Columbia River Gorge near Wanapum, Washington, U.S.A.
Columbia River Gorge, is an awesome playground for the adventure. The mighty Columbia River divides the States of Oregon and Washington. The Western side of both sides of the Columbia River Gorge is a green and lush temperate rain-forest. As you travel East you begin to see a different type of beauty. Both sides are full of hiking opportunities, though we will be looking at a few of those that take off from Hwy. 14 in Washington. Both sides of the river are a hikers paradise. So lace up your hiking boots and let’s go!
Ginkgo Petrified Forest State Park has over three miles of hiking trails for the beginning hiker. The park will delight you with its freshwater shoreline on the Wanapum Reservoir. The reservoir is located on the Columbia River. Petrified Ginkgo Wood was discovered back in the 1930’s and a National Historic Preserve was formed. It is known to be one of the most unique and unusual fossil forests in the world. This is a perfect beginners hike and camping facilities are available for those that desire. It is well suited to families with children. So put gas in the car and head up the Columbia River Gorge.
Beacon Rock State Park is home to Hamilton Mountain. Driving from Vancouver up the Columbia River Gorge, it is located at milepost 39.9. Enter into the state park and follow the signs to the trail head. There is plenty of parking at the trailhead. The trail up to the summit is well marked. If you want to do the loop, hike to the North from the summit for 0.9 miles and you will see an old road. Go to the left and follow the road down for about a mile. There you will encounter a marked trail. You can then travel on this trail for 1.1 miles and then you will rejoin the main trail to Rodney Falls. This is a little more than a 7 mile hike with an elevation gain of 2,000 feet. It is not for beginners nor children. Hamilton Mountain is a major mountain peak in the Central Columbia River Gorge. From the peak you have an awesome view of Bonneville Dam. Washington does not have as many waterfalls as the Oregon side, but you will pass 2. Pool of the Winds is a spectacular water fall and Rodney Falls is extremely nice also.
Dog Mountain is a wildflower haven in mid to late May. This is one of the nicest spring hikes around. From Vancouver, drive up the Columbia River Gorge to milepost 53.6. You will find parking on the north side of the highway. There is a 5.00 parking fee unless you have the Northwest Forest Pass. This is not a hike for out of shape hikers or beginners. It is a real tummy trimmer! There are two junctions on the way up, stay to the right for the first junction.When you come to the next junction stay to the left and you will follow the main trail to the 2,920-foot summit. This is an awesome view. You can see forever! There is a loop possible on the way down. Make a right turn 0.1 mile from the summit, then make a left turn after 1.1 miles and you will return by the way of the Auspurger Trail to the highway. This is a little more than 7 mile loop and you gain in elevation about 2, 800 feet. If you want to burn fat, this is the hike! This is not a beginners hike, nor for the out of shape hiker. It is definitely not for children.
These are three hikes that are a favorite in our family. There are so many hikes on both sides of the Columbia River Gorge. If you want to really know the Gorge, purchase a good hiking book. See links below for suggestions. Enjoy the day at the Columbia River Gorge!