Uncharted is a new challenge series from Territory Run Co for the Greater Portland area that aims to get you out exploring new areas with pre-planned routes. While each area we highlight may not be new to you, we hope it inspires you to explore some lesser known areas.
HOW IT WORKS
1. Complete one of the listed routes below.
2. Log your run here. Once reviewed, you will receive an email with a merit badge. If you complete between the dates of Jan 1st -Jan 31st, this badge of completion awards you $10 in store credit for any Territory products.
3. For each challenge we will also offer a grand prize package. To be entered to win, complete the route between above dates, log it here, and tag us in a photo from your run on instagram.
4. To increase chances of winning grand prize you can also log that you visited post run locations listed below.
We will have Uncharted routes throughout the year and you will be able to collect merit badges from each.
BEACON ROCK BACKGROUND
Beacon Rock, named by the Lewis and Clark expedition, is a 850 foot tall volcanic plug (the core of an ancient volcano) marking the eastern-most tidal influence in the Columbia river.
Beacon Rock was purchased for $1 in 1915 and an impressive trail of switchbacks, handrails and bridges was constructed to the summit of the rock over the next 3 years. A state park including this landmark was established in 1935.
At one point, the Army Corp of Engineers had plans to destroy Beacon Rock to use as material to construct the jetty at the mouth of the Columbia. The results are some ominous looking caves at the base of the south side of the rock.
The park is 4,464 acres in size. Within its boundaries sits Hamilton Mountain at an elevation of 2,445 feet.
We love Beacon Rock State Park. It's close proximity to Portland, year-round access, stunning waterfalls, beautiful views and variety of terrain make it a wonderful winter training ground. Keep in mind that winter weather is always possible here. Icy and snowy conditions can occur up higher so traction devices such as Kahtoola Microspikes or YakTrax are recommended.
Although we will have views of Beacon Rock on each of our routes, we will be staying on the North side of SR-14. However, I recommend adding a jaunt up Beacon Rock as a rewarding cool-down or warm-up. The construction of the trail to it's summit is certainly something to behold.
We will be starting all 3 of our routes from the Hamilton Mountain Trailhead. The gates to the parking lot are supposed to open at 8am. If you decide to start earlier or if the gates are for some reason not open, you can always park at Beacon Rock's parking lot along SR-14 and it's just a short jog up the road to our trailhead. Because it is a Washington state park, a Discover Pass is required.
Starting from the Hamilton Mountain Trailhead, the first mile is grindy, but runnable. You will pass a junction on your left beneath some powerlines about half a mile in. We will continue straight. The front half of this route packs a punch, but you will be rewarded with some truly excellent views (unless you're socked in...).
About a mile in we will reach the waterfalls. Technically there are three waterfalls here at Hardy Creek. The lower tier is called Hardy Falls and a viewpoint for it can be accessed via a short spur trail to your right.
As you continue on the trail you will see the middle tier which is called Rodney Falls and you can stay left to climb up another spur trail to the top of the falls to what is known as Pool of the Winds. All are short detours and worth seeing.
You will soon pass another trail on your left, this is how we will return down from Hamilton Mountain. For now, stay straight. As you continue to climb, the trail slowly, but surely becomes steeper and more technical. Climb the steep switchbacks and soon you will be at a spectacular viewpoint known has Little Hamilton. Ironically, this lookout boasts much better views than the actual summit of Hamilton.
Continue to climb about another mile, popping in and out of forested trail with some technical rocky sections as well. You will pass by a stunning view of the craggy cliff walls of Hamilton Mountain and then eventually you will hit a nondescript "T" in the trail. To the right is the summit of Hamilton. To be honest, the summit itself is underwhelming. So much so that I don't even bother tagging the summit anymore. If you decide to check it out, it's a short little spur to obstructed views.
We are going to continue on our trail along the ridge heading downhill to Hamilton Saddle. On a clear day, Hamilton Saddle boasts views of Mt. Hood, Mt. Adams, Mt. St. Helens, the Bonneville Dam, the Columbia River and Table Mountain.
As we cross the saddle, we will reach a couple of junctions. The first, to the far right, is a dead end on an old forest road. The next is part of our Long route option, we will keep left past these first two options and then take a right onto Don's Cutoff. Don's Cutoff might just be one of the best trails in the gorge. It's deep in a grove of Douglas fir trees. The trail is spongey from the needles and it's flanked by endless fields of sword fern and moss. It has that quintessential lush, damp feel of an idyllic PNW trail. It's short, but it's just so good we had to include it.
