The Hamilton Mountain Trail is a great hike on the north side of the Columbia River Gorge. The trail starts at Beacon Rock State Park, which offers nearby seasonal camping, and the hike up Beacon Rock could be added if energy remains after hiking Hamilton. Hamilton Mountain remains a great option in the winter as the trail is typically passable year-round. Access to the upper parking area is gated during these months, however, so parking is relegated to the pullouts around the Beacon Rock Trailhead; you then hike the half-mile up the road on the north side of the highway to the upper parking area. The trailhead is clearly marked at the north side of the upper parking area.
Towering 2,400 feet above the Columbia River Gorge, Hamilton Mountain feels much higher then it actually is. Strong gorge winds and a southern exposure combine to make much of the second half of the ascent, including the peak, open and free of vegetation. That said, this hike really has it all: sections pass through tranquil woods, over mountain streams, and provide terrific views of two waterfalls.
The trail enters the woods and climbs gently before dropping briefly into the Hardy Creek Drainage, where a short side trail leads to a view of Hardy Falls below. Soon another trail makes a short climb up to the Pool of the Winds that lies at the base of the 50-foot Rodney Falls. Once the trail crosses the creek the ascent starts in earnest; after several switchbacks, look for the first of several cliff-top viewpoints and Little Hamilton Mountain. This is a good point to turn around if a you are short on time. If you are continuing to the summit of Hamilton Mountain, stay on the trail as it follows along the ridge and climbs steeply toward the end. The summit offers sweeping views of the Columbia River Gorge, Mount Hood as it looms over the southern peaks, and the ordered company town of North Bonneville below.