The trailhead is accessible from the Equestrian Camp Parking Lot, a bit west of Beacon Rock & Hamilton Mountain.
Take WA-14 from Vancouver, WA east toward N Bonneville. Just after Doetsch Ranch you'll see the Ranger Station on the north side of the road just before the Beacon Rock parking lot. The road winds up the hill for a bit. Keep a lookout for the the Equestrian Camp turn off.
Distance: 8.41 miles
Elevation Gain: 2,221 ft
I did this hike back on June 25, 2021. (https://rtah.xyz/HnJKT/) - I remember that I got a later start and was on my descent through the valley at dusk.
This time I got there just after noon. I knew I had plenty of time. This was my first hike after summitting MSH.
I passed a couple of riders / horses on the way up, on the Equestrian Trail. I got to the Hardy Ridge trail and the terrain got steeper and more narrow.
When I reached the junction to keep heading to Phlox Point, there were a few people enjoying the views. A pair of hikers passed me and our paces were equally matched.
At Phlox Point, they had already started their return trip but paused to sit and take it in.
I had the "top" to myself. The air seemed a bit hazy and I felt slightly short of breath on the ascent. It cleared up after I had some water & a snack.
When I was within 100 yrds the couple got up and continued their descent. This allowed me to enjoy the view they had for a few mins. It was a good spot but I was ready to get going.
Back at the junction, I crawled out to a small outcrop to enjoy the solitude.
Instead of making the hike a sort of loop like last time, I returned the way I'd come.
It's interesting. The journey back always seems longer. Even though it's "familiar" terrain, you're viewing from the reverse angle. Plus, that feeling inside that drives you to the top is gone. Then, it becomes a game of 'get down safely with no injuries'.
However, on this hike I started having troubles with my IT band on the right side. It happened on the MSH descent. I thought I'd "licked" that problem but it has reared its head.
Not sure if it went away because I was hiking so much and now I'm not on the trail as much and rarely stretch sufficiently.
Anyway, I need a new "goal" to give me the drive I had over the summer as I was preparing for the MSH summit trek.
I do have Mt Adams in my sights for next year, just maintaining the good shape I've gotten myself to should be enough but I need something else.