Angel's Rest: A Columbia Gorge high

This 4.8-mile path a few miles west of popular Multnomah Falls is great for a weekend outing
Stephen Demers, right, his girlfriend Meg Collins, and dog Senna take a break at one of the many scenic overlooks along the trail to Angel’s Rest.AP

BRIDAL VEIL — Multnomah Falls is the main attraction in the western Columbia River Gorge, but just a few miles to the west is another jewel: the exposed 1,600-foot bluff called Angel's Rest.

Just how popular is this spot? On a recent sunny Saturday with hardly any wind, more than 100 cars could be counted in the main and overflow parking lots and along the Scenic Columbia River Highway just off the Bridal Veil exit at Interstate 84.

About Angel's Rest

Getting there: Take Interstate 5 north from Southern Oregon to I-205, and continue north to I-84, then west to the Bridal Veil exit (about 11 miles east of Troutdale). The trailhead parking areas are just a short distance after you exit.

The hike: 4.8 miles roundtrip, 1,500 feet of elevation gain, moderate difficulty.

Season: Open year-round, it's a family friendly trail, but it can get crowded on weekends in the spring through early fall. It can also get windy.

Time: Allow at least three hours.

More information: www.fs.usda.gov/main/crgnsa/home

"It's not unusual to see that many cars on a busy weekend in the spring or summer," said Stan Hinatsu, recreation manager for the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area.

While some hikers trek to trails beyond the Angel's Rest area, most weekend visitors do the round-trip hike to the bluff — a distance of 4.8 miles.

Prepare for a moderately difficult hike.

"It's not the most grueling hike, but you're gaining 1,500 feet of elevation in two-and-a-half miles," Hinatsu said.

If you go, be sure to bring a water bottle, snacks and sunscreen.

"I would not recommend getting water out of the creeks (there are two along the trail) unless you bring a water purifier," Hinatsu adds. "All those things that apply to the backcountry apply here."

Which also means no restrooms, so bring along some toilet paper.

The first somewhat rocky portion of the trail quickly leads to views of the Columbia River to the north.

A fire in 1994 damaged a swath of the Angel's Rest area.

"It burned pretty hot near the top," Hinatsu said. Maples and alders are now growing in the areas that were scorched.

The burn, however, opened up views near the top.

Resting below the summit, the Juhl family of Salem — Ben and Melissa and their children Amelia, 5, Brielle, 3, and Reagan, 18 months — took in the view looking west toward Troutdale.

"It's a beautiful view, said Ben, turning toward Amelia. "It's a long hike. But once she saw the views, suddenly she had the energy again."

"We took a few breaks but we made it," added Melissa, noting that the Angel's Rest Trail is not as steep as the Multnomah Falls Trail.

Ben said it took the family about an hour and a half to make it to that point, "and that's carrying Chunkster (Reagan) the whole way. It can be done."

Also among the hundreds making the Angel's Rest trek that day was Stephen Demers, his girlfriend Meg Collins, dog Senna and other friends, all from the Portland area.

"I love being up in the Gorge," said Demers, who makes annual trips to Angel's Rest. "Any time you get the sun this time of year you've got to make your break for it."

At the top, hikers did what the bluff's name suggests: they rested on the rocks and took in a broad expanse of the magnificent Columbia River Gorge.


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