Beacon Rock is the 848-foot-high monolith that sits on the banks of the Columbia River in Bonneville, Washington. It is the second largest monolith in the world. Once a volcano, the Missoula Floods washed away the exterior of Beacon Rock, leaving only an eroded lava plug. That is a very good thing because the 400' vertical south face aspect offers Portland-based climbers a great deal of variety from long, thin crack routes to major stemming corners. Having Beacon Rock so close to Portland allows Portlanders get some small-scale big wall climbing in close to home. After your hike or climb, check out the Hearth in Washougal for some food and drink. This wood-oven bistro produces a wide array of plates well beyond pizza and the added bonus is a full service bar.
What Makes It Great
There is a trail along Beacon Rock that makes it accessible for climbers and hikers alike. The trail is particularly beneficial for climbers because it makes descending the rock very simple and very easy. You simply climb down the series of platforms and stairs that have been bolted to the side of the rock. Because it is so exposed and can be technically demanding, it is a perfect big wall crag to play with many multi-pitch climbs.
There's also a hiking trail that leads to the top of the rock. The hike ascends gently through a traditional Columbia River Gorge forest. The real fun starts once you pass the metal gate, which is used to close the trail when conditions are too icy. Once you head up onto the rock itself, the trail looks a lot like a madman’s jungle gym. Wooden platforms, metal railings, chiseled basalt, and molded concrete all combine to create this one-of-a-kind trail. The middle half-mile of the ascent can be either exciting or nail biting, depending on your tolerance for heights and exposure. The trail once again becomes a bit more traditional as you get closer to the summit.
Who is Going to Love It
Beacon Rock is accessible for climbers at all experience and skill levels. The south face of Beacon Rock provides routes that range in technical difficulty from 5.7 to the upper 5.12+ grade. The ever-popular SE Face Route (5.7) is a local, multi-pitch favorite. Other climbs include Dod's Jam (5.10C), Free For All (5.8), Free For Some (5.11A), Blownout (5.10A), Right Gull (5.10A), Left Gull (5.10A), and Pipeline (5.11B).
If you are hiking to the top of the rock, you should take note of the comment above about the height and exposure. If those kinds of experiences tend to make you feel uneasy, this may not be the trail for you. If you are an adventure-seeker that is not put off easy by those things and are looking for an incredible and unique hiking experience, you will love the trail up Beacon Rock.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
There are several ways to get to Beacon Rock State Park from Portland. One is to take 1-84 East to I-205N toward Seattle for about 5 miles and take exit 27 toward Camas. Merge onto WA-14E and follow that for about 27.7 miles until you reach the parking area.
A Washington State Park Permit is required for parking or you can purchase a $10 pass there.
There is an informational board on the east side of the parking lot and the trail to the south face is just to the left of it.