Nestled in the heart of the Columbia River Gorge, just a stone’s throw from the bustling city of Portland, lies Angels Rest Trail with breathtaking vistas and a touch of serenity away from the urban sprawl.
By the end of this guide, you’ll be equipped with everything you need to conquer the Angel’s Rest Trail, from essential tips to navigate its moderate challenges to the secrets for capturing its most stunning views.
Imagine standing atop an ancient rocky bluff, where a 270-degree panorama of the Columbia River and the verdant landscapes of Washington State stretch out before you.
But what makes the Angel’s Rest Trail truly unique? Beyond its breathtaking views, this trail holds stories of geological marvels, a testament to nature’s resilience and beauty.
In this guide, you’ll get a taste of what’s to come: the serene beauty of Coopey Falls visible from the trail, the historic remnants of the 2017 Eagle Creek fire, and the vibrant display of wildflowers that frame the final ascent. These highlights are just a taste of what the Angel’s Rest Trail offers.
Angel’s Rest Trail Quick Facts
- Length: 4.8 miles roundtrip
- Type: Out and back
- Elevation Gain: 1,475 feet
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Seasons: All but best April through October
- Family Friendly: Yes
- Restrooms: No
- Pass Needed: No
- Dogs: Leashed
- Busy: Yes
Angel’s Rest Trail
The Angel’s Rest Trail is a heavily trafficked out-and-back trail in the Columbia River Gorge. Just 30 minutes east of Portland, Angel’s Rest is a great bang for your buck trail with a combination of moderate elevation gain, moderate distance, and spectacular views.
Those who reach the crest of Angel’s Rest find themselves perched atop an exposed bluff on the western side of the Columbia River Gorge. Created during a million-year-old lava flow from Larch Mountain, the summit consists of a long rocky ridge surrounded by cliffs on three sides. This ridge also boasts an amazing 270-degree view of the Columbia River, Washington State across the river, and surrounding landmarks.
From Portland, hikers must travel along scenic Interstate 84 and take exit 28 onto Historic Route 30 toward Bridal Veil. Drive the short distance up to Highway 30, take a right, and the parking lot is immediately after the turn. The Angel’s Rest Trail parking lot fills up fast, but additional parking is a few hundred feet further up the highway.
If you’re coming westbound on I-84, you’ll need to take exit 35 at Ainsworth State Park and follow the Historic Columbia River Highway (Highway 30) 7 miles to the Angel’s Rest Trail parking lot on the right side of the road.
If you’d prefer to make a road trip or day trip out of your hike and want to take the scenic route, you can also take the Historic Columbia River Highway. From Portland, you’ll take I-84 east to Troutdale, where you’ll take exit 18. Drive along the Sandy River to the Sandy River Bridge, then follow keystone-shaped signs through Corbett, Crown Point, and the waterfall area. Finally, pull into the Angel’s Rest Trail parking lot near Bridal Veil.
The Angel’s Rest Trail begins at the trailhead just off the road on Highway 30.
This 3–4-hour (depending on how much time you spend at the top) hike begins in a thick forest with very few viewpoint opportunities for the first mile or so. The first third of the walk follows a mostly dirt path, although several rocky and uneven sections may be difficult for some hikers.
This thickly wooded first section also allows hikers to see a few of the waterfalls the Columbia River Gorge is famous for. There is an overhead view of Coopey Falls from the Angel’s Rest Trail and a detour trail to Upper Coopey Falls. You’ll also pass the small Coopey Creek and cross over a lovely footbridge.
As you ascend further, the trail becomes steeper, with a course of switchbacks as you traverse the hillside. The trees also become sparser, and you’ll be afforded your first views of the Columbia River. Unfortunately, you’ll also notice evidence of the 2017 Eagle Creek fire that burned over much of the trail.
