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Hamilton Mountain Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Cliffs on the south side of Hamilton Mountain (Steve Hart)
Rodney Falls (Steve Hart)
Table Mountain and Mt Adams from the Hamilton Trail (Jeff Statt)
Facing west from the Hamilton Mountain Trail (Greg Lief)
One of the overlooks along the Hamilton Mountain Trail (Jeff Statt)
Map of the route
  • Start point: Hamilton Mountain TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Hamilton Mountain
  • Trail log: Trail Log
  • Hike type: Lollipop loop
  • Distance: 7.5 miles
  • Elevation gain: 2100 feet
  • High point: 2,438 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: March to November
  • Family Friendly: No
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: Yes


Hike Description

This very popular trail has a feast of features for hikers, including waterfalls, craggy cliffs, deep forests, superb vistas, and a loop option for the trek. The outing can done at any time of year although you will want to pay attention to icy spots in the winter. Hamilton Mountain is really the Missoula Flood-truncated end of a basalt ridge: there are higher points on the same ridge farther north. The summit itself is thicketed and offers limited views, but a bench a few yards back gives you a vista to the east of Table Mountain and the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge. Other views come from the trail on the way up and at the Hamilton Mountain Saddle as you continue on the loop. NOTE: This trail has many switchbacks. To prevent erosion and degradation of the trail, do not shortcut these switchbacks.

During winter, the gate to the campground and the Hamilton Mountain Trailhead may be closed, but you can park your car across the road at the Beacon Rock Trailhead and walk up the road.

The trail begins with a moderate climb, going through second-growth Douglas-firs then under power lines. There are nice views of Hamilton Mountain and Bonneville Dam from a bench about 4/10 of a mile in. There's also a junction with a trail to an alternate trailhead in the campground. About a mile from the trailhead, you'll come to the waterfall area. There's only one creek here, falling almost continuously, but there are three named waterfalls. First, you can take a side trail to the right for a limited view of Hardy Falls, the lowest of the waterfalls. Back on the main trail, continue a few hundred yards and go left on a side trail that ends at a railed lookout and view of the two upper areas, Pool of the Winds, and Rodney Falls. Hardy Creek pours into the Pool of Winds from the right, tumbling 50 feet before hitting the pool in the rocks. Then the water breaks free and cascades out along a stream bed worn in the rock before sliding down water slide-like channel until it hits a rocky labyrinth, splitting the flow in many ways, until it all comes together again below. A beautiful waterfall indeed!

Return to the main trail and switchback down to a sturdy footbridge below the falls for more cooling spray and photo opportunities. Beyond the Hardy Creek Bridge, switchback uphill and climb 0.2 miles to a junction with the Hardy Creek Trail. In the warmer seasons, your trail may be lined with ferns, Oregon Grape, thimbleberries and wild rose. In fall, this area is filled with an understory of yellow maples beneath the green firs. For this hike, take the "more difficult" route to the right and ascend steeply through the forest. Soon, the trail switches back beneath the first of Hamilton Mountain's many cliff faces. Follow steep switchbacks leading up a cliff-edged ridge, and you will be rewarded with spectacular views across the Columbia River at a spot locally known as Little Hamilton Mountain. The trail heads across the very crest of a ridge to Hamilton Mountain proper and continues climbing for another mile, until you reach a T-shaped junction at the summit ridgecrest. The path to the right will dead-end at Hamilton Mountain's summit, 2488 feet above sea level. The summit is just a bare patch of dirt with a view that is somewhat obscured by brush. Don't follow the user trails that tunnel into the thickets: You will not be rewarded by views but rather by unsightly dobs of toilet paper. For a better lunch spot keep hiking.

Turn around, and follow the ridgecrest trail downhill toward the north that leads eventually to a plateau known as Hamilton Saddle with better viewings of Mount Hood, Mount Adams, Mount Saint Helens and Table Mountain, as well as the Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River. You now will have hiked a little over three miles and climbed some 2000 feet, so take a leisurely lunch break here if it's not too windy.

