Hardy Ridge Loop
Posted by Josh Baker
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Beacon Rock State Park, Columbia River Gorge, Great hikes near Portland, Hamilton Mountain, Hardy Ridge loop hike, Moderate Columbia GOrge hikes, Mount Hood, Southwest Washington hikes. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.