February is a particularly difficult stride of the 12-month calendar. (Don’t take it from us. Take it from this eloquently dry KMOX report from 2016.) In February it’s hard to find the motivation to keep up with those January resolutions, let alone find the will to uncurl yourself from underneath those warm, warm blankets and go on a hike. With that in mind, February’s hike of the month—much like the month itself—is not very long, is somewhat difficult, and is ultimately incredibly rewarding once it’s over: Angel’s Rest.
This 4.5-mile out-and-back trail just outside of Corbett is one of the many hikes that dot the the western end of the Columbia River Gorge. It’s also one of the 100 or so trails that had been closed after the Eagle Creek Fire in 2017. Angel’s Rest, one of the more iconic hikes in the Gorge—known for its steep climbs and unparalleled panoramic views of the river—reopened in 2018. But even today, nearly five years after the fire, the scars are still here, with aisles of blackened trees still looming throughout the area.
Angel’s Rest can be cut neatly into two halves. The first half of the trail is mostly forest, with only a couple or so viewpoints. Rocky and rooty dirt trails guide you through thickets of dense forests, passing through to Coopey Falls. (For those who want to get up close and personal, there’s a short and slippery path that takes you to the foot of the falls.) After Coopey you’ll pass a short wooden bridge over an ambling creek. As you continue another mile or so through more forest, keep an ear open for the peaceful sound of rushing water. Hold on to that sense of peace for the second half of the trail, which is decidedly more difficult than the first.
Altogether, Angel’s Rest presents an elevation gain of about 1,500 feet, but this second portion is truly when it kicks up a notch. As you emerge from the forested section of the hike, the trail becomes a steep climb through uneven paths and loose rocks. With ample viewpoints along this section, hikers will want to stop or look over their shoulder for a glimpse of the expansive river, but keep an eye on your footing, as the hillside path can sometimes be a little dangerous, especially after heavy rainfall or during strong winds.
A short trek through plates of flat rock (spot the cairns along the way laid by previous hikers) brings you to the final leg of the hike—a rocky ridge with several viewpoints, though for the Angel’s Rest viewpoint proper, you’ll want to head to the north end of the ridge. There you’ll find a bench dedicated to Susan Lorraine Hendricks that’s been heavily marked and carved with names and dates. Sit, snack, watch the river, and enjoy a well-deserved rest (you angel, you) before heading back down the path you came up.
Drive time: about 35 minutes from downtown Portland // Distance: 4.5 miles // Difficulty: Moderate–difficult // Notes: Angel's Rest is a heavily trafficked trail that's especially busy between March and October. For less traffic, head out for a morning hike. If parking at the Angel's Rest trailhead is full, there is additional parking just few hundred feet west of the lot.