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 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.
Located near Stevenson, WA off of Highway 14
Discover Pass must be purchased and displayed in your car.