Beacon Rock

  • Level: easy (Beginner level: challenging)
  • Length: 1.8 miles
  • Elevation: 600 ft. gain
  • Type: out and back
  • Open: all year
  • Permit: Discover Pass or $10
  • Drive time from Portland: 45min
  • Google map: “Beacon Rock State Park” but the actual trailhead is around milepost 35
  • Features: Columbia River Gorge
  • Pair with: meander through Beacon Rock State Park or do the Hamilton Mountain trail in addition.

I adore Beacon Rock! It’s one of my go-tos for bringing friends, or when I just want to play nature gym, meaning I’ll hike it a few times in one go to get my elevation gains without spending hours on a long trail. I do this one a lot.

The rock itself is an 848-foot basalt volcanic plug on the Columbia River. The trail consists of connecting platforms and bridges with handrails creating fifty-one short switchbacks with views in all directions. It’s a popular hiking trail, but it’s also known for climbing. It’s said to be the second largest free standing rock in the northern hemisphere, the Rock of Gibraltar being the first, but I’ve read that isn’t quite accurate. Still sounds cool, so I’ll probably just keep saying that it is.

Warning: it is often WINDY and the trail shoulders a shear drop off on one side for most of the way. Again, it’s handrailed the whole way, but be prepared and safe. There have been a couple of times where I’ve felt a little knocked off my feet by the wind.

The first few switchbacks. Icy snow really ups the excitement. Microspikes would’ve been a good idea.
The trail.
Eastern view of the the Gorge and the Bonneville Dam.
The beauty!
Alllll snow and ice this day.
My friend Rae! The handrail was our savior.
At the top of the trail and losing it while the wind pummeled us.

From the trailhead:

Near milepost 35, you’ll come up on two parking turnouts on the right (if you’re coming from the west). The actual trailhead is between the two turnouts, so it doesn’t matter where you park, though there is a full bathroom and a Discover Pass kiosk at the end of the second pullout (buy the yearly pass if you’ve got the gumption, otherwise it’s $10 for the day). You’ll walk in the woods for a hundred yards or so before starting the sweet switchbacks. The rest is pretty obvious as there are no intersecting trails. When you reach the top, return the way you came.

Some old instagram photos:

5 thoughts on “Beacon Rock

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