3100 Feet Elevation Gain
On Friday, February 24, I drove 3 hours south to the Columbia River Gorge for a conference. I wanted to check out the local scenery, so I did some research and decided to hike the Angel’s Rest-Devil’s Rest Loop.
Angel’s Rest is a popular there-and-back 5-mile hike to an overlook with fabulous views of the Columbia River. It’s a moderately steep climb, but between the views and a lovely waterfall flanking the trail, the path provides plenty of opportunity to pause and admire the scenery.
I got a late start since I drove from Seattle and hit the trail around 11:30 am. When I reached Angel’s Rest, it began snowing lightly. Standing on the bluff over the Columbia River, the wind swirled tiny snowflakes around me. I put on my puffy jacket and ate some snacks as I admired the view. The river stretched in either direction as far as the eye could see. Across the river, grey clouds obscured the white-capped mountains.
I planned to extend my hike by continuing on to Devil’s Rest and completing a loop around the ridge, so the next order of business was to find the trail. It turned out to be harder than I anticipated. I backtracked down the trail, checked my map, turned around, and went around in circles for a few minutes before I found the unsigned trail heading eastward up along a ridge. As the trail reached some trees, I came to an intersection. This one also was not signed, but I knew the right fork to be the Devil’s Rest trail and the left fork to be the continuation of Angel’s Rest trail from studying the map. So I headed right and entered the forest.
The wind subsided once I entered the tree cover. The path gently sloped upwards, and I began encountering frozen snow on the path as it gained elevation. Soon the snow was a couple of inches deep and crunched under my feet with every step. Snow filtered down through the branches as I walked. I had met a few other hikers as I walked up to Angel’s Rest, but once I continued on past that point I was utterly alone. It had been a while since I hiked solo in the forest. While I do enjoy hiking with friends, there is something magical about hiking alone with the snow falling all around.
I came to another intersection and followed the signs pointing to Devil’s Rest along Fox Glove way. After this point, the trail became more difficult to follow. I started encountering blowdowns on the trail – just a few at first and then with such regularity that it seemed like I was scrambling over or around a tree every couple hundred feet. The trail became more difficult to follow as the snow deepened, although I could usually discern footsteps in the snow and would follow those when I wasn’t sure where to go. I stopped and put on my microspikes, which make walking a bit easier. I thought it would be fun to try out my umbrella, but immediately regretted it as the umbrella instantly became tangled in the brush and branches falling over the path. So, I put it away.
I climbed to an elevation of about 2550 feet, according to my altimeter, and came to Devil’s Rest. Devil’s Rest is a rocky moss-covered knoll located along the ridge under the cover of trees. I guess angels get a better view, which seems a little unfair, but it was a pleasant shaded spot deep in the forest.
I checked my watch and saw with some dismay that it was already 2:40 pm. According to the map, I had only hiked about 1/3 of the loop so far. I was going to have to pick up the pace if I expected to finish before dark. I reasoned that the rest of the hike would go quicker since I had climbed most of the elevation on the hike so far. No problem!
As I descended from Devil’s Rest, I immediately lost the trail in the snow. Hm. After wandering around in circles and consulting my GPS, I finally found the trail again further down the hill. Whew! The trail descended some switchbacks and a misty fog filtered in through the trees.
I circled the ridge and began heading back to Angel’s Rest on the north side. However, it was more difficult of a hike than I anticipated. For most of the return trip, the trail hugged the side of the hill and was covered with snow that matched the angle of the hill. I had to walk on the snow with my feet at an awkward angle or cut steps into the snow with my microspikes. It was slow going. Thankfully the ground was hard and I wasn’t post-holing into the snow.
At one point, my microspike caught on a branch and my snow gaitor and shoe both came clean off of my right foot. That was unexpected. Once I got over being surprised, I found a nearby log to sit on and put them back on again before continuing on my way.
I made it back to Angel’s Rest just after the sun finished setting. The sky, awash with orange and pink, faded into grey as the sunset gave way to night. Lights twinkled in the distance from nearby towns. I put on my headlamp and finished the trail in the dark. Thankfully the end of the trail was snow-free and easy to follow.
After finishing my hike, I climbed into my car and drove to the Best Western in Cascade Locks, Oregon for my next adventure.