Like the forgotten remnant of a past age, the core of an ancient volcano, a.k.a. Beacon Rock, rises up 850 feet from the Columbia River. As intimidating as it looks to hike, climbing this massive monolith is actually considered an ‘easy’ hike in many guidebooks. I was a bit skeptical of the ‘easy’ level assigned in my hiking guide, but the many dogs and young children on the path gave me that extra boost of confidence to keep going. (Note to parents / dog owners – the railings are not at all ‘child proof’, and you are walking alongside a sheer drop off at many points, so you may end up carrying the little ones for safety. Dogs should definitely be leashed, although I don’t recommend bringing them on this narrow trail. Bring water, a hat and/or sunblock as much of the trail is in direct sunlight.)
The footpath, which was carved by hand between 1916 and 1918, winds for a mile to the top through a series of 52 switchbacks. On the way up, you will have several vista points looking in both easterly and westerly directions allowing sweeping views of the Columbia River Gorge.
Located in Skamania, WA, 35 miles east of Vancouver, WA, it is well worth the effort to reach the apex. It is a popular trail, and the top is small and often crowded with people. If you want to avoid crowds, I recommend going on a lazy mid week day if possible.
If you are a technical rock climber (um, that wouldn’t be me), you can also climb the south face of Beacon Rock certain times of the year.
Not into hiking? You’ve got options as well. For a beautiful view of the Columbia River and Beacon Rock that is drive-able, stop at the ‘day use’ area in Beacon Rock State Park (located across the street from the monolith). As you drive into the park, bypass the first parking lot on the right and instead take the first left. There should be a sign that says ‘day use’ or something similar. Drive until the end of the lot, park and walk over to the picnic tables in the shaded area facing Beacon Rock and overlooking the river. This is a great spot for a picnic, too.
A $10 day use Discover Pass is required to park both at Beacon Rock and in the day use area of the state park. You can buy an annual Discover Pass for only $30 which is valid at this and many other sites in Washington.
Columbia River Gorge & Beacon Rock (on right) as viewed from day use area in Beacon Rock State Park.
Copyright 2012, Columbia River Tunnel Permits.