At the signpost at the far end of the plateau is a junction. An old dead-end road heads to the right and the Upper Hardy Creek Trail heads straight. To continue on your counter-clockwise loop, turn left down an old road, part of the Equestrian Trail. This entire trail is very popular, and besides other hikers, you may find yourself sharing this stretch with horseback riders. At the first switchback in the road, stay on the track as you pass the Equestrian-Don's Cutoff Trail Junction. (Don's Cutoff takes you off the road - and away from horses and cyclists - to drop through secondary Douglas-fir forest and reach the Upper Hardy Creek Trail.) After the road makes a big bend, you'll arrive at the Equestrian-Upper Hardy Creek Trail Junction, where you need to make a left. Descend to shortly arrive at the trail junction near a little meadow and a road crossing of Hardy Creek. Here you will turn left onto a level path through a cool alder forest. You'll pass over a footbridge where the trail is heavily buttressed with crib walls to keep the slope in place. After 1.1 you miles will join the main trail at the Hamilton Mountain-Hardy Creek Trail Junction. Turning right will take you back to the parking lot.


  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • Beacon Rock State Park (Washington State Parks)
  • Green Trails Maps: Bridal Veil, OR #428
  • Green Trails Maps: Columbia River Gorge - West #428S
  • Geo-Graphics: Trails of the Columbia Gorge
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service/Bureau of Land Management: Columbia River Gorge
  • National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map: Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Discover Pass required
  • Restrooms, picnic area, information kiosk
  • $3 toll each way at the Bridge of the Gods
  • Dogs on leash

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Day Hikes in the Columbia Gorge by Don J. Scarmuzzi
  • 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Portland by Paul Gerald
  • Day Hiking: South Cascades by Dan A. Nelson & Alan L. Bauer
  • Day Hiking: Columbia River Gorge by Craig Romano
  • 100 Classic Hikes: Washington by Craig Romano
  • Afoot & Afield: Portland/Vancouver by Douglas Lorain
  • Best Wildflower Hikes: Western Washington by Peter Stekel
  • 100 Hikes: Northwest Oregon by William L. Sullivan
  • I Heart Oregon (& Washington) by Lisa D. Holmes
  • PDX Hiking 365 by Matt Reeder
  • Take a Hike: Portland by Barbara I. Bond
  • Hiking the Columbia River Gorge by Russ Schneider, revised by Jim Yuskavitch
  • 70 Virtual Hikes of the Columbia River Gorge by Northwest Hiker
  • Portland Hikes by Art Bernstein & Andrew Jackman
  • Day Hike! Columbia Gorge by Seabury Blair, Jr.
  • Curious Gorge by Scott Cook
  • Hiking Washington by Oliver Lazenby
  • Skamania 231: A Scrambler's Guide by Kelly Wagner
  • Columbia Gorge Getaways by Laura O. Foster
  • 35 Hiking Trails: Columbia River Gorge by Don & Roberta Lowe
  • Columbia Gorge Hikes: 42 Scenic Hikes by Don & Roberta Lowe
  • Washington State Parks: A Complete Recreation Guide by Jan Bannan
  • Best Trail Runs: Portland, Oregon by Adam W. Chase, Nancy Hobbs, and Yassine Dibboun

More Links


Oregon Hikers Field Guide is built as a collaborative effort by its user community. While we make every effort to fact-check, information found here should be considered anecdotal. You should cross-check against other references before planning a hike. Trail routing and conditions are subject to change. Please contact us if you notice errors on this page.

Hiking is a potentially risky activity, and the entire risk for users of this field guide is assumed by the user, and in no event shall Trailkeepers of Oregon be liable for any injury or damages suffered as a result of relying on content in this field guide. All content posted on the field guide becomes the property of Trailkeepers of Oregon, and may not be used without permission.