Home  •   Field Guide  •   Forums  •    Unread Posts  •   Maps  •   Find a Hike!
| Page | Discussion | View source | History | Print Friendly and PDF

River to Rock Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Beacon Rock and Hamilton Mountain from the boat moorage, Beacon Rock State Park (bobcat)
View to Nesmith Ridge from the Doetsch Ranch (bobcat)
Stone shed on the River to Rock Trail, Beacon Rock State Park (bobcat)
Beacon Rock from Riddell Lake, River to Rock Trail, Beacon Rock State Park (bobcat)
The trails at Beacon Rock (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo
  • Start point: Doetsch Ranch TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: River to Rock Trailhead
  • Hike Type: Reverse lollipop
  • Distance: 3.1 miles
  • Elevation gain: 270 feet
  • High Point: 285 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Seasons: All year
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: No



Short trails lead around and from the southwest corner of Beacon Rock State Park, a part of the park often neglected by visitors. The area was homesteaded by the Doetsch family, originally from Kansas. The family raised cattle and grew hay here from 1920 to 1987, when they sold the property to Washington State Parks. The Doetsch Ranch Day Use Area was opened in 2005 and includes a shady picnic area, an RV camp area, and a walking loop. In 2014, after two years of trail work, Washington Trails Association crews completed the extension of the River to Rock Trail from the old Ridell Lake Trail. This allows visitors to hike from the Doetsch Ranch area to Beacon Rock. The Doetsch Walking Path is an ADA accessible interpretive loop, with signs detailing the history and natural history of this area. Note that the River to Rock Trail goes through a very brushy area south of Riddell Lake: both blackberries and nettles may be overhanging the trail.

From the Doetsch Ranch Trailhead, walk through a shady grove of Douglas-firs to the restrooms and pick up the paved path leading east. The path, a loop around the big meadow meadow here, seems to have two names: the Doetsch Ranch Walking Path and the Che-che-op-tin Trail (Che-che-op-tin was the native word for Beacon Rock). There are covered picnic areas in an open field, formerly a cattle pasture. The trail runs around the edge of the field with a thicket to your left and the railroad behind that. Come to Moorage Road, which leads to Beacon Rock State Park’s boat ramp.

Go left under the Woodard Creek Railroad Trestle to the removable bridge over Woodard Creek near its confluence with Little Creek. The River to Rock Trail leads up some stone steps, and then switchbacks. Hike up under a hazel bower, and switchback twice to pass a roofless stone cabin (maybe a former storage shed) and an abandoned filbert orchard. There’s a walnut tree across from the stone shed. Ascend through a dense blackberry thicket: there are also tall, drooping nettles in this section. Switchback at a view of the top of Beacon Rock: you can see the staircase tightly switchbacking up. The trail proceeds above the south shore of Riddell Lake, really a shallow depression which dries out by the end of summer. A dense growth of water lilies hides the surface, and reed canarygrass forms a dense thicket on the shore. The lake is named after Hayward H. Ridell, a lawyer and postmaster from The Dalles who kept a summer home here. Drop to pass along the west shore of Riddell Lake, and get a good view view of Beacon Rock. The trail ascends a slope and swings left at the junction with a decommissioned section of the old loop trail around Riddell Lake. Now you’re only a few yards from Highway 14 as you rise in Douglas-fir woods to cross a powerline corridor. Hike up through a thimbleberry thicket, and enter shady Douglas-fir/big-leaf maple/alder woods to crest a rise and descend to the River to Rock Trailhead at a day-use area. From here you can walk east about 100 yards to the Beacon Rock Trailhead if you want to visit restrooms or climb to the top of the Rock (See the Beacon Rock Hike); otherwise, return down the River to Rock Trail to pass under the railroad trestle and make a left on Moorage Road.

Walk out to the boat launch area. There are restrooms here as well as a couple of campsites. An interpretive sign explains the geology of Beacon Rock, of which you’ll get a magnificent view from the moorage. Across the channel is Pierce Island and west of Pierce is Ives Island (See the Ives Island Add-on Hike). Across the river on the Oregon side are, west to east, Yeon Mountain, Nesmith Point, Wauneka Point, Munra Point, and Wauna Point.

Now return up Moorage Road, and go left on the paved Doetsch Walking Path to stroll a long avenue of cottonwoods, ash and alder. The trail bends to parallel the river, but there is no easy access to the water. Views open up to the field on your right. Wild rose blooms on the path edges in summer. Where the path turns inland, a grassy spur leads to a point and kiteboard launching spot at McGowans Channel. You may see boarders inflating their kites in the grass alongside this spur trail. Return to the parking area across the pasture from here.

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Discover Pass required
  • $2 toll each way at the Bridge of the Gods
  • Dogs on leash
  • Restrooms, campground, picnic area, interpretive signs


Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Columbia Gorge Getaways by Laura O. Foster (Doetsch Ranch)

More Links

Page Contributors

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.