Location: Columbia River Gorge, Beacon Rock State Park, Washington
Distance: 7.5 miles 1,850 ft gain
At Beacon Rock State Park, several former logging roads have been gated and turned into trails for hikers and equestrians. Beacon Rock and Hamilton Mountain are the more popular destinations here, while Hardy Ridge is far less crowded.
The lower part of the trail is through forest on closed forest roads, the middle section is a narrower trail that switchbacks up the forested ridge, while the upper portion is a rocky ridge with sweeping views of the Gorge.
Driving to the trailhead via Highway 14, we stopped at the Cape Horn overlook to take photos of the fog rolling through the Gorge.
We parked at the Equestrian Trailhead and started our hike along an old forest road. Most of the hiking I’ve been doing lately has been in areas affected by the 2017 Eagle Creek Fire so it was nice to hike through a forest without burn-scarred trees.
We were planning to do a lollipop loop, going up the east side and returning on the west side.
After just over a mile at a three-way trail junction, we continued straight. The trail to the left is where our intended loop returns, while the trail to the right is a short loop that connects back to the trail head after a mile.
The road eventually ends and the trail is for hikers only as it switchbacks up the ridge.
We started seeing more snow along the trail, with a few spots where it covered the trail. It was slushy and not slick, so we continued.
When we reached the top of the loop, the trail continues up Hardy Ridge in an increasing exposed and rocky trail. The snow was heavier here and we didn’t bring microspikes, so we stopped just above the junction to have lunch.
There were no views from the top at first, but as we sat here, the fog rolled in and out, exposing glimpses of the river and the surrounding ridges.
It never did clear up completely, so we headed back down on the west side of the loop.