring.

If you are not into hiking, you can still enjoy the view from the paved overlook at Rowena Crest. There are interpretive exhibits that explain the geology and history of the area, as well as benches where you can sit and relax.

You can also take some amazing photos of the horseshoe-shaped road that winds up to the viewpoint. This road is one of the most photographed roads in Oregon and is similar to Instagram-famous Horseshoe Bend in Arizona.

What to Expect at Rowena Crest

Rowena Crest Viewpoint is a popular destination for locals and tourists alike, especially during the wildflower season.

You can expect to see many people on the trails and at the viewpoint on sunny days. However, there is enough space for everyone to enjoy the scenery without feeling crowded.

The weather at Rowena Crest Viewpoint can vary depending on the season and time of day. In general, it is warmer and drier than other parts of the gorge because it is on the eastern side where the rain shadow effect occurs.

However, it can also get very windy due to the gap in the mountains that funnels air through the gorge. You should dress in layers and bring a hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, and water.

The trails at Rowena Crest are well-maintained and marked with signs. They are mostly dirt paths with some rocky sections. You should wear sturdy shoes or boots with good traction.

You should also stay on the trails to avoid damaging the fragile ecosystem and disturbing wildlife.

There are no restrooms or water fountains at Rowena Crest. You should use the facilities at nearby Mayer State Park or Mosier before or after your visit. You should also bring your own water and snacks.

There are no pets allowed in the nature preserve because they can harm or scare away wildlife. You should also leave no trace by packing out your trash and respecting other visitors.

How to Get to Rowena Crest Viewpoint

Rowena Crest Viewpoint is located off Highway 30 (Historic Columbia River Highway) near Mosier, Oregon. It is about 80 minutes of driving time from Portland. You can get there by car or by public transport.

By car: From Portland, take I-84 east to exit 69 for Mosier. Turn right on Highway 30 and drive for 6.7 miles, bearing right through the town of Mosier and winding up through cherry orchards and fields until you reach Rowena Crest. 

You can park on the Rowena Crest Viewpoint loop to the right or use a pullout on the left side of the highway near a stile.

By public transport: From Portland, take the Columbia Gorge Express bus to Hood River. From Hood River, take the CAT (Columbia Area Transit) bus to Mosier. From Mosier, you can either walk or bike to Rowena Crest.

The walk is about 7 miles one way and the bike ride is about 20 minutes one way. You can also hitchhike or use a rideshare app to get a ride from Mosier to Rowena Crest.

Parking and Entry Fees at Rowena Crest Viewpoint

There is no parking fee or entry fee at Rowena Crest. However, you should be aware that parking space is limited and can fill up quickly on busy days. You should arrive early or late to avoid the crowds and find a spot.

You should also display a Northwest Forest Pass or an America the Beautiful Pass on your car dashboard if you park on the left side of the highway near the stile.

This is because this area is part of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, which is managed by the U.S. Forest Service. You can buy a pass online or at any Forest Service office or vendor.

Tips to Make Your Trip to Rowena Crest Easy and Rewarding

Here are some tips to make your trip to Rowena Crest Viewpoint easy and rewarding:

  • Plan your visit according to the wildflower season. The best time to see the wildflowers is from mid-April to mid-May, depending on the weather and elevation. You can check online for updates on the bloom status or call The Nature Conservancy at 503-802-8100.
  • Bring a camera and a tripod. Rowena Crest is one of the most photogenic places in Oregon and you will want to capture its beauty. A tripod can help you take sharper photos and avoid camera shaking, especially in low light or windy conditions.
  • Bring binoculars and a field guide. Rowena Crest is a great place to observe wildlife, such as birds, butterflies, bees, and reptiles. You can also learn more about the wildflowers and their names by using a field guide or an app.
  • Be respectful and responsible. Rowena Crest is a special place that needs our care and protection. Please follow the rules and regulations, stay on the trails, leave no trace, and respect other visitors and wildlife.

My Personal Experience of Visiting Rowena Crest Viewpoint

I visited Rowena Crest Viewpoint in late April with my wife and we had a wonderful time. We drove from Portland in the morning and arrived at the viewpoint around 10 am.

We parked on the loop road and walked to the overlook, where we were greeted by a stunning view of the gorge and the highway.

We decided to hike the McCall Point Trail first since we wanted to see the wildflowers at their peak.

The trail was moderately steep but not too difficult. We saw many yellow balsamroots and purple lupine flowers along the way, as well as some other varieties that we didn’t know. We also saw some birds, butterflies, bees, and lizards.

The view from McCall Point was amazing. We could see across the river to Washington and the Klickitat River Bridge near Lyle, as well as Mt Hood and Mt Adams in the distance. We took some photos and had a snack before heading back down.

We then hiked the Rowena Plateau Trail, which was much easier and shorter than the McCall Point Trail. We enjoyed walking along the edge of the plateau and seeing different perspectives of the gorge and the lake below.

We also saw more wildflowers, such as paintbrushes, daisies, aster, trillium, penstemon, and phlox.

We returned to our car around 1 pm and drove back to Portland. We stopped at Mosier for lunch at a cute cafe called Rack & Cloth, where we had some delicious pizza and cider.

We had a great day at Rowena Crest Viewpoint and we highly recommend it to anyone who loves nature and scenery. It was one of our favorite hikes in Oregon and we hope to come back again someday.

Final Thoughts on Rowena Crest Viewpoint

Rowena Crest Viewpoint is a scenic wildflower wonderland in Oregon’s Columbia Gorge that you should not miss.

It offers panoramic views of the gorge, the historic highway, and the arid cliffsides. It also offers two hiking trails that lead through the Tom McCall Nature Preserve, where you can see one of the most spectacular wildflower displays in the region.

In this blog post, I shared with you some unique details about Rowena Crest, including things to do, what to expect, how to get there, parking, and entry fees.

Have any questions? Feel free to drop a comment!

FAQs on Rowena Crest Viewpoint

Is Rowena Crest Viewpoint open?

Yes, Rowena Crest Viewpoint is open all year. This scenic viewpoint offers panoramic views of the Columbia River Gorge and is accessible to visitors throughout the year. Whether you’re looking to enjoy colorful wildflowers in the spring or stunning fall foliage, you can visit Rowena Crest Viewpoint anytime.

What is the famous curvy road in Oregon?

The famous curvy road in Oregon is known as the Historic Columbia River Highway. It features the iconic Rowena Loops, which are a series of horseshoe curves leading up to a scenic viewpoint. The viewpoint also serves as a trailhead for the nearby Tom McCall Nature Preserve. This stretch of road is a remarkable engineering marvel and offers stunning views.

What county is Rowena Crest in?

Rowena Crest is located in Wasco County, Oregon, making it an unincorporated community within the county.

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