Located along the Columbia River Gorge, Hamilton Mountain has captivating views for hikers to enjoy throughout the seven and a half mile trek. This well loved hike along the gorge has roaring waterfalls, extensive views of the Columbia River, and picturesque views of Mount Rainier and Mount Hood to be enjoyed along the way.
With accessibility for most of the year, Hamilton Mountain is a great hike for hikers looking for a shoulder-season hike to get outdoors!
Part of an extensive trail system in Beacon Rock State Park, this trail can be made shorter for those just looking to view Rodney Falls or Little Hamilton Mountain, or longer if you’re looking for solitude along the West and East Hardy Ridge Trails.
In this hiking guide, I will review everything you need to know about hiking Hamilton Mountain, from how to prepare for your hike, to what to expect along the trail, and what to do afterwards! Happy trails and enjoy the guide!
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Hiking Guide to Hamilton Mountain and Rodney Falls
This captivating hike, located within the enchanting Beacon Rock State Park, offers an experience that’s nothing short of extraordinary. As you lace up your boots and take your first steps, you’ll soon discover why this trail has earned its reputation as one of the best hikes along the Columbia River Gorge, known for its popular status and unrivaled vistas.
General Information About Hamilton Mountain
Region: Columbia River Gorge
Distance: 7.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 2200′
Time: 4 hours+
When to Go: Year-Round
Pass/Permit?: Discover Pass
Dogs Allowed?: On Leash
Date Completed: February 11th, 2023
Accessing Hamilton Mountain Trail
Join me as we venture through the remarkable Rodney Falls, ascend Little Hamilton Mountain, and ultimately, stand atop the peak, gazing upon a panoramic spectacle of the Gorge, where the mighty Columbia River majestically carves its path. If you’re in pursuit of adventure and breathtaking landscapes, Hamilton Mountain is your destination, promising unforgettable memories and one of the best views of the Columbia River Gorge.
Map of Trailhead
Hamilton Mountain is located on the ancestral lands of the Chilluckittequw tribes. We are grateful for the stewards of this land past and present. We are honored to be and recognize that we are guests on this land.
Getting to the Trailhead
Getting to the trailhead of Hamilton Mountain from Vancouver is straightforward. Start by heading east on State Route 14. After approximately 38 miles, you’ll spot the entrance to Beacon Rock State Park, where the adventure begins. Follow the signs leading to the trailhead parking area off of Route 14, often monitored by a friendly state park employee.
If the parking lot is full the state park employee will have you turn around and park at the bottom of the road which adds additional miles and elevation gain.
It is important to get to the trailhead early or in the evening for a parking spot in the parking lot.
The Hamilton Mountain Trailhead had a large restroom for hikers to use before and after their hike.
There was also a cabin built by the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC) that hikers can use as a picnic area as well as a small playground for children.
Season to Hike Hamilton Mountain
The Hamilton Mountain Trail is accessible year-round which makes it the perfect destination for people wanting to hit the trail in the off-season. However, each season offers something special along the Hamilton Mountain Loop Trail.
Hikers can expect to witness the reawakening of nature as wildflowers paint the landscape with vibrant colors. While this season promises awe-inspiring views of Mount Rainier and Mount Hood through the clear, unfettered vistas at the peak, it’s important to note that the overgrown brush can sometimes obstruct these sights as summer approaches.
However, the trail is at its most comfortable during spring, with cooler temperatures and fewer crowds, making it an ideal time for a serene hike along one of the best routes in the Columbia River Gorge.
The weather is warm, and the lush greenery offers a refreshing contrast to the sun-drenched vistas. Expect to share the trail with fellow hikers as you make your way through the challenging switchbacks and steep stairs, with views of the Gorge beckoning you onward.
At Little Hamilton Mountain, take a well-deserved rest and soak in the brilliant blue of the Columbia River below. It’s the perfect season for those seeking a vibrant and lively hike, although be prepared for larger crowds.
