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Columbia Gorge North Hiking Washington

Hardy Ridge Loop

For the third hike in a row we found ourselves headed to Washington. Our destination this time was Beacon Rock State Park for a hike to Hardy Ridge. We’d been to the park twice before with Hamilton Mountain being our goal each time (on our second visit we also hiked up Beacon Rock (post)). For each of our hikes to Hamilton Mountain we had started at the Hamilton Mountain Trailhead but for today’s hike we parked at the Equestrian Trailhead.
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There is a gated road and a trail that begin at the far end of the parking area which meet after a few hundred feet.
IMG_3514Equestrian Trail at the trailhead.

IMG_3528On the old roadbed/Equestrian Trail.

We followed the Equestrian Trail uphill through the forest and past a number of wildflowers for 1.2 miles to a 4-way junction.
IMG_3520Vanilla leaf

IMG_3522Fairy bells

IMG_3529Violets

IMG_3530Star-flowered false solomon seal

IMG_3533Youth-on-age

IMG_3537Possibly a cinquefoil

IMG_3542Thimbleberry

IMG_3545Fringecup

IMG_3547At the 4-way jct the Equestrian Trial continued straight with the West Hardy Trail to the left and Lower Loop Trail to the right.

We turned left on the West Hardy Trail which followed an overgrown road bed along the west flank of Hardy Ridge. A brief appearance of blue sky gave us a moment of hope that the mostly cloudy forecast might have been wrong but the blue was quickly replaced with gray clouds.
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IMG_3556Salmonberry

IMG_3559False solomon seal

IMG_3560Bleeding heart

IMG_3563Here come the clouds.

After 1.3 miles on the West Hardy Trail we turned right onto the Hardy Ridge Trail.
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This hiker only trail climbed approximately 800′ in 0.8 miles to a junction at a saddle on Hardy Ridge.
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IMG_3575Baneberry

IMG_3585Trillium

IMG_3590Paintbrush

IMG_3592Red flowering currant

IMG_3598Chocolate lily

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IMG_3624Anemones

IMG_3626Looking across the Columbia River into Oregon.

IMG_3627Horsetail Falls (post) in Oregon.

IMG_3629Field chickweed and Oregon grape

IMG_3631Junction at the saddle.

At the junction we turned left onto a well worn trail (not shown on maps) that led north along Hardy Ridge. This trail followed the spine of the ridge 0.8 miles to the ridge’s highest point at an elevation a little under 3000′. On a clear day Mt. Hood and the tops of Mt. Adams and Mt. Rainier would have been visible from the high point, but on this day the sights were limited to the various flowers blooming along the ridge. As we approached the high point we were greeted with a few snowflakes.
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IMG_3637Glacier lily

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IMG_3651Trilliums

IMG_3665Glacier lilies along the trail.

IMG_3668Another hiker caught up to us at this rock field not far from the high point. It looked like the trail was going across the rocks for a bit and she decided to turn around but after just a few feet the trail resumed behind a bush.

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IMG_3671Phlox

IMG_3676Paintbrush and glacier lilies.

IMG_3678The high point.

IMG_3684Glacier lilies at the high point.

We didn’t stay long at the top, while we were fortunate to not be dealing with any of the winds the Columbia Gorge is known for it was chilly (as evidenced by the snowflakes) so we headed back down. Along the way we met a spotted towhee that wasn’t the least bit bothered by the weather.
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As we made our way down the clouds began to lift a bit and by the time we were approaching the junction we were under them which gave us a nice view of Hamilton Mountain.
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IMG_3701Hamilton Mountain (high point to the right) and the Columbia River.

IMG_3706Bonneville Dam and the Hamilton Mountain Trail crossing The Saddle.

IMG_3708Upper McCord Creek Falls (post-partially closed due to fire damage as of writing)

The only snowy peak we could see though was Larch Mountain (post) to the SW.
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When we reached the junction we turned left onto the East Hardy Trail and began a mile long descent to another junction.
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IMG_3721Squirrel

IMG_3727Snail

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At this 3-way junction we faced a choice. Most descriptions of the Hardy Ridge Loop (including Sullivan’s) would have sent us straight on the East Hardy Trail for 0.8 miles to the Equestrian Trail then right on that trail 1.7 miles back to the trailhead for an 8.5 mile hike. We opted to extend our hike by turning left instead on the Bridge Trail.
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IMG_3738Bleeding heart along a little stream.

