There are many beautiful waterfall hikes in the Columbia River Gorge, but one of my favorites is along the trail to Hamilton Mountain. The Hamilton Mountain loop, about 7.5 miles, used to be a favorite trek for Brian and I, back when we had free weekends with which to do what we wanted!
7.5 miles was a bit more than we wanted to take on today, but the hike up to the waterfalls, Pool of the Winds and Rodney Falls, is only a mile in and SPECTACULAR.
As always, we packed a picnic. Kids need incentives to hike!
If you go:
The trailhead is at Beacon Rock State Park, but it’s up the hill and across the highway from where you park to climb Beacon Rock. You’ll want to stop at the lower parking lot at Beacon Rock, however, to use the restrooms and buy your Discover Pass. If you plan on visiting a Washington-side Gorge destination more than 3 times in a year, just buy the annual pass. It’s $10 for a one-day pass, and $30 for the annual pass. There are several pay stations at various locations, but I like the one at the Beacon Rock trailhead, because it’s a credit card meter station, just like the parking meters downtown. Who carries checks around with them?
After acquiring your parking pass, just head up the road just across the street. At the parking lot, there is a playground, which is great for kids if you are waiting for other parties to join you. I swear, my kids would be just as happy just playing there as they are achieving our destination!
The hike is only about a mile up to the water falls. There are a few different viewing areas, and a simply stunning perspective on the bridge at the Pool of the Winds.
We hiked up a little ways past the falls to have a picnic, then headed back down. There is another parking up the hill a ways. You can do the same hike from there, it just adds a little distance. At that parking area is a stunning view of Beacon Rock – if you aren’t up for a hike, just go park there for a rest or a picnic! It’s just beautiful.
After our hike, we drove a few more miles east to one of our favorite destinations in the Gorge, Skamania Lodge. We had lunch in the grill, then gathered around the fire pit for a bit before it started raining.
Such a wonderful afternoon!
General hints for hiking with kids:
Bring snacks & water – even for a 2 mile hike, it’s nice to have a picnic at the half-way point. It’s a good way to avoid a melt-down.
If the kids are getting tired of hiking, hide treats along the trail. We can easily burn through a quarter mile without them noticing if they are searching for M&Ms or gummy bears along the path. I learned this trick from Dayl, and it’s brilliant.
Bring a change of clothes for everyone if there is any chance of it being muddy or wet. We thought we would be hiking in the rain, but the weather was perfect. The path was super muddy in places, though, so we were still glad to have the change of clothing before heading to Skamania.
Let me know if you hit Hamilton Mountain!