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Beacon Rock

Beacon Rock's native name is "Che-Che-op-tin," which translates to "the navel of the world." Native Americans weren't far off in their comparison, since the 848-foot basalt column once formed the core, or belly, of an ancient volcano.

During the ice age, icebergs and flowing waters slowly carved away the softer exterior rock, leaving Beacon Rock sticking straight out of the north banks of the Columbia River. Lewis and Clark camped here on their way to the Pacific, and it was at Beacon Rock that they first noticed the tides affecting water levels in the Columbia River, more than 120 miles from the mouth. It was this team of explorers that gave the rock its modern name, though they were initially undecided on whether it should be "Beacon Rock" or "Beaten Rock."

Its sheer walls were unscaled until 1901, and the modern trail to the top follows that original route. Climbers are still able to scale the rock today, but only on the northwest face. The rest of the rock is closed to climbing, to protect nesting falcons.

From a developed parking area on the south side of the highway, the hike heads up immediately -- after all, you have 848 feet to climb in less than a mile. But the grade is surprisingly gentle, with plenty of places to catch your breath and enjoy a view. Moss covered boulders line the wide gravelled path at the base. The trail then curves around to the south side of the rock, where you encounter handrails and a sturdy boardwalk trail that switchbacs all the way to the top of the mountain.

Along the way, the trail winds in and out of trees -- surprisingly huge for growing out of a rock mountainside. You'll enjoy views up- and down-river of the mighty Columbia, and far below is a boat launch and the day use area of Beacon Rock State Park. Even on foggy days, the views are interesting and the fog can add to the mystique of the trail.

There is also a small lake visible in the meadows at western edge of the rock. This is Riddell Lake, accessible via a wide trailhead at the picnic area at the base of Beacon Rock. It's a nice option for folks who might not want to venture up to the summit, since it offers an interesting southern view of the monolith but beware of bugs! Roundtrip to the lake is less than half a mile.

The summit of Beacon Rock features a sign offering you a congratulations on summitting, as well as an expansive view upriver towards Bonneville Dam. Enjoy the view and then head back the way you came.
Driving Directions:

From I-205 in Vancouver, drive east on State Highway 14 for 34 miles. The Rock is located on the south side of the highway, just past the Beacon Rock Park Headquarters. Parking for about 30 cars is available at the base of the rock. A Discover Pass machine is at the eastern parking lot, and a picnic table is located at the western lot. Restrooms with flush toilets are available, as well as one ADA-accessible privy, both at the eastern lot.

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Recent Trip Reports

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There are 16 trip reports for this hike. See all trip reports for this hike.
Beacon Rock — Mar 26, 2014 — Anna Roth
Day hike
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A fast trip up a landmark on the Columbia River that I was long overdue to explore. Day two of o...
A fast trip up a landmark on the Columbia River that I was long overdue to explore.

Day two of our SW Washington whirlwind tour and Kindra and I got some good hiking in. Despite creeping fog and clouds, we had good views heading up the rock, stopping to peer at Bonneville Dam and as much of the river valley as we could see. The trail is a fun climb, though we wondered how they could possibly have poured the concrete for some sections of this trail -- must've been some marvel of engineering.

I was surprised that the top of the Rock didn't offer more of a 360 degree view, but I imagine clearing the top of a Rock with sheer sides harbors a certain amount of risk. No matter, the views heading up and back down were great, and we only saw three other people because it was Wednesday morning.

We popped down to Riddell Lake to see what we could see, but it was more a mileage boost than anything. It was a bit too cloudy for a really impressive view of the rock, and the trail is pretty soggy.

tl;dr -- climb the Rock, skip the lake.
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Beacon Rock — Nov 30, 2013 — Loren Drummond
Day hike
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We went to see a show in Portland, and decided to crash at Beacon Rock State Park before getting bac...
We went to see a show in Portland, and decided to crash at Beacon Rock State Park before getting back on the road.

Started the day with a quick, early hike up to the top of the rock. We had the whole place to ourselves until we had made our decent. It's a really different kind of trail, made of platforms and some sections of concrete, hanging off the side of the rock. It will definitely test anyone who has a fear of heights.

Why go: the views. The views of the Gorge are absolutely stunning and worth a trip up this ancient bit of volcano. We would have loved to have gotten out on some of the longer and more diverse trails in the park, but this makes a good spot to stretch your legs at least.

Dogs: We hiked it with our dogs, and they did great, but I wouldn't recommend it if there are already a bunch of other hikers on the trail. Also, this is one where you absolutely want them leashed (which is the state park law anyway).

Nights car camping: 1
Total nights outside this year (my goal is 36): 16
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Beacon Rock — Nov 16, 2013 — rnnrgrl
Day hike
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This is a very unique hike and easily accessible. The trailhead leaves immediately from HWY 14, near...
This is a very unique hike and easily accessible. The trailhead leaves immediately from HWY 14, near a small roadside parking area with restrooms. A Discover Pass is required.
This trail is a feat of engineering, and built between 1915-1918. It’s hard to imagine so much work going into this trail, not really sure why other than to get (non-climbers) to the top of the rock. Much of the trail is paved with older asphalt, with bridge structures built out to allow for the path to hang off the side of the rock in places. The exposed climbing sections all have sturdy metal rails to hold onto. There are switchbacks (vs. stairs) for the climb up the rock. The trail starts on the west side and presents nice views there, does the bulk of the ascent on the south side with some really great views, then wraps around to the east side for the last pitch to the top. Just before you get to the summit the trail comes out on the dirt in the trees before reaching the final viewing platform.
It was raining and windy but we were actually well protected by the rock and it was only on the viewing platform that we felt the full elements. The views and experience were actually better along the way than on top, so we quickly turned and headed back down. It is only a 2-mile round trip and not technical at all. For just about anyone except small children and anyone really bothered by heights.
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Beacon Rock — Jun 15, 2013 — vongoebel
Day hike
Features: Wildflowers blooming
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More just a bump than a trail report, this is a very unique hike, taking you up many switchbacks cut...
More just a bump than a trail report, this is a very unique hike, taking you up many switchbacks cut right into or hanging off Beacon Rock, all the way to the "summit" of the rock itself. Along the way the Columbia Gorge will accompany you with wonderful views and along the trail you will find signs and plaques describing the history of the rock and the region. The hike itself is not long and is well worth the stop if you just happen to be passing through, or makes a great destination during a Columbia Gorge getaway!
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Beacon Rock — May 04, 2013 — Leaf of Lorien
Day hike
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We got to the trailhead around 10 AM and set on up the trail. The hike was steadily steep but not ha...
We got to the trailhead around 10 AM and set on up the trail. The hike was steadily steep but not hard. Really just a lot of switchbacks. No issues with the trail at all. Great views of the Columbia River Valley on the way up and from the top (which was pretty crowded). Definitely a nice simple hike that's perfect for families with kids and such.
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Beacon.jpg
Beacon Rock from the Oregon side of the Columbia River. Photo by Gren Bjork.
WTA worked here!
2010, 2013
Location
South Cascades -- Columbia Gorge
Beacon Rock State Park
Statistics
Roundtrip 2.0 miles
Elevation Gain 600 ft
Highest Point 848 ft
Features
Rivers
User info
Discover Pass required
Guidebooks & Maps
Mountaineers Books South Cascades - Dan Nelson
Green Trails No. 429 Bonneville Dam

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Red MarkerBeacon Rock
45.6290666667 -122.021866667
  • Trail Work 2013 Frontcountry
  • Youth Vacations 2014
  • Trail Work 2010
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