Hike of the Week:
May 19, 2008
Location: Columbia River Gorge
Distance: 7 miles out & back or 9 mile loop
Elevation: gain of 2100 ft to 2400 ft
Maps: Green Trails #429 Bonneville Dam
Hamilton Mountain is nirvana for those seeking high alpine views, ridgeline walks, cliffs, wildflowers, waterfalls and a good workout during a spring when most similar hikes are snowbound.
The elevation at times can be a bit relentless, but the rewards are many. After a moderate climb to 1.3 miles, you will encounter two waterfalls - Hardy Falls (short slide trip) and Rodney Falls (visible from a bridge). Shortly thereafter, there is a junction. Both will take you to the summit, but the right fork much more scenic - and steep.
At this point, the climb begins in earnest. Fortunately, the views open up as you climb, with spectacular cliffs and broad views of the the Columbia River. Before you attain the summit at 3.5 miles, you will walk through a big field of wildflowers which are peaking right now.
The view from the top is fabulous: the Columbia River Gorge and the cascading waterfalls on the Oregon side; Mt. Hood tantalizingly close; Mt. Adams and more. You can return by walking along the ridgeline and hooking up with an old roadbed, which will take you back to the fork near the falls for a nine mile and slightly less steep loop, or you can return the way you came for a 7 mile hike.
Guidebook: Day Hiking: South Cascades by Dan Nelson & Alan Bauer (Mountaineers Books). Beacon Rock State Park (360) 902-8844.
Check the WTA Hiking Guide and Trail Reports on Hamilton Mountain.
From Vancouver, Washington, follow I-205 south to the Hwy. 14 exit (last exit before crossing the Columbia River into Oregon). Follow Hwy. 14 east. Beacon Rock and the park entrance are located at mile post 35. Park in the day-use parking area. No permit is needed.