Beacon Rock State Park
Beacon Rock State Park (509/427-8265, www.parks.wa.gov) is 35 miles east of Vancouver on Highway 14, and just west of the little town of North Bonneville. You can’t miss it; the centerpiece of the park is an 848-foot-high ancient volcano core believed to be the largest such monolith in North America. Lewis and Clark named it when they traversed the Gorge in 1805.
Hike the steep one-mile trail to the pinnacle for spectacular views of the Gorge; the trail boasts a 15 percent grade, but handrails make the hiking both easier and safer. This and other trails provide 14 miles of hiking in the park.
Advanced climbers only may attempt to climb on the south side of the rock, but it is closed part of the year to protect nesting hawks; register at the trailhead.
The main part of the park is north of the highway, and old roads are perfect for mountain biking and horseback riding. A four-mile trail switchbacks to the 1,200-foot summit of Hamilton Mountain, passing the very scenic Rodney Falls.
Anglers can launch their boats from the boat ramp to catch Columbia River white sturgeon, and campers can stay in the densely forested sites (no RV hookups) for $19, $10 for an extra vehicle. The campground is open April–October. A smaller state park campground below the noisy railroad tracks along the river is open all year, but there are no showers. Campers can take showers at the nearby private Beacon Rock RV Park (360/427-8473).
© Ericka Chickowski from Moon Washington, 8th edition