Sunday, March 26, 2023

Hike: Hardy Ridge + Hamilton Saddle, N Bonneville, WA



Getting There

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.

The Hike

Distance: 10.15 miles
Total Elevation: 2,570 feet
Highest Elevation: 2,568 feet
Time: about 4 hours
Steps (Apple Health app): 21,558
Calories: 2500

Footpath app

Spectacular snowshoe/hike in Beacon Rock State Park.

I snowshoed pretty much the entirety of Hardy Ridge then switched to microspikes for the Saddle hike. 

My pack was around 25 lbs. It seemed heavier but it wasn't uncomfortable.


Starting point

Started from the Equestrian Camp Trailhead just as a mom and her two teenage sons were also starting. The trail was clear of snow for the first 1 1/2 miles. It didn't start getting deeper until the West Hardy section.

West & East Hardy Ridge Trail

I was able to go pretty high on the trail before I decided to put on the snow shows. The postholes were pretty deep in some places. It was great to float on the top of the soft, slushy snow.

The switchbacks were a bit taxing. It looked nothing like my summer hikes. It was challenging to negotiate the narrow path with the snow shoes. I never switched to larger baskets on my poles but they found the ground pretty easily since the snow was so soft.

I felt a twinge of isolation and vulnerability. My body felt good but I just wasn't up for trying to reach Phlox Point. It was 2pm and I just wanted to get back to the Equestrian Trail. I headed down the E. Hardy Ridge Trail. When I reached the road part, I was pretty stoked.

Equestrian Trail

When I reached the Equestrian Trail again, I felt a second burst of energy. There was a lot less snow on the road and I still had daylight. I made a deal with myself to just get to the picnic bench and scope things out.

Near the creek, there wasn't much snow to contend with and I was walking on bushes and rocks with my snowshoes. Time to take 'em off. 

To the Saddle

From Hardy Creek it was bare road but as I made my way up towards the Hamilton Saddle, there was more snow but still no need for snowshoes. On the first straightaway, I was doing okay with my boots but slipping a little. I got out the microspikes and forged ahead.

My pace was slowing and I wondered if I had the energy to make it to the top of the Equestrian Trail. I set small goals like I'd pick a tree stump in the distance and just get to that. Then, I'd find another and hike to that one.

At a certain point, I just focused on my steps and pressed onward.

When I saw the sign for Don's Cutoff Trail, I was elated. Woohoo! I made it! The views were spectacular. I could see Table Mountain, Dog Mountain, Bonneville Dam.

The Descent

Even though there were 6 or 7 cars in the parking lot when I started, I never saw anyone on the trail the entire day. All I saw were fresh footprints of people, dogs, and maybe a wolf or coyote.


Near the parking lot

Start of the Foot Traffic only part of the Hardy Creek Trail

Gnarly trail through the switchbacks

Woohoo. I made it.

The view of the Columbia River from top of Hardy Ridge Trail

The Trail on East Hardy Ridge Trail

First view of Hamilton/Saddle after emerging from the trees

Looking east, approaching the Saddle

Hamilton Mountain/Saddle

Table Mountain

Heading back into the trees for my descent to the parking lot

Hamilton Saddle pano