Towering Beacon Rock is an icon in the Columbia River Gorge, and the short-and-sweet climb to the top has sweeping views of the water and surrounding mountains all the way up.
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Beacon Rock State Park
The 848-foot-high basalt column is in Beacon Rock State Park, which has more than 20 miles of trails along with campgrounds and picnic spots. Located near Stevenson, Washington, the area is popular with hikers, climbers and mountain bikers. A Discover Pass is required to park at the trailhead, which can be purchased on site.
Beacon Rock was named by famed explorers Lewis and Clark back in the 1800s, who were drawn to the remarkable rock which was formed after a young, shallow volcano erupted. The dark basalt was frozen into columns, and when massive floods later swept through and created the gorge the outer walls of the volcano were washed away. Today, its massive core is all that’s left behind.
Hiking Beacon Rock Washington
Beacon Rock Trail is one of the most popular hikes in the park, which has 53 switchbacks over a series of catwalks and carved-out staircases all the way to the top. It only takes about 45 minutes to walk to the summit, making this a family-friendly option as long as you don’t mind a bit of vertical.
The trailhead starts to the right of the parking lot, where you might see rock climbers scaling the steep walls. You’ll soon reach the base of the rock, which was purchased by a man named Henry Biddle who blasted and paved a trail up to the top that was completed in 1918.
As the trail is very developed, there are plenty of guardrails and outlooks en route with idyllic views of the Gorge and landmarks like Hamilton Mountain and the Bonneville Dam. Looking down, you’ll see boats docked in clear inlets and grassy meadows with meandering streams winding through them.
The summit is covered in large boulders, which hikers can scamper over to get to the overlook which has a sign explaining some of the history of the area.
Other hikes near Beacon Rock
There are a handful of other great hikes in and near Beacon Rock State Park, including Spirit Falls and the easy River-to-Rock Trail which heads down to the shore of the river. The fantastic Hamilton Mountain trailhead is just down the road which features 360-degree panoramic views and multiple waterfalls, and Wind Mountain is another short but steep trail. During spring, head to Dog Mountain which is exceptional when the wildflowers are blooming.
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Tamara Elliott is the travel editor and founder of The Gorge Guide, which highlights the best experiences in the Columbia River Gorge. She’s an award-winning writer based in Hood River, Oregon, who particularly loves the area wineries and waterfall hikes. Tamara is also the founder of Globe Guide, which offers savvy tips for exploring destinations around the world.