The itch – There is no other honest way to explain it. It was a blisteringly hot 106°F afternoon in the middle of summer. I had just gotten off work and was ready to leave the city of roses behind. With the dog in the backseat smudging the glass excitedly with his nose and tongue, we rocketed down the road towards Angel’s Rest.
This hike will fill you with a sense of accomplishment and wonder. The simplicity, elegance, and sheer convenience of it is hard to beat; as a result, it sits near the top of my list of day hikes in the Columbia River gorge.
At the top you get a 270 degree view of the gorge. As you may have guessed there is some elevation gain that takes place in order to achieve this kind of a view. 1450 feet over 2.4 miles one-way is relieved slightly by a handful of trail switchbacks. These are the squiggly bits on the map.
Most of the early sections of the trail are forested, providing some shade from the direct sun along with a few clearings to tease you on how far out of the valley you have climbed. The hike back follows the same trail which makes for an easy downhill return. Coopey Creek can be utilized to refill a water bottle or let an animal cool off. To be safe – Be sure to use a water purification device if you intend to drink this water.
Be cautious in the sections that are rocky. The last thing anybody wants is to twist an ankle or get a face full of rocks or both. It has happened. Overall, the hike takes a few hours to complete but is great for a short day hike or if you want a quick place to go to see the sunset. Be sure to bring a flashlight or headlamp if you plan on hiking back in the dark. Any light that a full moon might potentially give you is blocked out by the thick tree cover in the lower portion of the trail.
The Angel’s Rest trail continues on past Angel’s Rest along Wahkeena Trail #420 to Wahkeena Falls, but I have not explored this route yet.
Angel’s Rest is a relatively quick 45 minute sprint along interstate 84 out to the gorge. At a distance of less than 60 miles round trip, I was also not concerned that the Subaru only had a quarter tank of gas.
From interstate 84, take exit 28 for Bridal Veil road. Follow it until you get to a weird triangle-shaped intersection. To your right will be a parking lot. Don’t worry, parking is free.
No camping is allowed. There are no bathrooms or sources of water except for a small stream further up the trail called Coopey Creek.
Standard day hike setup:
In my earlier hiking days, I was part of a group that hiked the trail up to Angel’s Rest. Having already completed shorter hikes like Multnomah Falls and Beacon Rock I was ready for something a bit more challenging. The group had been scouting for hikes in the gorge and this was next on the list. It looked promising and it delivered. Angel’s Rest is now a classic in my repertoire that I like to pull out when I need a quick trip away from the city.
On that hot day in the middle of summer, I was sitting on the only bench that overlooks the Columbia river. I was enjoying the sunset and snacking on a peanut butter, nutella sandwich when another hiker passed through. We struck up a conversation about the ideal weather and clear visibility of the gorge. He explained how he hadn’t been to Angel’s Rest in several years but that he had wanted to return just so he could see the view from the top again. His former wife had accompanied him here long ago and this fact had been a point of pain that had prevented his return. Coming here was another step in his journey; he was confronting his demons and letting go.
After he left I suddenly realized that this place was littered with memories. You can see them scrawled into the bench, the rocks, the very earth itself. How many people had created memories here and left naively thinking they would last forever? With the right kind of eyes you can look west and see the high water mark; that place in time and space where the wave finally broke and rolled back.