Hike: Beacon Rock

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A short breathtaking hike with big payoff. Climb up the switchbacks pinned to the side of Beacon Rock for fantastic views of the gorge. School age kids will love this one.

Beacon Rock is a state park on the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge.  According to Wikipedia, it’s (arguably) the second largest free-standing monolith in the world behind the Rock of Gibraltar.  It was created during the great ice age floods but given the name “beacon” by the Lewis & Clark Expedition.  Since 1918 (according  to a plaque on the trail) has been home to this great hiking trail.

Beacon Rock does not get the respect it deserves. It’s a little hike, only 0.9 miles to the top, but the views are fantastic! The trail itself is like none other, with switchbacks built into the side of the rock. Most of the trail is actually concrete as you walk up the side of the rock face.  As a matter of fact, it just reopened a couple weeks ago after a two month closure.  Falling rocks had damaged sections of the trail.

A few parts are so steep they’ve installed wood paths that are suspended in the air.  This makes it a little scary at times as you walk across a hundred feet in the air. Don’t worry, all the trails appear to be in very good condition, it’s just a thrill to be in the air so far off the ground.

As you head for the top, take time for the views. Sadly, they are better on the way up than at the top. The top is forested and all the trees block the best views.   But its still a nice spot to check out, even if it’s crowded.  The day of we were there was absolutely gorgeous!  I love all the shades of greens across the river.

This is a very popular hike with families. Lots of babies in backpacks and school age kids. Toddlers would probably be a bad idea on this trip since they could slip through the railing.I remember going on this hike when I was a kid. It was one of the trips that inspired my love of hiking.  Its the perfect length for kids and feels like a real adventure climbing up the switchbacks.

The entire trip up and back took us about 45 minutes.  I’d say figure an hour.  It’s a great stop if you’re out for a drive, or perhaps want to sneak in something between other adventures.  We headed across the highway to the Hamilton Mountain trail head after we were done and walked in 1.25 miles to the water falls.

One think to remember:  in Washington they have a pretty steep price for a day pass, $10!   So be prepared with cash (although at Beacon Rock they have a machine that takes cards).  But they offer a number of free days throughout the year, so put these date on your calendar and head out to Beacon Rock for some fun!

April 27 – 28: Recognition of National Parks Week
June 1: National Trails Day
June 8 – 9: National Get Outdoors Day and WDFW Free Fishing weekend
Aug. 4: Peak summer season free day
Sept. 28: National Public Lands Day
Nov. 9 – 11: Veteran’s Day weekend

3 Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Hike: Cape Horn | Kristi Does PDX: Adventures in Portland, OR
  2. Itinerary: Weekend Trip | Kristi Does PDX: Adventures in Portland, OR
  3. 10 Portland Day Trips | Kristi Does PDX: Adventures in Portland, OR

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