Hardy Ridge Loop

Logging remnant, I presume

Logging remnant, I presume

I might make some Oregonians mad, or they might think I am mad in a different sense of the word when I say that the Washington side of the Columbia Gorge is better for hiking.  Of course, that’s coming from the perspective of someone who craves heights and dramatic views.  I actually like both sides.  The waterfalls on the Oregon side are great, and the greenery can be stunning, but if you like views and rugged terrain, head to the Washington side. Consider Dog Mountain, Wind Mountain, or Hamilton Mountain.  That was my thought process when I climbed Hardy Ridge yesterday.

Easy walking for a couple miles

Easy walking for a couple miles

The parking lot known as the equestrian trailhead in Beacon Rock State Park is a mile or so off the highway. The trail is really an old road blocked off by a gate, so the walking is easy.   There are various junctions, but all are well signed.   It is possible to start from here and go east to Hamilton Mountain.   Perhaps another day.  I opt to continue with the Hardy Ridge Loop.

An odd boot shaped rock atop a stump

An odd boot shaped rock atop a stump

I had recommendations to go both directions, but I went counter clockwise, and that worked out well.  After an hour the road peters out, and from there it is but ten or fifteen minutes to the open ridge crest.  I pause for an energy bar and a few pics.  The day is cool, but I am a heat machine, so I am tad sweaty.  Keeping a good temperature is always tricky for me.  I use a bandana to dry off the back of my head and neck so I don’t get chilled on the breezy ridge.

Looking south to Hood

Looking south to Hood

An unofficial trail heads north on the ridge for three quarters of a mile.  It is easy to follow if fairly rugged in a couple spots.  After the first seven or eight minutes, the views are constantly with you.  Life is good.

River, rock, moss, tree

River, rock, moss, trees

The maw of the gorge is below, a snowy Mount Hood peeking over the peaks of the Columbia Wilderness.  To the east, Hamilton Mountain looks surprisingly small.  Even Table Mountain looks relatively modest.  I have climbed higher than I thought.

Hamilton Mountain et al.

Looking down at Hamilton Mountain.  Benson Plateau behind it to the left.

The ridge alternates mossy areas with brush, stands of trees, and rocky patches.   Fending off some tight brushy spots reminded me a little of a minor epic bushwhack on Signal Buttes a few years ago.  Hardy Ridge is definitely easier, and I would not consider it off trail hiking.  It’s a lot more accessible, too, but the open ridge feels similar.

Love the colors.  Looking west

Love the colors. Looking west northwest

This moss was wild

This moss was amazing

I hung out on top for a long time soaking in the views, contemplating my quiet life in a loud world.   Another person sat a hundred yards past me, seemingly meditating.   Nice spot for it.

Looking over at Table Mountain

Looking over at Table Mountain

The rocky ridge on top--and Mount Hood to the south

The rocky ridge on top–and Mount Hood to the south

The herd path appears to keep going to a lower east west ridge to the north.  I envision a more difficult hike, linking this ridge to Table Mountain or Hamilton Mountain.  Hmm.

Looking down the ridge

Heading down the ridge, the sun glare bombing  the river

My descent is uneventful apart from one steep section on the west side trail where I slipped.  My round trip, including a least a half hour slounging on top, took four hours.   My legs are bit stiff from walking non-stop on the way back.  Once again, the Washington side of the Gorge again satisfied my need to get out and stretch my legs.

Pleasant woods on the descent

Pleasant woods on the descent

Fireball sun behind the trees close to the bottom

Fireball sun behind the trees close to the bottom

About Josh Baker

"The world is big and I want to have a good look at it before it gets dark.” ― John Muir

Posted on November 11, 2013, in Adventure, Flora and Fauna, General Hiking, Mountains, Navigation, Outdoors, Solo Hiking and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Love the shots of Mt. Hood and the green moss. The moss has a beautiful color!

  2. This one is on my list too….I’ve done Hamilton Mtn so I guess it’s time to hit Hardy Ridge. As always Josh, beautiful photos and prose. Thanks!

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