“I’m so glad it’s spring!” Theresa exclaimed. “I want to go riding – somewhere other than the same old places!”
“Hmmm,” I replied thoughtfully. “Beacon Rock State Park just opened for the season. The Equestrian Trail there is graveled so it won’t be muddy and slick, even after all the rain we’ve had. Let’s give it a try.” So off we went.
The equestrian trails at Beacon Rock don’t actually go up on Beacon Rock, of course. The monolith isn’t exactly horse-friendly terrain. Instead, the trails explore the forested slopes of Hamilton Mountain and Hardy Ridge, which lie just north of Beacon Rock. As a result, when local equestrians talk about riding at the park, they typically say they’re riding at Hamilton Mountain.
It’s seven miles round trip to Hamilton Mountain Saddle via the Equestrian Trail, plus several side trails provide additional route options. Elevations range from 750 to 2,250 feet. The Equestrian Trail is well graveled, so hoof protection is highly recommended.
Several trails depart from the Equestrian Trail at various points and run on lightly-graveled forest roads or single-track trails. Don’t miss the panoramic views from the Hamilton Mountain Saddle Viewpoint and from upper Hardy Ridge.
Beacon Rock State Park has a small horse camp with a highline for three horses and parking for two trailers, plus stock water, a vault toilet, and manure bins. You'll also find pull-in day-use parking for 10+ trailers.
Beacon Rock's Backstory
Beacon Rock State Park has a colorful history. When Lewis and Clark traveled down the Columbia in 1805, they spotted an 848-foot basalt monolith on the Washington side of the Columbia River near present-day Stevenson, and named it Beacon Rock. In 1915 the rock was purchased by Henry Biddle, who built a highly-engineered trail to the summit and charged admission to use the trail. When Mr. Biddle died, the family offered Beacon Rock to the state of Washington for a park, but Washington officials weren’t interested. That is, until the state of Oregon offered to accept it and make it an Oregon park! At that point the Washington officials changed their minds, and Beacon Rock became a Washington state park in 1935.
The Hamilton Mountain trails are covered in more detail in the Beacon Rock State Park chapter of Riding Southwest Washington Horse Trails, by Kim McCarrel, Ponderosa Press, 2016).