Hiking in the Columbia River Gorge in early January

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Hamilton Saddle

On a cool and cloudy morning I parked at the Hardy Ridge Equestrian Trailhead in Beacon Rock State Park. My goal was to do an 8 1/2 loop hike to the open saddle underneath Hamilton Mountain.

I began an ascent mostly on old logging roads on the west side of Hardy Ridge, dropping to a bridge over Hardy Creek in about two miles.

Clouds hanging above the Columbia River Gorge

Turing left, I began the pleasant one-mile hike up the east side of the creek, finally ascending the canyon wall. Following a short, steep side trail, I reached the 2,390-foot top of the ridge, only 48 feet lower than the summit of Hamilton Mountain.

From there it was an easy 1 3/4-mile hike to the 2,100-foot saddle below Hamilton Mountain. Clouds covered the Columbia River up and down the Columbia River Gorge, adding an ethereal beauty to the views. A cold wind had really picked up, buffeting me around on top of the saddle.

On the three-mile return hike, I enjoyed getting out of the wind and observing all the luscious rainforest along the trail.

Cloudy view of Columbia River Gorge from Saddle

Lichen and moss, a common sight

Nursery stumps

Cloudy summit of Hamilton Mountain from the Saddle

Hardy Creek

Shortcut to Saddle

Fellow hikers

Small tributary creek with lots of Sword Ferns



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  1. I remember hiking Hamilton Mtn. when I was a 16 y/o with lots of energy and stamina. Beautiful hike. Thanks for the pix. I thought the descent was sooo steep that my toes would come through the front of my boots! Really enjoy your posts. Don Brecht

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