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Rooster Rock Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Looking east up the gorge from the East Rooster Rock Viewpoint (Steve Hart)
Sand Island (Steve Hart)
Picnic area, Rooster Rock State Park (bobcat)
Cottonwoods, Rooster Rock State Park (bobcat)
Rooster Rock reflecting (bobcat)
Trails in Rooster Rock State Park (bobcat) Courtesy: Google Maps
  • Start point: Rooster Rock TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Rooster Rock
  • Trail Log : Trail Log
  • Hike type: Loop
  • Distance: 2.7 miles
  • Elevation gain: 240 feet
  • High point: 210 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Seasons: Year round
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: No


Hike Description

A stroll around Rooster Rock State Park revels a number of natural features in the Columbia River riparian area: seasonally flooded shorelines, a forested sand dune, views to a sandy island and steep bluffs across the river, and the striking basalt monolith of Rooster Rock itself, the remnant of an ancient landslide. In summer, the park gets crowded with non-hikers, but at other times of the year, you are almost certain to find solitude at the extremities of the loop described.

Note: There is an area on the east shoreline of the park that is designated clothing optional. The area is clearly defined legally (Everything just east of the parking area and north of the High Water Trail, including the Lagoon Trail and Sand Island). Hikers who may be offended by public nudity should stay clear of the area. As a matter of interest, this was the first officially designated clothing optional beach in the United States and remains only one of two in Oregon, the other being Collins Beach on Sauvie Island.

Drive to the eastern end of the main parking area. This hike starts at a cement pad about 50 feet south of the restrooms. A sign here lists out a nine-hole golf course through the trees. What kind of a golf course starts at a concrete slab and heads through the trees? Why frisbee golf, of course! If you're hiking this in the recommended fall, winter, or spring months, you won't see many frisbee golfers. In summer months, you might occasionally want to duck.

The main trail heads immediately down the hill towards the clothing optional beach. That trail eventually goes to the same place, but it is recommended you go straight across the grassy area from the golf tee to the wooden remains of a small sign on the north (left) side of the lawn, marking a hidden path. This route skirts the beach and a lot of loose sand walking (The newer sign on the right side marks your return trail.). Soon after entering the woods, you'll come to an odd pole with a basket and some chain on it. This is a "hole" for the frisbee golf course. Head east along the best trail you can find. The informal trails here are braided and interwoven, but the way is always clear. Stay close to the dropoff on the left, but avoid any of the steep use paths heading down the hill.

After about 3/4 mile, the path drops down and joins the water level path. Continue east through a grassy meadow for about another 1/4 mile to the Sand Island Viewpoint. From here you can look across a narrow channel of the Columbia River to Sand Island. Wildlife is common here including many kinds of migratory waterfowl, herons, bald eagles, deer and even sea lions. Follow the fading path farther east along the shore for another 1/4 mile or so. There are also great views to the east including Angels Rest, Hamilton Mountain and the western part of the Columbia River Gorge.

When you come to a crumbling, sandy bank, head up the hill to the right. You should find yourself in a large natural meadow. The freeway will be visible (and unfortunately audible). You'll be able to pick out a faint path working its way up the hill to the west. As you climb this hill, the views back over your shoulder get better and better. At the top of the hill take some time to look back up the Gorge. With the extra elevation, the top of Beacon Rock can be seen peaking over a ridge on the Washington side.

Continue west along the ridge crest. The trail works its way up and down, passing several large, fern-laden maples along the way. This is a mostly deciduous forest and in the winter it's pretty open with views down the hill to the freeway. At one point you'll be within a few feet of a paralleling trail but stay on the trail you've been following for a bit farther. There's a section of forest near the highest point that is completely carpeted in horsetails so thick the ground seems to have vanished. The trail through this section is very well maintained and looks like a very narrow road. When you come to an obvious trail fork on the side of a hill, go uphill to the right. At the crest is another concrete frisbee golf tee, and you can look down the hill at the basket. From the tee, head west (left) on the main trail and soon you'll be back to your car.

You can add another two or more miles to this loop by heading west. Walk through the picnic area and past the fee booth. Head across an expansive lawn with group picnic areas, more frisbee holes, and tall yellowing cottonwoods. Pick up a grassy track before Group Picnic Area D, and pass restrooms on the right. Reach the small marina. Youngs Creek runs from Mirror Lake under the freeway to here, and there are views up to Crown Point. Head right to the end of the road at the Car Top Water Vehicle Parking Area. Take up a gravel trail that leads through blackberries and cottonwoods, false indigo and willow on a breakwater separating the river from a channel leading to the marina. Rooster Rock, 175’ high, looms above all the way. The trail drops to the muddy shoreline of the channel and you will probably have to turn back here.


Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • $5.00 fee to enter Rooster Rock State Park
  • Dogs on leash
  • Picnic area, restrooms

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Day Hike! Columbia Gorge, by Seabury Blair, Jr.
  • Afoot and Afield Portland/Vancouver, by Douglas Lorain
  • 70 Virtual Hikes of the Columbia River Gorge by Northwest Hiker
  • Take a Walk: Portland by Brian Barker
  • Columbia Gorge Getaways by Laura O. Foster
  • 35 Hiking Trails, Columbia River Gorge, by Don & Roberta Lowe
  • Columbia River Gorge, 42 Scenic Hikes, by Don & Roberta Lowe
  • Hiking the Columbia River Gorge - 1st and 2nd Editions, by Russ Schneider
  • 100 Hikes in Northwest Oregon - 3rd Edition, by William L Sullivan
  • The Dog Lover's Companion to Oregon by Val Mallinson

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.

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