Hamilton Mountain Loop Hike
From Portland Hikers Field Guide
- Start point: Hamilton Mountain Trailhead
- End Point: Hamilton Mountain
- Trail Log: Trail Log
- Hike Type: Out and Back
- Distance: 7.5 miles
- Elevation gain: 2100 feet
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Seasons: March to November
- Family Friendly: No
- Backpackable: No
- Crowded: Yes
This trail has a feast of features for hikers, including waterfalls, craggy cliffs, deep forests, superb vistas, and a nice loop option for the trek.
The trail begins with a moderate climb, going through second-growth Douglas firs then under power lines. There are nice views of Hamilton Mountain and Bonneville Dam from a bench about 4/10 of a mile in. There's also a junction with a trail to an alternate trailhead in the campground. About a mile from the trailhead, you'll come to the waterfall area. There's only one creek here, falling almost continuously, but there are three named waterfalls. First, you can take a side trail to the right for a limited view of Hardy Falls, the lowest of the waterfalls. Back on the main trail, continue a few hundred yards and go left on a side trail that ends at a railed lookout to view of the two upper areas, Pool of the Winds, and Rodney Falls. Hardy Creek pours into the Pool of Winds from the right, tumbling 50 feet before hitting the pool in the rocks. Then the water breaks free and cascades out along a stream bed worn in the rock, and then slides down water slide-like channel until it hits a rocky labyrinth, splitting the flow in many ways, before it all comes together again below. A beautiful waterfall indeed!
Return to the main trail and switchback down to a sturdy footbridge below the falls for more cooling spray and photo opportunities. Beyond the Hardy Creek Bridge, switchback uphill and climb 0.2 mile to a junction with the Hardy Creek Trail. In the warmer seasons, your trail may be lined with ferns, Oregon Grape, thimble berries and wild rose. In fall, this area is filled with an understory of yellow maples beneath the green firs. For this hike take the "more difficult" route to the right and ascend steeply through the forest. Soon, the trail switches back beneath the first of Hamilton's many cliff faces. Follow steep switchbacks leading up a cliff-edged ridge and you will be rewarded with spectacular views across the Columbia River at a spot locally known as Little Hamilton Mountain. The trail heads across the very crest of a ridge to Hamilton Mountain proper and continues climbing for another mile, until you reach a T-shaped junction at the summit ridgecrest. The path to the right will dead-end at Hamilton's summit, 2488', but the view there is somewhat obscured by brush.
Turn around, and follow the ridgecrest trail downhill toward the north to a plateau with better viewings of Mount Hood, Mount Adams, Mount Saint Helens and Table Mountain, as well as the Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River. You now will have hiked a little over three miles and climbed some 2000 feet, so take a leisurely lunch break here if it's not too windy.
To continue on your counter-clockwise loop, turn left down an old road. This entire trail is very popular, and besides other hikers, you may find yourself sharing this stretch with horseback riders. Keep left on the road for one mile to a trail junction near a little meadow and creek crossing. Here you will veer onto a level path through a cool alder forest, and after 1.1 mile will join back on the main trail. Turning right will bring you back to the parking lot.
During winter the gate to the parking lot may be closed, but you can park your car across the road and walk up to the trailhead.
- Maps: Hike Finder
Fees, Regulations, etc.
- $10 daily Washington Discovery Pass required
- Search Trip Reports for Hamilton
Related Discussions / Q&A
- Search Trail Q&A for Hamilton
Guidebooks that cover this hike
- 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Portland - 2nd Edition, by Paul Gerald
- Hiking in the Columbia River Gorge - 2nd Edition, by Russ Schneider