Hiking Report: Hamilton Mountain Loop Trail, Beacon Rock State Park

I settled on the Hamilton Mountain Loop hike for my next adventure after seeing the below picture on Instagram, posted by @oh__seriously.

 

Wouldn’t it be nice if we occasionally had the foresight to know if a given path was the hard version, or the harder version? If we could somehow see into the future and know what we were getting into?

I never did see that sign on my hike. I started out from the Hamilton Mountain Trailhead, and when I reached the junction to choose the hard or harder version, they weren’t labeled that way. So I continued to follow the Hamilton Mountain Summit Trail, eager to see Rodney Falls. And yes, it’s the harder way, and worth every step.

Rodney Falls, Beacon Rock State Park, Columbia River Gorge, Washington

The trail on Hamilton Mountain is littered with leaves of orange and yellow at the moment. Everything still feels so new to me but I’ve been in Vancouver, WA for 3 months, long enough to see the seasons start to change, and it’s a beautiful thing. Eventually I climbed high enough to be treated with a view of Beacon Rock. Even in the midst of transition, there are foundational bedrocks, standing true and stalwart.

 

Beacon Rock State Park, Columbia River Gorge, Washington

A bit under 2.5 miles and I reached the summit. The day was clear enough to see Mt. Hood, Mt. Adams, Table Mountain, and Bonneville Dam off in the distance. I swear hiking is like giving birth – the exhilaration of the summit vista always leaves me forgetting the difficulty of the hike up. (Side note – this is an exaggeration. I’m sure giving birth is much harder.)

I met the nicest couple at the top; they had me posing for pictures before I could even say hi. They were also divine intervention, convincing me to take the easier way down and complete the loop despite the extra mileage. If I had gone down the way I came up, I would have missed The Saddle, and the below amazingness.

 

Location: Hamilton Mountain Trailhead, Beacon Rock State Park along the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge

Distance: 7.87 for the loop, 6.4 if you go out and back along the Hamilton Mt. Summit Trail

Elevation: 2038’ gain, summit at 2438’

Time: 4.5 hours, with breaks on the way up for pictures

Difficulty: Moderate/Difficult, depending on level of fitness

Fees: $10 day Discover Pass, $30 annual Discover Pass

Tips:

  • Great day hike option when visiting Portland, OR or Vancouver, WA
  • Take lots of pictures on the way up Hamilton Mt Summit Trail, as the summit is overgrown with shrubbery
  • Do the full loop for the best experience – Hamilton Mt Summit Trail on the way up, Hardy Trail back down
  • Skip the Hardy Falls Viewing Area detour, the views are much better at the Rodney Falls Pool of Winds detour just a bit further down the trail
  • Near the summit, portions of the trail are very steep and narrow. I did fine without hiking poles, but they would have been nice to have.

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