hike: Hamilton Mountain – Hardy Creek loop
The hike up to the summit of Hamilton Mountain offers many rewards, with several waterfalls on Hardy Creek, interesting rock formations, and sweeping views of the Columbia River Gorge. The trail is quite steep in sections, so you have to work for the rewards.
distance: 7.5 miles (loop)
elevation gain: 2,100 ft.
best season: fall, spring
drive time from Portland: 1 hour
parking pass: Discover Pass
hike description: OregonHikers.org: Hamilton Mountain Loop Hike
Beginning at a picnic area with a pavilion built in 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps, the trail begins in the forest before reaching an open area with power lines. There’s a good view here of Hamilton Mountain and the ridge below it.
At a sign for Hardy Falls, take the side trail all the way down several sections of steps to the end of a platform that overlooks Hardy Creek as it cascades down the hillside.
Back on the main trail, a short distance ahead, the second major waterfall in this area is Rodney Falls. A short side trail goes up to the Pool of Winds, where Hardy Creek plunges into a rocky cave-like structure, with a constant strong wind and spray of water from the rush of the falls, hence the name Pool of Winds.
Cross over a long boardwalk bridge, with the rushing water of the creek above and below the bridge.
Several switchbacks of stairs climb up the hillside, and from here on, the trail gets much steeper. This is a good place to turn around for a shorter hike. A trail junction connects the Hardy Ridge loop to Hamilton Mountain, but most people continue straight either for the cliff ridge section, or to the summit of Hamilton, using the optional route on the way back.
To get to the summit of Hamilton (2,392 ft.), continue straight on the trail for another 1.5 miles through a series of switchbacks. The view from the top is only open to the east, looking towards Table Mountain and Mount Adams.
From the summit, continue on the trail to the north along a saddle behind Hamilton Mountain. The views from here are much better than from the summit. The trail descends to an old jeep road, follow the signs that leads back to the main trail. At the junction to Hamilton Mountain, turn right and go back the way you came, passing the waterfalls again.