Mileage: 7.5 mile lollipop loop w/ 2,155 ft. elevation gain
Approximate hike time: 3 hrs. 15 mins. w/ an average pace of 2.3 mph
Trail usage: Very high on weekends in late spring and early summer, medium on weekdays
Highest elevation: 2,393 ft. Lowest elevation: 408 ft.
General location: 45 miles northeast of Portland - Beacon Rock State Park - Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area
Suggested seasons: Spring, summer, fall, winter
(Best time to go is June for wildflowers and strong waterfall flow).
Permits required: Discover Pass (you can buy a 1 year pass or a day pass at the trailhead kiosk)
Pit toilet at trailhead: Yes (fully flushing toilets)
Trail allows: Dogs
Possible dangers: steep drop offs at the first viewpoint
Hamilton Mountain is a very popular destination in the Columbia River Gorge. It is rare to find a hike that has almost everything, amazing views, wildflowers, a beautiful forest trail and waterfalls! This hike is technically in Washington, but it is a stone's throw across the Columbia River from Oregon and the views of Oregon from here are absolutely spectacular.
For how popular this trail is, the parking lot is not very big. If you are trying to hike here on the weekend, especially in late spring/early summer, make sure to get to the trailhead early as it fills up completely by 9-10am. To hike this trail you will need to display your Discover Pass in your car, or you can pay for a day pass at the trailhead kiosk.
The first 0.9 miles meander through a beautiful lush green forest. It is pretty shaded and the trail can get very muddy. After 0.9 miles you will come to the Hardy Falls viewpoint. It is very overgrown, especially in the springtime, so it is quite difficult to see the actual waterfall. Continue on another 0.2 miles and you will come to the more spectacular Rodney Falls.
This waterfall has 2 drops and is 80 feet tall. It plunges into an alcove where the water has carved a deep round pool called Pool of the Winds. There is an upper viewpoint you can go to that looks down into the pool, but it is usually extremely wet up there, especially in the spring and early summer season when there is high water flow. From the lower viewpoint at the bridge, you can look up at the entire waterfall.
As you head uphill from Rodney Falls you will start to catch glimpses of amazing views through the trees of the Columbia River Gorge. At the 1.4 mile mark you will come to a trail split. This is the loop portion of the hike. You can do the loop clockwise or counter-clockwise, whichever you prefer. This write-up describes the loop counter-clockwise. As you continue heading uphill to the right, you will switchback a few times for 0.4 miles until you come to the first true viewpoint of the hike.
This viewpoint is a bit precarious and many people walk right up to the edge of the cliffs that have a sheer drop off! This is not necessary to catch the epic views. You can see the entire Columbia River Gorge and the massive destruction from the 2017 Eagle Creek Fire on the Oregon side. This hike is perfect in June when you can see many beautiful wildflowers blooming along the trail.
The next 0.7 miles consist of many short switchbacks until you come to another viewpoint. This one is a bit overgrown by large bushes so there is not a great place to sit and enjoy the view. From here you will not only see the Gorge again from higher up, but on a clear day you can also see Mount Adams to the east. Continue on another 0.4 miles to the saddle and the most beautiful viewpoint of the hike. The saddle is wide and offers the perfect place to sit and enjoy a picnic lunch. There are meadows of wildflowers in June and you can see Mt. Hood to the south.
At the end of the saddle there is a 3-way split in the trail, make sure to take the trail to the left, Don's Cutoff Trail. At the 4.75 mile mark there is a pit toilet available for use along the side of the trail. This is very convenient and a very good idea, since a trail this popular would likely be trashed with toilet paper if this facility wasn't available. After the pit toilet, continue on for another 1.3 miles until you arrive back at the original loop junction. From here you will continue back the way you came in, passing the waterfalls, 1.3 miles to the parking lot.
The Hamilton Mountain area is a must-see place, especially in late spring/early summer! It is rated moderate because of the mileage and elevation gain, but the trail is generally in great condition (besides the mud), and unless you go to the cliff edge of the first viewpoint, the trail itself does not have any sketchy spots where there is a lot of exposure. If you are going in the month of June, make sure to take your wildflower book because you will be seeing many flowers and it is fun to look up information about the different flora while you're hiking. Remember to get to the trailhead early as this trail gets extremely busy during nice weather weekend days.
- Drive northwest toward I-405 N for 3 miles, then use the right 3 lanes to merge onto I-5 N for 5.8 miles. Take exit 1A for WA-14 E toward Camas for 0.4 miles, then continue onto WA-14 E for 15.7 miles. In downtown Washougal at the traffic circle, continue straight to stay on WA-14 E for 0.9 miles, then at another traffic circle take the 2nd exit onto WA-14 and continue for another 17.5 miles. At a sign for Beacon Rock Campground take a left for 0.3 miles, then turn right to the trailhead. (Total of 43.8 miles)
- Drive US-97 north for 41.2 miles. In the town of Madras, US-97 N turns right and becomes SW 5th St/S Adams Dr. for 1.4 miles through town. Then continue onto US-26 W 59.5 miles, and then take the State Route 35 N exit toward Hood River for 0.3 miles. Merge onto OR-35 N for 38.2 miles. Turn left onto US-30 W/E State St. for 0.4 miles, then turn right onto Front St. Front St. turns left and becomes Oak St. for 0.1 miles then turn right onto 2nd St. for 0.2 miles. Turn left to merge onto I-84 W toward Portland for 0.2 miles, then merge onto I-84 W for 18.4 miles. Take exit 44 for Cascade Locks toward US-30 and continue onto Cascade Locks Hwy/Wa Na Pa St. for 1.3 miles. Turn left onto Bridge of the Gods/Toll House Park (there is a $$ toll for crossing the Bridge of the Gods). After crossing the bridge, turn left onto WA-14 W for 6.8 miles, then right after you see Beacon Rock Trailhead, make a sharp right turn and continue 0.3 miles, then turn right into the trailhead. (Total of 171 miles)
- Total of 86.5 miles via Portland.
- Total of 150 miles via Portland.
- Total of 313 miles via Portland.
*All pictures are taken by Franziska Weinheimer
*Disclaimer: The trail descriptions, mileage, GPS tracks and difficulty ratings depicted on this website are never 100% accurate. Always hike at your own risk, using your own knowledge, equipment and common sense. Franziska Weinheimer/Hike Oregon are not responsible if you or anyone in your party gets injured or lost while attempting one of these or any other hikes.