Autumn graces Hamilton Mountain with a breathtaking display of fall foliage. The trail is adorned with hues of red, orange, and gold as the leaves change, creating a captivating backdrop for your hike. The cooler temperatures and thinner crowds provide an ideal atmosphere for a tranquil outdoor experience.
The views are equally stunning, offering a unique perspective on the Columbia River Gorge that differs from the other seasons. It’s a season for solitude and reflection, where you can revel in the serenity of nature’s transformation.
While winter hiking on Hamilton Mountain is not as common, it offers a secluded and serene experience for those willing to brave the colder conditions. The trail may be covered in a blanket of snow, adding an element of challenge to the hike.
The views from the peak can be particularly striking in the winter, with the Columbia River winding through a snowy landscape. However, it’s crucial to be well-prepared with appropriate gear and clothing, as winter conditions can be unpredictable and challenging.
What to Pack for Your Hike
In this section, I’ll guide you through the essentials and offer valuable tips on what to carry along for your journey. From sturdy footwear to hydration essentials, our packing recommendations will help you make the most of your hike along one of the best trails in the Columbia River Gorge.
REI Co-op Flash 22
Osprey Tempest 20
Gregory Maya 20
The Gregory Maya 20 is a more affordable technical day-pack. Offering great organization options for gear, this pack is perfect for beach trips, hiking trips, and everything in-between.
The Hamilton Mountain trail, while not technical, does have rocky sections and requires you to be on your feet for a longer amount of time. Hiking boots would definitely be my footwear of choice for this trail.
Columbia Hiking Boots
The Hamilton Mountain Loop trail winds through a large old growth forest and has long exposed sections. Wearing layers will add comfortability to your hike throughout the trail.
REI Co-op Sahara Sun Hoodie
The Sahara Sun Hoodie is one of my most used pieces of hiking clothing. With a large hood, I get extra protection from the sun without being too warm.
There are limited water sources on the Hamilton Mountain Trail after Rodney Falls. Pack extra water for this trail if you’re enjoying the trail in the summer.
3L Hydraulics Reservoir
On trails with limited water access, I like to carry my 3L Water Reservoir. It is recommended to drink 0.5 L of water for every hour of hiking and it is always better to have too much water than too little.
Happy Trails and be sure you’re prepared for all weather on the trail! Let’s get into what it is like to hike Hamilton Mountain in the Columbia River Gorge Natural Scenic Area.
Hiking Hamilton Mountain Trail
In this section, I’ll guide you through each leg of the Hamilton Mountain adventure, breaking it down into four distinct phases. From the initial hike to Rodney Falls, where the roar of cascading water sets the tone, to the exhilarating ascent to the peak with its panoramic views, and finally, the descent back to the trailhead.
Hike to Rodney Falls
The Hamilton Mountain hike begins at the trailhead, located within the beautiful Beacon Rock State Park along the Columbia River Gorge Natural Scenic Area.
The initial stretch of the hike takes you on a wide trail with a steady but manageable grade. It’s an excellent warm-up phase for hikers of all levels. As you ascend, take a moment to enjoy the first glimpses of Hamilton Mountain in the distance, setting the stage for what’s to come.
Before reaching the mesmerizing Rodney Falls, you’ll encounter the Hardy Falls Viewpoint. An offshoot from the main trail will lead you to this viewpoint, providing a glimpse of the cascading waters of Hardy Falls. It’s a serene and picturesque stop that I highly recommend you making.
At Rodney Falls, you’ll find yourself surrounded by the soothing ambiance of nature, a perfect beginning to your Hamilton Mountain hike. There is an upper viewing area of Rodney Falls, proceed with caution because this area is extremely slippery, but worth it!
Rodney Falls to Little Hamilton Mountain
Leaving behind the mesmerizing beauty of Rodney Falls, your hike to Hamilton Mountain’s summit continues. This phase of the journey offers a mix of adventure and elevation gain as you make your way towards Little Hamilton Mountain.
