I decided to try Meetup for the first time following my last (failed) attempt, when I ended up on the wrong hike. This time, I was going with a small group down to Beacon Rock State Park on the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge. From our meeting point (transit parking at Tacoma’s Discount World), it took us about 3 hours to the trailhead parking lot. When we arrived around 9:30am, the first parking lot was already full. Luckily, there is a second, larger parking lot 0.1 miles up the hill from the first and we found many open spaces there. The road is well-paved and the parking lots are easy to access (and both have restrooms). Discover Passes are required to park in either of the two lots available near the start of the trail.
The start of the trail is wide and flat, and for about a mile it’s a very easy jaunt up to the turnoff for Hardy Falls. The trail down to the falls is steep and unfortunately, the falls were only a trickle this weekend–they might have been more impressive a month or so ago. Once back on the main trail, it’s a short distance to Rodney Falls and Pool of the Winds, which were much more unique. The Pool of the Winds (pictured here) requires you to climb up a rocky area at the fork, and there are guardrails for safety along the side of the edge. I saw several hikers debating whether or not they wanted to take the detour, and I made sure to let them know it was worth it (and that it was short!).
About a quarter of a mile past the falls is signage pointing to Hamilton Mountain and Hardy Creek Trail–since the hike can be a loop, either direction will technically get you to where you want to go but apparently Hamilton Mountain is a lot better for the ascent. We were lucky enough to have breathtaking panoramic views of the Columbia River Gorge and perfect hiking weather, and made it to the rock outlook without difficulty. We mistakenly thought this might have been the top of the hike, but thankfully we took the narrow trail ascending to the actual top of the hike. At the top, you should be able to see the other side of the gorge, with Table Mountain in the distance to your left. We stopped here for lunch and homemade wine, but if you want a view while eating, I would highly recommend stopping for lunch at that first outlook, because heavy brush makes a view at the top nonexistent when sitting.
We took the descent slow and enjoyed the sights, smells and fresh air. We saw a large group of people cooling off in Rodney Falls, and we didn’t have such a long drive back to Tacoma I would have considered joining! By the time we arrived back at the parking lot, it was 3:30pm (although it is possible to do this hike much more quickly) and there were around half the cars in the parking lots. All in all, this was one of my favorite hikes, and I wish I lived closer so I could explore more of Beacon Rock State Park on the weekends. I will definitely be back!