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Hardy Ridge Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Looking south along Hardy Ridge (cfm)
Lower end of the Equestrian Trail, Beacon Rock State Park (bobcat)
Hamilton Mountain and Mt. Hood from Hardy Ridge (bobcat)
Blooming penstemon and Table Mountain, Hardy Ridge (cfm)
Harsh paintbrush (Castilleja hispida), Hardy Ridge (cfm)
Looking to Phlox Point, the summit of Hardy Ridge (bobcat)
Map of the trail system in Beacon Rock State Park (Don Nelsen)
  • Start point: Hardy Ridge Equestrian TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Phlox Point
  • Trail Log: Trail Log
  • Hike Type: Lollipop loop
  • Distance: 8.1 miles
  • Elevation gain: 2175 feet
  • High point: 2,957 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: Spring through fall
  • Family Friendly: No
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: No
Falling

Contents

Hike Description

This loop hike at Beacon Rock State Park will give you views, solitude, and a great wildflower display in June. It mostly follows a system of old logging roads now used by horses. However the foot trail over the crest of Hardy Ridge as well as the rough trail north along the spine of the ridge are hiker-only. The higher you get on the ridge, the more open the terrain, once blighted by the 1902 Yacolt Burn, becomes, and the more the views open up. The hike begins at the Equestrian Trailhead on Kueffler Road. You can examine the map in the parking area before starting, but all of the junctions mentioned in this description are marked with signs, and some of them have maps posted.

Behind the information kiosk, there’s a gated road and, to its right, a trail marked “Equestrian Trailhead.” Take either one – they come together in short order, and you’ll be following the gravel road up below a talus slope in Douglas-fir/hemlock forest with a sword fern and Oregon grape understory. A rip-rap buttressed section of road is where a slide took away the tread many years ago. After crossing a couple of creeks, the road levels on an alder bench and curves uphill to pass over another plunging creek. At a four-way junction with the West Hardy Ridge and Lower Loop trails, keep straight.

Turn into the Hardy Creek drainage, and keep gently rising, getting glimpses across to Hamilton Mountain through the alders. This is a mixed slope forest of Douglas-fir, hemlock, maple, alder, and wild cherry. When you reach the junction with the East Hardy Ridge Trail, turn left to hike up a salmonberry-lined road track under a canopy of alder. A big looping switchback takes you on a traverse on the east slope of Hardy Ridge, and you'll soon enter a coniferous forest of same-age Douglas-firs and hemlocks, with the road grade becoming gentler.

The Bridge Trail, which connects to the trail system near Hardy Creek, comes in from the right. Continue up the track in deep forest to reach the road's end and the east end of the hiker-only Hardy Ridge Trail. This footpath switchbacks up in a hemlock forest with sword fern and Oregon grape forming the carpet. Looking at the trail bench, you can see that this entire slope was once scree that has been colonized by forest and a thin layer of organic matter. After a steady traverse up, two switchbacks take you into a more stunted forest, and you'll come to a four-way junction right on the ridge crest. A little spur leads left to a fin of rock that offers views to Mount Hood and an expanse of the Columbia River Gorge, including west to Archer Mountain, east to Hamilton Mountain and Table Mountain, and across the river to Tanner Butte, Yeon Mountain, and Larch Mountain. However, to sample the real delights of Hardy Ridge, turn right (north).

The trail is a typical user track, and it first passes another rock fin to offer more views of Mount Hood. Phlox bloom in profusion on these rocky outcrops in spring. Then, after winding through thickets of windblown noble firs, views open up to Mount Adams between Table Mountain and South Birkenfeld Mountain. The Bonnevile Dam also moves into view below Hamilton Mountain, which seems small and insignificant from this perch, and Dog Mountain can be seen upriver to the east. The trail burrows through thickets of Sitka alder and mountain ash with patches of bear-grass. After another rock outcropping, the ridge becomes almost treeless, and the views are expansive along the lichen and moss-covered crest. The summit block, Phlox Point, is visible ahead. The trail switchbacks up a short section of loose talus and reaches the summit after you pass from Beacon Rock State Park to the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. Horsetail Falls is visible on the Oregon side of the Gorge. To the east, Mount Adams shows itself, and Mount Hood dominates the southern horizon. You can expect the wildflowers on the ridge and at Phlox Point to peak from June to late July.

Return the three-quarters of a mile to the four-way junction with the Ridge Trail, and bear right. Three switchbacks down take you through dense thickets and into a Douglas-fir forest. Another switchback offers a view over the wide bowl of Duncan and Woodward creeks to Archer Mountain and across to Larch Mountain on the Oregon side of the Columbia River. Now a series of 10 switchbacks conveys you down the west slope of Hardy Ridge as you criss-cross ancient logging roads. Red alder form most of the canopy although slide alder has colonized the road beds. Eventually, you'll reach the West Hardy Ridge Trail, where you need to bear left.

This open road track, which is also used by horses, make a level traverse under alders and vine maples and then gradually descends under a canopy of Douglas-fir. Past a horse hitch, the track gets a little brushier as thimbleberry thickets encroach. After a level hike, you'll stay right and drop to the junction with the Equestrian Trail. Here, make a right to hike the last mile back to the Equestrian Trailhead.


Maps

  • 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

Regulations or Restrictions, etc.

  • Discover Pass required
  • Restrooms, picnic area, information kiosk
  • Dogs on leash
  • Trail maps at most junctions
  • Share some trails with horses and mountain bikers

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Day Hikes in the Columbia Gorge by Don J. Scarmuzzi
  • Day Hiking: Columbia River Gorge by Craig Romano
  • Afoot & Afield: Portland/Vancouver by Douglas Lorain
  • 100 Hikes in Northwest Oregon & Southwest Washington by William L. Sullivan
  • 70 Virtual Hikes of the Columbia River Gorge by Northwest Hiker
  • Washington State Parks: A Complete Recreation Guide by Jan Bannan

More Links


Contributors

  • CFM (creator)
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.

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