Location: Rodney Falls, Hardy Falls, Pool of the Winds (Hamilton Mountain Trailhead) – Beacon Rock State Park
Distance: 2.5 miles out and back (roughly)
Cost: This park does require a Discovery Pass: $10 for day pass, $30 for annual Washington State Pass
Both of which can be purchased directly on site at a pay station. Day passes can be purchased by cash envelope at the additional parking lot as well.
Parking: There is small paved lot right at the trail head. There is extra paved parking further up the hill in the picnic area. If going on the weekend/holiday get there early to get a spot.
From the Washington side, drive Route 14 east (about 18 miles past Washougal). The park will have plenty of signage and be directly off of the highway. There will be parking on both sides for other trail heads, and a road on the left hand side going up. Take the smaller left hand side road up the hill to find the Hamilton Mountain Trail Head. (you can also follow signs for the campground as its past the trail head).
- Shoes/Clothes. This trail can be muddy if it has just rained so bring shoes with good traction that you are ready to get dirty. There are also several options to climb closer to the water.
- Sunscreen. Always a great idea!
- Bathroom. There is one located at the trail head as well as another located at the additional parking picnic area. Both are currently open.
- Dogs. Allowed on leash.
My husband and I did this trail on a holiday Monday (Memorial Day). Thankfully, we planned for it to be busy and pulled into the lot at 8:30 am. We ended up parking at the overflow picnic area lot as the parking directly next to the trailhead was already full. By the time we walked down to pay and brought it back to our car the overflow lot was also full. Surprisingly, the trail did not seem too overwhelmed with people despite the car situation. This was our first hike together since moving to the Pacific Northwest, so we took it easy, and I did not wear my watch to time the distances. The first couple of hikes back into a weekly hiking routine always take way more out of me and I did not want to feel discouraged, ‘slow and steady gets you to the falls’ was my motto!
There are two ways to begin this hike if you are starting from the overflow parking. If you turn right at the parking lot entrance and walk downhill back to the main lot you can pick up the beginning of the Hamilton Mountain Trail. You can also turn left and go up through the campground utilizing the Hadley Trail. This will take you through a second growth fir canopy and lead you eventually up under some powerlines to a picnic table with a great view of the Gorge. Eventually, connecting you to the Hamilton Mountain Trail at around .6 miles in (veer to the left to continue to the falls). We used this trail to return to our car and loved it as it was less crowded than following Hamilton Mountain Trail back to the main parking area.
Once you pass the turn off for Hardy Falls, you will encounter a few more bridges but the rest is not far up ahead! Turn left to go up to the Pool of the Winds, or right to start your way down to Rodney Falls. The Pool of the Winds has some railing along the edges, make sure you go all the way to the end to where it looks like you will be able to peak your head into a cave. It is MAGICAL. There is a gorgeous up-close view of the falls and a small pool of water collected around it before it continues its plunge downward. There was also an almost vertical wall of rock you could scale up to another part of the falls. We saw people climbing and I can only assume there was another pool of water at the top. I however did not climb it because I would have killed myself, scaling walls is not my forte.
You can see Hardy falls almost immediately as you take the switch back down to it and its beautiful. It was even prettier to me because I had done the Pool of the Winds first and knew what secrets were held at the top. There is a wonderfully long bridge I had fun frolicking across and the Hamilton Mountain Trail continues beyond if you wish to continue. We used this as our turn around point and climbed some of the rocks to get closer to the falls. There are a few different places where you have the opportunity to get closer to the water and we saw several people taking advantage of it.
Once we had adequately soaked up the falls we turned around and headed back to the car. We were so glad we had started (kind of) early because there were large groups of people coming in as we were heading out. It was a beautiful and relatively easy trail with lots of shade, next time we are going to bring some snacks and take advantage of the picnic viewpoint of the Gorge!
Until next time, Happy Roaming!