Creating a World-Class Trekking Network Encircling the Gorge
Learn more about the initiative to create a 200-mile loop trail network in the Gorge.
On the Trail
This iconic 1.8-mile, out-and-back hike climbs 680 feet to the top of Beacon Rock, a free-standing basalt pillar along the Columbia River’s north shore. A very popular and often crowded site, this is a serious kid-pleaser of a hike for older children. Bring binoculars; the views are panoramic.
Permits & Pets
A Discover Pass is required at this Washington State Park. Purchase one online or on-site. Dogs must be leashed at all times.
- The trail begins at the west end of the parking area; begin climbing the narrow trail up the rock’s face crossing 17 viaducts and 54 switchbacks. During the Missoula Floods that carved the Gorge, the top of Beacon Rock was 200 feet underwater. The floodwaters scoured the rock’s south side nearly vertical.
- The Cascade Indians, who have lived in the Columbia Gorge since time immemorial, called Beacon Rock Che-che-op-tin, “the navel of the world.” Lewis and Clark initially called it “Beaten Rock,” but changed the name to “Beacon Rock” on their return voyage in 1806. During the early 1900s, it was most often called “Castle Rock.” In the 1910s, then-owner Henry J. Biddle, a mining engineer and avid hiker, had crews cut a trail into the rock’s sheer sides. After his death in 1928, his children gave the land to Washington State to become the first state park in the Columbia Gorge.
- On the east, the trail offers views of the closed-to-the-public Pierce National Wildlife Refuge as well as Ives and Pierce islands. Ives can be explored on foot at low water, from trails in North Bonneville. Pierce Island is an off-limits island owned by Columbia Land Trust.
- Please always stay on the trail and clean your boots before and after you hike. Hikers and their dogs are common vectors for spreading invasive seeds.
- Restrooms are adjacent to the parking area.
Extend Your Hike
Add 1.5 miles onto your hike by starting at the River-to-Rock trailhead nearby. View directions and hike description.
After this short hike, drive 3.5 miles east on SR 14 to milepost 38, and turn right onto Dam Access Road. It leads to Fort Cascades National Historic Site, a 1.5-mile forested loop you can walk or bike through, with interpretive stops. The land here was, at various times, a Native American settlement, the town of Cascades (1850-1894), and a U.S. Army fort built to control access to a traditional portage around the Cascades of the Columbia. In 1856, the Native Americans rebelled against this taking, and a fatal conflict ensued. The rebuilt fort was abandoned in 1861.
A left turn on Dam Access Road leads to the Bonneville Lock and Dam Washington Shore Visitor Complex. Tour the powerhouse and watch fish in fish ladders. Call 509-427-4281 for hours.
Directions & Travel Tips
Beacon Rock State Park is on SR 14 at milepost 35 (6.7 miles west of the Bridge of the Gods, toll required). Park in the lot at the base of the rock.
A seasonal weekend shuttle stops at this trailhead. View schedule and fare information.