Day 3 – Angel’s Rest and the Columbia River Gorge
Sunday morning, we got another early-ish start and made our way to the trailhead for the Angel’s Rest Summit. This hike would be about 5 miles total, gaining about 1,500 feet of elevation over the course of the hike. While AllTrails rates this one as a moderate, there wasn’t really anything too challenging with the switchbacks until you arrive at the exposed ridgeline summit. From there, there are a few sections that require stepping up and through some rock that you may need to grab onto with your hands.
Along the trail, you’ll get views out onto the Columbia River, as well as a variety of forest settings as you ascend. However, much of the area is still recovering from recent wildfires, so the area is not as lush as it once was – but still a beautiful hike. Be ready for wind though, especially as you get to the more exposed areas of the hike – before turning back, we were seeing 30-40 mph gusts (in addition to some hail) – a windproof and waterproof shell is a must for this one. While we were prepared, eventually the wind just became too much, and we turned back shortly after the summit (on a day with better weather, we would have continued on to Devil’s rest, an additional 5 mile trip).
Needing a little break from the elements, we set out east along I84 to get some more scenic views of the gorge and enjoy the twisty backroads that branched off from the highway. Many of these roads had me yearning for a sports car, but the sedan we rented fared well enough and even made the drive quite enjoyable. If you’re trying to decide which car to rent for a high-mileage trip like this one, I’d suggest going with something you are comfortable driving. The rental counter will like to upgrade (and upcharge) you for a 4wd SUV – but for all but the most remote driving in winter, you don’t really need it.
We made a few stops along the drive – first at Melamoose State Park – where I was able to send the drone up for the first time – exciting stuff. But, the regular bouts of rain forced a quick landing after just a few minutes in the air. While I’m not sure of the trails that run through this park, the viewpoint from the higher road through it is both scenic and serene, and likely never having more than a few other people.
Our final stop at the Rowena Crest Viewpoint was the perfect cap to an adventurous day. The road ends in a loop at the end of the viewpoint – and when you look down below, you’ll find one of the coolest horseshoe shaped bends in the road – surrounded by moss covered cliffs – a perfect setting for some scenic roadway shots. If you’ve got a car you love – drive down and through the loop and leave someone at the viewpoint to catch the photo – a surefire way to get an epic shot. From here back to Portland was about an hour and a half drive – but coming back with the sun meant that there was a burst of color around every corner.