IMG_3739False lily-of-the-valley getting ready to bloom.

IMG_3743Possibly a Dictyoptera aurora (Golden net-winged beetle)

A little over three quarters of a mile we arrived at the trail’s namesake bridge over Hardy Creek.
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After crossing the creek the trail climbed for a tenth of a mile to the Upper Hardy Trail (another old roadbed).
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Here again we could have shortened our hike by turning right following a pointer for the Equestrian Trail but we wanted to revisit The Saddle north of Hamilton Mountain. We turned left on the Upper Hardy Trail climbing approximately 300′ in 0.6 miles to yet another junction.
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IMG_3759Hardy Ridge from the Upper Hardy Trail.

We once again faced a choice at this junction.
IMG_3762The left fork would have been slightly longer by leading us around the back side of a knoll and making a 180 degree turn following the east side of the ridge toward The Saddle.

IMG_3764We turned right opting for the slightly shorter route to The Saddle.

IMG_3768Coltsfoot

Just under three quarters of a mile after turning right we were rejoined by the the left hand fork of the Upper Hardy Trail.
IMG_3769Southern junction of the two forks of the Upper Hardy Trail.

The Upper Hardy Trail then descended for .2 miles to The Saddle and a junction with the Hamilton Mountain Trail.
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IMG_3771Hikers coming down from Hamilton Mountain.

For the first time on this hike were at a familiar spot. We turned right onto the Equestrian Trail following it for 150 yards to a sign for Dons Cutoff Trail.
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On both of our previous visits we had stayed on the Equestrian Trail following it downhill for a mile to a 3-way junction at Hardy Creek. This time we took Dons Cutoff which would bring us to the same junction in just a tenth of a mile more. Dons Cutoff headed steeply downhill arriving at the Upper Hardy Trail after half a mile.
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IMG_3781Dons Cutoff Trail nearing the Upper Hardy Trail.

We turned left on the old roadbed following the Upper Hardy Trail for .4 miles to a junction with the Equestrian Trail and then arrived at Hardy Creek after another tenth of a mile.
IMG_3782Upper Hardy Trail

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IMG_3787Equestrian Trail

IMG_3789Hardy Creek

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We crossed Hardy Creek on the Equestrian Trail following it for a half mile to the 4-way junction.
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Had we opted for the described hike we would have arrived at this junction on the East Hardy Trail. We faced another choice here, keep on the Equestrian Trail for 1.7 miles or turn left onto the Lower Loop Trail and add approximately 0.4 miles to the hike. You guessed it we turned left and took the Lower Loop Trail which popped us out onto the Equestrian Trail at the 4-way junction where we had turned up the West Hardy Trail that morning.
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We turned left and followed the Equestrian Trail downhill for the final 1.2 miles of what turned out to be 13 mile hike that gained approximately 2700′ of elevation. Slugs were out in force along the final stretch including a number of small black specimens.
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IMG_3808Spotted this guy while I was photographing the slug above. Not sure if it’s a crane fly or ?

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There are some hikes where missing out on the mountain views is a real bummer but this wasn’t one of those for us. It was just a great day in the forest with flowers, creeks, critters, and a good deal of solitude despite the park being popular. The number of trails and options provided in the park allow for people to spread out a bit with Hamilton Mountain being the busiest area which we pretty much avoided (other than The Saddle) on this day. Happy Trails!

Our track for the day.

Flickr: Hardy Ridge Loop

One reply on “Hardy Ridge Loop”

The first time I hiked out to Phlox Point was maybe 10 years ago (last time was 2014) and then it was still something of a bushwhack. Looks like all the hiking enthusiasm since then has carved out a “real” trail. Too bad about the clouds. As you say, on a clear day the views of Hood from the top are excellent!

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