Washington’s Beacon Rock Trail: a shortie with sweet views

Geological origins

According to some experts, Beacon Rock or  Che-Che-op-tin, which means the navel of the world, is the second largest, free-standing monolith in North America.  (Supposedly approaching the ranks of El Capitan, Devils Tower, Uluru/Ayers Rock, and other notables.) Composed of Basalt, it is the core of an ancient volcano. Through the ages, massive floods carved their way through the Columbia River Gorge and through the volcano, leaving only the core of Beacon Rock in their wake.

The trail

The Beacon Rock Trail was built directly onto the side of the rock, and ascends to the top of the rock (850’ elevation) by way of 52 switchbacks. Along the way there are sparkling panoramic views of the Columbia River Gorge, the Bonneville Dam, and the Pierce Wildlife Refuge. The “peak” area is small and doesn’t offer much in the way of scenery. It’s a short and relatively easy ~1.6 mile out and back with a 680 foot elevation gain. There’s  a fair amount of traffic as it’s right off Highway 14, perfect for a quick run up and down. (Of course, I happened to hit it at high noon on Washington’s hottest day in a record-breaking heat wave. Dangerous for pets or anyone not up to extreme temps.)

The story behind the trail

The story goes that the United States Army Corps was going to cannibalize the rock for material to build a jetty at the mouth of the Columbia River. In 1915, philanthropist, Henry Biddle, bought the rock for $1, and together with Charles Johnson, built the trail over the next 3 years. After Biddle’s death, the family offered to make it a state park. Washington initially declined, but accepted the offer after Oregon expressed interest.

 

Details

Located near Stevenson, WA off of Highway 14

Discover Pass must be purchased and displayed in your car.

 

Spokane Quickie

First impressions: Fantastic fall foliage, clean, bike-friendly city, easy to navigate, nice parks, incredible vistas, great centennial trail, rainy.

Arrived at the small airport at noon, rented a car, and headed directly to Spoke ‘N Sport. Pete set us up on a couple hybrids for our quick tour of Spokane. Just a half hour after landing, we’re pedaling through Riverfront Park, meandering by Gonzaga University where the fall’s display was in its full glory.

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Despite the brisk, wet weather, there were many runners (one stud without a shirt), bikers, and skateboarders about. In addition to nature’s displays, the city also features many outdoor art sculptures.

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Monroe Street Bridge, built in 1911

A little history:

Built in 1911, the 896 foot Monroe Street Bridge spans the Spokane River, which flows at 7,946 cubic feet per second here. The Spokane River is a tributary of the Columbia River, approximately 111 miles long, in northern Idaho and eastern Washington. At one time, Spokane was internationally known for its fishing, including Chinook, steelhead and coho salmon and, above the falls, a huge population of cutthroat trout. Sadly, those days are long gone.The Little Falls Dam, built in 1911 had only had a rudimentary fish ladder and the Long Lake Dam built in 1915 didn’t have one at all. In 1939, the Grand Coulee Dam blocked the Columbia, which sealed the salmon off from the entire Spokane River and thus destroyed a dietary staple and way of life of the Spokane Indians and many other tribe’s.

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Another lovely view of the Spokane River from the Riverfront Park bike trail

We managed to get in some great views of Spokane Falls, Riverfront Park and cruise an upscale neighborhood on Summit Road before the rain became more insistent.

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Moose sighting along Spokane’s Riverfront Park Bike Trail

Very enjoyable afternoon spent in Spokane. Would like to return and explore some more and do the Centennial bike trail to Coeur d’alene and back.

Coeur d’alene was next on the agenda, but the overly-manicured waterfront park, upscale shops and restaurants didn’t appeal in the pouring rain. We kept driving and happened upon the charming gem of Sandpoint, Idaho, where we spent the night.