Trail of the Month: Hamilton Mountain

This challenging trail offers spring wildflowers, waterfalls, and wilderness—all just 45 minutes from Portland.

By Brian Barker May 1, 2014 Published in the May 2014 issue of Portland Monthly

Little-known fact: the best hike within Beacon Rock State Park does not involve its namesake toothy monolith. That honor goes to Hamilton Mountain, a 2,488-foot rampart safeguarding old-growth timber, tumbling creeks, craggy overlooks, multitudes of wildflowers, and three waterfalls. Lace your boots up tight: the trail accessing these riches bounds up some 2,000 feet. (The peak makes an excellent conditioning climb for St. Helens and Hood.) Thankfully, rewards come early (and often). Just one mile in, an overlook surveys dribbling Hardy Falls; footbridges skirt Rodney Falls and the aptly named Pool of the Winds, a 50-foot spigot that unleashes a goose bump–inducing veil of mist. Continue along Hamilton Mountain Trail (labeled “more difficult”) through tree-bare, rugged cliffs to the summit where the sky opens with a full cast of Gorge A-listers, including Hood, Adams, St. Helens, and Table Mountain. To complete the loop, cross a wide saddle and descend on Hardy Creek Trail to its intersection with the waterfalls. $10 Washington State Discover Pass required

POST-HIKE WATERING HOLE: Take a load off at Cascade Locks Ale House (formerly the Pacific Crest Pub) and indulge in offerings like “Pizza of the Gods,” a pie loaded with garlic, Italian sausage, feta, and kalamata olives, or the 10 rotating beers on tap. Don’t leave without a bottle of the signature horseradish sauce. 500 WaNaPa St; 541-374-9310

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