As you venture forth from Rodney Falls, the trail narrows and becomes a little more rugged. You’ll notice the terrain becoming steeper and rockier, giving you a sense of the challenge that lies ahead. Here, you’ll encounter a series of steep stairs and winding switchbacks that demand a bit more effort. ou can choose to do a quick side trek up to Pool of the Winds which is at the top of Rodney Falls.
The ascent from Rodney Falls to Little Hamilton Mountain is both strenuous and invigorating. By this point, you’ve conquered around 400 feet of elevation gain, but there’s still approximately 1600 feet to go in the next 2.5 miles. The trail unfurls before you, offering glimpses of the surrounding forest and occasional views of the Columbia River Gorge.
After navigating a challenging series of switchbacks, you’ll begin to see a glimmer of hope on the horizon. As you emerge from the forested trail, you’ll be greeted by the first breathtaking views of the Columbia River Gorge. However, it’s worth noting that you’ve only just reached Little Hamilton Mountain, and there’s still one mile to go before you reach the peak…oops.
The vistas from Little Hamilton Mountain are nothing short of spectacular. The Columbia River below shimmers in brilliant blue hues, and there are plenty of spots to sit, relax, and savor a well-deserved snack. For many hikers, this serves as a popular turnaround point, as the panoramic views alone make it a worthwhile destination.
But if you’re up for the challenge and eager to reach the true pinnacle of Hamilton Mountain, continue on for that final mile and conquer another 400 feet of elevation gain. The rewards at the peak are beyond compare, with stunning views of Mount Rainier and Mount Hood, visible through the surrounding brush.
Little Hamilton Mountain to Hamilton Mountain
The next leg of your hike takes you from Little Hamilton Mountain to the very peak of Hamilton Mountain itself.
While you’ve already gained a fair share of elevation, there’s still more to conquer, with about 400 feet of elevation gain left in the next mile. The path ahead may be demanding, but the allure of reaching the summit keeps your spirits high.
As you continue your ascent, you’ll encounter a variety of terrain. The trail narrows further, and the vegetation becomes more sparse, offering glimpses of the surrounding countryside. You’ll navigate through rocky outcroppings and encounter the occasional scramble.
One of the true highlights of this section of the hike is the moment when you catch your first glimpse of Mount Rainier and Mount Hood. These majestic peaks rise above the horizon, their snow-covered summits a striking contrast to the rugged landscape of Hamilton Mountain.
During the springtime, when the vegetation fills in, the views can be somewhat obscured. However, this only adds to the unique charm of the hike. It creates a sense of intimacy with the mountain and its surroundings, making it feel like a hidden gem in the Columbia River Gorge.
As you press onward and conquer the final stretch of elevation gain, the anticipation builds. Soon, you’ll stand at the peak of Hamilton Mountain, and the reward for your efforts will be a 360-degree panorama of breathtaking beauty. Mount Rainier and Mount Hood will be even more awe-inspiring, and the Columbia River Gorge will stretch out before you in all its glory.
Descending Hamilton Mountain via the Hardy Creek Trail
The return trip down via the Hardy Creek Trail is a unique experience in itself, offering a different perspective of the Columbia River Gorge and adding to the richness of your Hamilton Mountain hike. While most people will hike back down the way they came, the Hardy Creek Trail is a fantastic option for those welcome to an additional 0.5 miles and looking for solitude.
The Hardy Creek Trail begins its descent from the summit of Hamilton Mountain, winding its way through the lush forest that envelops the mountainside. As you embark on this leg of your hike, you’ll find that the path is notably different from the ascent. It’s less steep and demanding, making it a welcome respite after the challenging climb to the peak.
One of the highlights of the Hardy Creek Trail descent is the opportunity to see Hardy Falls from a unique vantage point. As you approach the waterfall, you’ll notice it from a different angle compared to your earlier viewpoint.