Don's Cutoff sadly comes to an end and spits you out onto the Upper Hardy Creek Trail. We'll take a left here on a semi-technical roadbed. Soon we will pass a junction to our left. Stay straight briefly and then take the next left to continue on the Hardy Creek Trail. This trail is going to take us along Hardy Creek all the way back to the waterfalls we saw at the beginning of the run.
Take a right when Hardy Creek intersects with Hamilton Mountain Trail and it is a little over a mile back to the trailhead.
Our middle distance route option has us sharing much of the same route as the 7.5 mile option. Beginning from Hamilton Mountain Trailhead, we will run up past the waterfalls, climbing the switchbacks to Little Hamilton and Hamilton Mountain. We will continue onto Hamilton Ridge and descend Don's Cutoff. However, when we get to the bottom of Don's Cutoff, we are going to head right on Upper Hardy Creek Trail.
After a short jog up the road bed that is Hardy Creek Trail we will hang a sharp right onto Bridge Trail. Here we will cross Hardy Creek and slowly climb towards E Hardy Ridge Trail. For this route, we will not be going up to Hardy Ridge, but that would be a great way to modify this route to get some extra miles. Instead we will stay left and descend down to Equestrian Trail, which like many of the trails in the lower portion of the park, is more of a wide road bed.
Take a left on Equestrian Trail and head back to Hardy Creek Trail where we will take a right turn.
It is about a mile to the junction with Hamilton Mountain Trail. You will be meandering through forest with relatively gentle elevation gain and loss until you are back to the junction. Take a right and you will soon be back at the waterfalls.
Once you pass the waterfall you will go about another half mile until you're back in the powerline section near the beginning of the run. Here, we will take the trail to our right called Hadley Trail. This little loop is short, but it takes us to a lesser known gem of Beacon Rock State Park, Little Beacon Rock. Continue on Hadley Trail until you come to a trail on your left. This is a short spur trail that will take you out to Little Beacon.
Looking to go longer this January? This route is sure to give you your fill of climbing, technical terrain, fun descents, beautiful views and everything in-between. Be prepared for wintery, cold, wet and windy weather. Some of the high points here can be quite punishing in January.
Like our first two routes, we will begin at Hamilton Mountain Trailhead. Run past the gushing waterfalls and powerhike out your way up to Little Hamilton. Catch your breath, then climb some more to the top of Hamilton Mountain. Pick your way along the ridgeline and you will soon enough be to Hamilton Saddle.
As you make your way towards the far end of the saddle you will be met with a couple of options. To your right is a spooky looking old road bed with an ominous "Dead End" sign marking its entrance. To it's left is another, somehow less inviting old road bed. This is ours.
This road bed is actually quite beautiful. There is a serene eeriness to it. I have done it alone, but couldn't help but feel a little spooked. You are unlikely to encounter another trail user on this short section of the route.
Take this road all the way out. It will sharply turn back on itself. When it does there will be a trail that goes to your left and one that continues to descend to the right. Take the right fork and we will descend Upper Hardy Creek Trail. As we descend we will have our eyes out for Don's Cutoff on our left. Unlike our other two routes, this route will be going up Don's Cutoff. It's just such a beautiful section of trail we wanted to make sure it was included.
At the top of Don's Cutoff you will be right next to Hamilton Saddle again, but rather than returning there, you'll take an immediate right and descend the Equestrian Trail. This will spit you out on Hardy Creek Trail where you will take a left. In just a moment you will have another junction. Stay right here to continue onto the Equestrian Trail.
In about half a mile you will hit yet another junction. Here you will take another right. We will skirt the ridge until another junction appears. We will stay left and begin working our way up to Hardy Ridge via E Hardy Ridge Trail.
From Hardy Ridge we will take the 1.5 mile roundtrip detour to visit Phlox Point standing at 2900 feet in elevation. This could be an easy spot to shave off some milage if you're feeling in the mood for a couple less miles. Continue back to Hardy Ridge and begin your descent on W Hardy Ridge Trail.
We will eventually intersect the Equestrian Trail. We will continue straight here to begin the Loop Trail. This eventually reconnects up hight with the Equestrian Trail (this is a junction we passed before doing Hardy Ridge). Take a right on the Equestrian Trail and then in half a mile another right on Hardy Creek Trail.
In just about another mile you will be dropped out onto the Hamilton Mountain Trail. Take a right here to head back towards the waterfalls and towards your car. From the waterfalls its roughly a mile back to the trailhead.