Those who have hiked with me know that I don’t like up, that is, not sustained, steep up. I feel like I don’t get a break from it if there is no flatness or at least less steep switchbacks. So, when Autumn suggested Beacon Rock, I wasn’t so sure how much I wanted to do it. It is a tall outcrop wedged between WA-14 and the Columbia River. Last year, when we attempted to hike a couple of miles up Hamilton Mountain, I saw it and was fairly sure I wasn’t ready for it. I thought I wrote an article about that hike, but all I did was mention it in my first post.
However, this week I decided to give it a try. It is a daunting prospect when you first see it, at least for people who aren’t in great shape, but the trails are all switchbacks with a short set of steps at the very top. It was rough on my knees and legs for such a short hike, but he views of the Columbia are worth the effort. I made it all the way up!
Beacon Rock Trail
Beacon Rock State Park, Stevenson, Washington
Distance: 1.8 miles out and back
Panting stops: Too many to count, especially toward the top
Elevation changes: 680 feet
This trail is rated moderate on all the hiking sites, but I would rate it tougher. Although it has a few level areas, most of it is up, although on more gentle slopes because of the switchbacks. It is not a long hike, but my legs were feeling it by the time we got back down.
The path is stone or gravel with some short paved portions and some wooden bridges to cross. My friend Autumn has a fear of heights and had great difficulty crossing the bridges the first time. This time, she sometimes had to get her courage up, but she has been up several times since that first time. In a few areas, the stone on the path is loose, but most of the way it is rugged but not loose. Most of the stairs on the final flight have very high rises. So, uphill my hiking sticks were a necessity. Downhill, because almost all of the trail has guardrails, I didn’t usually need my sticks except for high steps or exceptional ruggedness. I would guess that the moderate rating on most sites is because of the ruggedness of some of the footing.
We left for our hike earlier than usual so that we could get well up the rock before it got too hot. Nevertheless, we were quite warm by the time we got to the top, even though it was probably only about 80 degrees there. Toward the top of the trail there is a lot of shade, and at one spot we came around a corner into a lovely cool breeze.
The trail has many gorgeous views of the Columbia River. If you feel you can handle the elevation change in such a short distance, it is worth it. There is no accommodation on this trail for people needing wheelchairs.
How to get there
Take I-205 north into Washington. Almost as soon as you get to the mainland, take WA-14 east toward Camas. The park is on WA-14 about 28 miles along. There is more than one entrance to the park, but parking for this trail is best right next to the rock. Bypass the first entrance to the park. Just after you pass a ranger station on the left, you will see the rock on the right. Parking is on the right just beyond it.
Take WA-14 exit east toward Camas. The park is on WA-14 about 28 miles along. There is more than one entrance to the park, but parking for this trail is best right next to the rock. Bypass the first entrance to the park. Just after you pass a ranger station on the left, you will see the rock on the right. Parking is on the right just beyond it.
Parking and Facilities
The lot next to the trailhead has parking for about 20 vehicles. There is also parking across the highway next to the ranger station. The park also has restrooms near the trailhead. Rock climbing is allowed on the face of the rock away from the hiking trail. The state park has five other trails, as well as campgrounds, picnic and day use facilities, and fresh water fishing, docks, and a boat launch. Dogs are allowed on the trail, and bikes and horses are allowed in the park but not on this trail. Most of the park’s facilities are available from other entrances to the park, not the one near the Beacon Rock trailhead.