3100 Feet Elevation Gain
On Friday, February 24, I drove 3 hours south to the Columbia River Gorge for a conference. Â 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. Â 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.Â When I reached Angel’s Rest, it began snowing lightly.Â Standing on the bluff over the Columbia River, the wind swirled tiny snowflakes around me.Â I put on my puffy jacket and ate some snacks as I admired the view.Â The river stretched in either direction as far as the eye could see.Â 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.Â It turned out to be harder than I anticipated.Â 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.Â As the trail reached some trees, I came to an intersection.Â 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. Â So I headed right and entered the forest.
The wind subsided once I entered the tree cover.Â The path gently sloped upwards, and I began encountering frozen snow on the path as it gained elevation.Â Soon the snow was a couple of inches deep and crunched under my feet with every step.Â Snow filtered down through the branches as I walked.Â 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.Â It had been a while since I hiked solo in the forest.Â 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.Â After this point, the trail became more difficult to follow.Â 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.Â 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.Â I stopped and put on my microspikes, which make walking a bit easier.Â 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. Â So, I put it away.
I climbed to an elevation of about 2550 feet, according to my altimeter, and came to Devil’s Rest. Â Devil’s Rest is a rocky moss-covered knoll located along the ridge under the cover of trees. Â 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. Â According to the map, I had only hiked about 1/3 of the loop so far. Â I was going to have to pick up the pace if I expected to finish before dark. Â I reasoned that the rest of the hike would go quicker since I had climbed most of the elevation on the hike so far. Â No problem!
As I descended from Devil’s Rest, I immediately lost the trail in the snow. Â Hm. Â After wandering around in circles and consulting my GPS, I finally found the trail again further down the hill. Â Whew! Â 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. Â However, it was more difficult of a hike than I anticipated. Â 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. Â I had to walk on the snow with my feet at an awkward angle or cut steps into the snow with my microspikes. Â It was slow going. Â 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. Â That was unexpected. Â 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. Â The sky, awash with orange and pink, faded into grey as the sunset gave way to night. Â Lights twinkled in the distance from nearby towns. Â I put on my headlamp and finished the trail in the dark. Â 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.