- Washington side of Columbia River Gorge (Beacon Rock State Park)
- 7.5 miles total, 2,200 feet of elevation gain (steep)
- Great views, safe trail
- Crowded (get there early)
May 21, 2017
(Click images to enlarge and see clearly)
Hamilton Mountain is an 7.5-mile hike (though there are numerous places with good views to stop and turn around along the way, and a loop option) on the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge. Living in Portland certainly has its perks, including easy access to one of the densest hiking areas in the PNW. However, that also means it gets crowded on weekends and almost every day in the Summer.
This hike features all of the good things about a Gorge hike:
- good views all of the way up (with the best view at the top)
- densely shaded forest (a relief from the summer sun)
- good places to take breaks (if that’s your thing)
- and is far enough from the roads that you can’t hear any cars (unlike other popular hikes, e.g., Angel’s Rest)
We got to the trailhead early (maybe 8am?), and the parking lot was already full. Because the trail is a part of Beacon Rock State Park, you need to pay the fee or get a state park pass (the NW Forest Pass is not valid here). We were happy to find that once we got up the trail a mile or so, the crowds thinned out and we only came across a couple of other people on our way up. There are a couple trails that connect to the one up Hamilton, so perhaps the big groups of people we saw at the trailhead were doing those.
This trail is steep pretty much the entire way. It gains about 2,200 feet in elevation over the 3.75 miles to the top. We made it to the top by around 9:30am, but we hiked fast and didn’t take any breaks (we save pictures for the way down).
Shortly into the hike the trail crosses (via bridge) Rodney Falls. Along the way other small creeks are easily walked over, and closer to the top there is some water drainage on some rocky parts of the trail (likely dried up by early summer). About 1/2 of the way up are some great views of the Gorge from Little Hamilton Mountain, though they’re slightly blocked looking east due to the steep, rocky side of the bigger Hamilton Mountain jutting out. If you’re looking for a shorter hike, stopping here and turning around will put you at about 4.5 miles. it’s worth continuing along for better views if you have the time and energy!
Continue along through the woods for a great view at the top! The trail will branch off to the right where you’ll look over some bushes to see the picturesque Gorge, and the trail continue off to the left (the loop hike, I’m assuming). We had a snack at the top and headed back down to an even-more crowded trailhead and many more folks making their way up (start early if you’re hiking the Gorge in the Summer).