Hike Distance: 8.7 miles Yearly Hike Distance: 549.3 miles
Elevation Gain: 2237 feet Yearly Elevation Gain: 64698 feet
This is the first of two hikes I’m doing with my son this weekend, to allow him to preview hikes he’s leading with the Mountaineers at the end of May. The Mountaineers is similar to the Mazamas but is located in the Seattle area. There is a group of people that are coming to the Columbia River Gorge area, to experience hikes here, and my son has volunteered to lead two of the hikes. I helped him select a couple of hikes that aren’t being led by other people from the Mountaineers group.
The Hardy Ridge trail is a less used, but still popular, trail at Beacon Rock State Park in Washington. The views along the Hardy Ridge Trail are some of the best in the Columbia River Gorge, but will take some effort to ascend the 2200+ feet of elevation gain. In my opinion the views are completely worth the effort. Hiking poles, good hiking shoes (preferably rigid soles) and long pants are a necessity as there is much brush along the ridge, and some of the ridge trail is sketchy with some steep ascent on scree and loose rock!
We started at the Equestrian TH off of Kueffler Road. There is plenty of parking but could be crowded on a weekend. You will also need the WA State Discover Pass, and can pay for a day pass at the parking area. The park rangers actively check for passes, and WILL ticket you if a pass isn’t displayed in the car window!!!
We walked past the gate and ascended up the road for about 1.3 miles. Turning left onto the Hardy Ridge Trail (signed) we continued on this road for about another 1+ miles. There is another sign that points to the trail that leads up toward the ridge. This is a true dirt trail and it switchbacks up to an intersection that leads up the ridge. As you climb up the switchbacks you’ll be afforded west looking stellar views of the Columbia River Gorge and hills. Near the intersection, you can see a view of Mt. Hood on a clear day, but not for us to view today. 😦
At the intersection we turned left and headed up the ridge. The trail is quite steep and the bushes line the trail and are a nuisance. I actually spent quite a bit of time pruning the branches away from the trail, so people won’t be poked in the eye or slapped by a branch! 🙂 As you ascend the ridge you’ll continue to see better and better views of the surrounding Columbia River Gorge and Mountains! We were also delighted to see the Glacier Lilies were growing around all the rocky areas, and even on the trail. It was beautiful!
The ridge trail is about one mile in length, from the intersection, and you can stop at several places to have a bite and drink. Just realize that the ascent gets more sketchy the further you go, and my son didn’t like the rocky areas as they were steep and crumbled at times. We made it the entire way up the ridge, and there is a somewhat level area that is a perfect endpoint. I took plenty of pictures and we rested after this huge effort. The view from this location is expansive and breathtaking. You’ll fell like your on top of the world, and the view is almost 360 degrees!
Our descent down the ridge was slow, especially in the rocky and steep areas. I’m glad that I pruned the bushes on the way up as they weren’t an issue on the descent. Once we got back to the intersection, we turned left and descended . This path allowed us to complete the Hardy Ridge Trail loop. There are a few intersections along the descent but you’ll turn right on the next two intersections, to head back to the Equestrian Trail. There are signs along the way that will help you with getting the directions correct.
The day was quite amazing and I had a great time with my son! My back was fantastic on this hike and the pain was minimal. 🙂 A completely successful day in Beacon Rock State Park!