By Ryan Yambra (@Ryambra)
Beacon Rock State Park is one of the most popular destinations in the Columbia River Gorge. With landmarks ranging from Hamilton Mountain to Beacon Rock, the 5,100-acre natural area has something for everyone.
But fewer people make the trek up Hardy Ridge. Tucked away at the Equestrian Trailhead, the route up Hardy Ridge gives hikers big views, spring wildflowers, and more than 2,000 feet of elevation gain without the crowds to show for it.
This particular Saturday in May was a soaker with heavy rain and low clouds. And while the views were less than spectacular, that didn't stop us from hitting the trail.
This hike begins by heading north on the Equestrian Trail. After a slow, winding climb of about a mile, the wide path meets a junction with the West Hardy Ridge Trail. To make a loop, we ignored the western path and continued along the Equestrian Trail another half mile until reaching the East Hardy Ridge Trail.
Once hitting the East Hardy Ridge Trail, which resembles a dirt road, we continued our gradual ascent. Eventually, the trail meets a junction with a connector marked ‘foot traffic only.’ As the light drizzle turned into a shower, we took the connector trail towards the top of the ridge.
After about a half mile, this well-established path meets a four-way junction. Here, you can head up towards the Hardy Ridge summit or descend back into the trees.
Normally during late spring, a trip up to the summit gives hikers amazing views with sights of nearby Hamilton and Table mountains. On a clear day, Mount Adams is also visible. Sadly, the weather was too poor to enjoy the views up top. We chose to have lunch at the junction and head back down.
To make it back, we descended under the trees on the west trail along the western side of the ridge.
After a gentle downhill trek, the path spit us back out onto the Equestrian Trail. From there, we hiked slowly back down to our cars.
Hardy Ridge has plenty to offer hikers without the crowds of other nearby destinations. On the day, our total mileage was a bit under eight miles with the trail just to ourselves. Rain or shine, Hardy Ridge should be a destination for any hiker looking to try something new.
Click here for more photos from the hike.