The last third of the hike allows for more open views of the Gorge and Angel’s Rest overlook above. You’ll be greeted by views of Larch Mountain and Silver Star Mountain at various points. Be aware that this trail section also contains pockets of poison oak.
This final stretch is characterized by a thin trail and thick bushy terrain still recovering from a fire in 1991. Depending on the time of year, you’ll also be greeted with wildflowers and ferns. There are also two sections of loose shale-like rock on a talus slope that you must navigate. Although the trail is easily discernable due to discoloration from the trek of hikers, many rocks are loose, and this part of the trail may be difficult for some hikers.
Despite the difficulty of the terrain, this section of the trail also boasts some of the most stunning views of the Columbia River and the view back toward Portland.
A few more switchbacks later, hikers will come to a junction at the crest of the Angel’s Rest promontory. Take the trail to the left toward the river and the large rock outcroppings, which will take you to the viewpoint and the end of the Angel’s Rest Trail. For those looking for a longer loop with more elevation gain, hikers can continue on the trail and complete the Angel’s Rest-Devil’s Rest Loop hike.
There is some climbing up boulders required to complete the trail and make it to the end of the viewpoint. While there is plenty of room to relax and enjoy the views at the edge of the cliffs, it’s important to remember that there are sheer cliffs on three sides of this outcropping and no safety measures in place. So be sure to stay far away from the cliff edges and to keep children close.
This final perch atop the Angel’s Rest is a perfect place to have a picnic, relax, and enjoy the amazing views of the Columbia River Gorge. Be sure to pack the appropriate gear for dealing with the weather during your hike, including sunscreen or layers for the often brutal wind.
On a clear day, you can see Mount St. Helens and Mount Baker, as well as some of the skyscrapers of downtown Portland. Many especially recommend hiking the Angel’s Rest Trail to view sunsets.
Who Should Hike the Angel’s Rest Trail?
Although rated as moderate difficulty, the Angel’s Rest Trail has several sections featuring a punishing incline with switchbacks, uneven surfaces, and loose rocks. Some climbing is also required at the top to get out to the end of the viewpoint.
For these reasons, those with asthma or other breathing difficulties, those not in at least moderate physical shape, or those with balance concerns should reconsider hiking this trail or be sure to bring along any necessary equipment (inhalers, walking sticks, etc.).
Similarly, those with knee or other leg issues may want to reconsider hiking this trail due to the long stretches of the relatively steep descent.
Lastly, families with small children should reconsider due to the difficulty and hazards of this trail.
When to Hike the Angel’s Rest Trail
While the trail is open year-round, it is best to hike from April through October, with more chance of clear weather and less wind. Parts of the trail could become muddy and hazardous after rain, and it can get very windy at the top.
This trail is very popular and busy during the day. Thus, early morning or late afternoon will be the best times to help avoid crowds. Angel’s Rest is also a popular spot to view the sunrise and sunset.
Final Thoughts on the Angel’s Rest Trail Hike
The Angel’s Rest Trail is one of the best bang-for-your-buck hikes in the Columbia River Gorge.
Boasting fantastic views and moderate difficulty, this hike is accessible to most, and the high foot traffic will help ensure there’s help if needed. You’ll also have full reception throughout the hike.
Although relatively short and close to town, you’ll want to ensure you are adequately prepared. Wear sturdy shoes and layers, and bring plenty of water, sunscreen, bug spray, snacks, and other necessities. You may even want to bring a picnic and blanket to enjoy your time atop the Angel’s Rest.
Just a 30-minute drive from Portland, the Angel’s Rest Trail should be on every outdoor enthusiast’s shortlist.
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Casandra Karpiak is a travel writer and owner of Savoteur. A Toronto native with Danish roots currently residing in British Columbia, her travel writing has been seen on The Associated Press wire, MSN, FOX, CBS, NBC, Entrepreneur, 24/7 Wall St, Times Daily, and many more. When she’s not traveling, she can be found at hockey arenas all over BC cheering on her two young sons.