The trail gradually leads you back to the junction where you first encountered Rodney Falls. From here, you’ll retrace your steps along the wide trail that leads back to the trailhead. It’s a chance to reflect on the incredible journey you’ve just completed, with memories of stunning vistas, challenging ascents, and serene descents.
Commonly Asked Questions
As you prepare for your Hamilton Mountain hike, you might have some burning questions about the trail, its challenges, and the best times to embark on this adventure. Here are some answer to commonly asked questions about Hamilton Mountain:
How long is the Hamilton Mountain Hike?
The Hamilton Mountain hike is approximately 8.2 miles round trip if you follow the loop route, which includes the ascent towards little Hamilton and descent via the Hardy Creek Trail. However, keep in mind that the length of your hike may vary slightly depending on specific detours or side treks you choose to explore along the way.
How high is Hamilton Mountain in Washington?
Hamilton Mountain stands at an elevation of approximately 2,438 feet (743 meters) above sea level. It offers stunning panoramic views of the surrounding Columbia River Gorge and nearby peaks such as Mount Rainier and Mount Hood.
When should you hike Hamilton Mountain?
The ideal time to hike Hamilton Mountain depends on your preferences and what you’re looking to experience. Spring and fall offer milder temperatures and fewer crowds, making for a more serene hike. Summer is the busiest season with vibrant foliage, but expect larger crowds. Winter offers a unique and tranquil experience but requires careful preparation for potentially snowy or icy conditions.
What are other good hikes in the area?
Should Hamilton Mountain be a Classic Hike?
I am hiking all “100 Classic Hikes of Washington”. But the question is, Should Hamilton Mountain be a 100 Classic Hike of Washington?
There were a number of parts of the Hamilton Mountain Hike that I truly enjoyed. I loved Rodney Falls and thought the bridge was magical. Little Hamilton Mountain had wonderful views of the Columbia River Gorge.
While on the peak of Hamilton Mountain, a woman mentioned to me that a trail crew should come up here and cut the trees that were growing so they would not obscure the views. What a horrendous thought. Hiking trails are carved as a way to allow people to experience nature in the least harmful way possible. Clearcutting the top of a mountain is anything but that.
So, to answer the question “Should Hamilton Mountain be a 100 Classic Hike of Washington”, my answer is “in part”. The hike should be amended to only reach Little Hamilton Mountain because hikers can experience the waterfalls and views of the gorge and have the option to continue on to Hamilton Mountain if they wish.
In winter months the views from the top of Hamilton Mountain are breathtaking, but when the leaves fill in, the views will be nonexistent for anyone below the height of 6’0’’.
Let me know in the comments if you think Hamilton Mountain should be a 100 Classic Hike of Washington!
What to do post Hamilton Mountain
If you’re up for another hike, just near the trailhead for Hamilton Mountain is Beacon Rock Trailhead. This short and steep hike is the namesake for the state park that Hamilton Mountain is in. The hike brings you to the top of beacon rock which is a protruding rock along the Columbia River Gorge.
If you’re looking for a drink, one of my favorite breweries along the Columbia River is Thunder Island. It is on the Oregon side of the river, but the beer is delicious, the staff are wonderful and the views of the river are spectacular. If you can plan it right, try to get there before sunset because the views of the river from their patio are absolutely breathtaking.
Pack it Up:
In the heart of the Columbia River Gorge, the Hamilton Mountain trail beckons adventurers with its unique blend of challenge and reward. As you stand atop the summit, gazing upon the breathtaking vistas that stretch before you, it becomes clear why this trail is renowned as one of the best in the region. From the roar of Rodney Falls to the serenity of Little Hamilton Mountain and the grandeur of the peak, the Hamilton Mountain hike is an unforgettable journey through the natural wonders of Washington state.
So, lace up your boots, pack your essentials, and embark on an adventure that promises not just a physical feat but also a deep appreciation for the majesty of the great outdoors.