I went down to Oregon for a friend’s wedding, and I figured…why not get a hike in since I am down here? I also wanted to avoid dreaded eclipse traffic. (No, I did not stay for the eclipse, I drove back to Seattle on Sunday.) I was also determined to get a hike in every weekend during the WTA Hike-a-Thon Month. I was hiking alone again so I wanted to do a trail I was somewhat familiar with that I thought would have lot of people on it for safety. When I did this trail in the spring with meetup, it was on a Saturday so it was quite busy. It was not busy at all when I went this time. I think with people travelling south for the eclipse and it being a week day the foot traffic was light.
I got a beautiful day to be on the trail. Even with a little smoky haze from a nearby fire, it was still more clear out than when I did this trail in the spring. I also found it much more enjoyable going my own pace, stopping and starting when I wanted to/needed to. On the flip side I did have a slight concern about running into bears on my way back on the less traveled side of the loop due to WTA warnings. I made plenty of noise…singing mostly…and making some general chatter…so saw no bears. I did see one garter snake and some crickets…and no I did not try to catch them.
Here are the stats if you do the loop:
7.5 miles for the loop. (6 miles out and back), 2000 feet elevation gain, high point 2400 feet
Pass Required: Discover Pass
For directions and more info see www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/hamilton-mountain
Note – there are a couple of side trails you can take. Make sure you take a good look at the map at the bottom of the trail. Or take a picture of it to bring with you as a reference. WTA recommends doing the loop to Hamilton Mountain first (the hard way) and coming back on the Hardy Creek trail. I have to agree. I considered doing an out and back because it was more populated, but once I went up the Hamilton Mtn. Trail I did not want to come back down it. There were a couple of spots that were a bit rough and you had to scramble a little, it is much easier to come down the other way.
The first part of the trail climbs steadily to the first point of interest which is Rodney Falls or the Pool of the Winds. Along the way you get a viewpoint of Hamilton Mountain, which looks far away but it is attainable! Along this stretch you will most likely run into more people, families, etc. who are heading up just to see the falls.
Shortly after the falls you will come across a sign for the Hardy Creek Trail or Hamilton Mountain. As stated earlier, my suggestion is to take the harder way up to Hamilton Mountain and come back via the Hardy Creek Trail. Do not skip the hard part. Some of the best views are here. The trail does get pretty steep in places, take your time and enjoy the views. It is hard to tell the steepness of the trail in some of these pictures, but here are some steep spots and some rough spots.
Here are the rewards for going up the rough spots. In the spring there were a lot of wild flowers. By summer they were mostly gone. Fall is coming.
After you feel like you have done a thousand switchbacks you will come to the saddle of the mountain. On a clear day you will have views of Mount Adams, Mount Hood and the Cascades. I got lucky when I went as I could see both major peaks.
From here continue on the trail .75 miles northwest to a prominent ridge which makes a great lunch spot. I had the ridge all to myself on the day I went. Pretty special.
From here, continue northwest following the signs (always go left) following a horse trail down to the Hardy Creek Trail. At the hardy creek trail there is a sign, but if you miss it keep your eye out for a picnic table this is where you want to turn to get back to the beginning of the loop. WTA indicates that you may see some evidence of bears on this part of the trail as it less traveled and they come down looking for berries. Make some noise so you don’t surprise the critters. I didn’t see any, but as noted earlier I tried to make lot of noise. I did however see a couple of horse back riders.
Follow the hardy creek trail back to the Hamilton Mountain trail and back down to the parking lot. Congrats you did it! Now you can enjoy a beer in Hood River. I recommend the Pfriem Brewery. As a bonus to get to Hood River you get to cross the Bridge of the Gods.