Great for tourists and Northwesterners alike, Angel's Rest Trail is less than an hour outside of Portland. Angel's Rest takes you high up over the Columbia River and gives a spectacular view of the valley. From the highest point on the trail, you can see Beacon Rock and Silver Star Mountain from beneath a canopy of alders and oaks. The trail takes you past two waterfalls, giving you a view of Coopey Falls and Upper Coopey Falls. The trail and the surrounding forest burnt down in 1991, and again in 2017, but the secondary growth is on the rise and the trail is fully functional again.
To reach the trailhead for Angel's Rest Trail from Portland, take Interstate 84 east down the Historic Columbia River Highway which winds gently through the countryside. When you get to the Bridal Veil intersection, park in the lot. There are no fees, but you want to make sure to arrive early (or late!) on holidays and perfect summer days.
After leaving the parking lot, you will find the trailhead above. As you start hiking up the trail, you will walk beneath a canopy of firs that might still looked charred from the 2017 fire. There is usually poison oak, so be careful to stay on the path and wear long pants. Less than a mile later, you will come to a view of Phoca Rock, Cape Horn, the Prindle Cliffs, and Silver Star Mountain. Continue along, and you will come to another viewpoint that looks down onto Coopey Falls, a 150-foot waterfall. Moving forward through a hazel thicket, you will see Upper Coopey Falls.
After crossing Coopey Creek on a quaint wooden footbridge, you will hike up a series of switchbacks until reaching a more open view which shows Larch Mountain and Silver Star Mountain. Two more switchbacks give you another panoramic view of the mountains, which is followed by four more switchbacks that lead to yet another vista. The next three switchbacks take you to the summit of the hike.
There are a plethora of small spots to sit and have a picnic or a snack while taking in the heavenly views. There is plenty of room, but the drops are sheer and dangerous, so be careful near the edges. To the north you can see Larch Mountain and Silver Star Mountain from all the way in Washington. To the west you can see Sand Island and downtown Portland. If you stay for the sunset, you will see it sink into the river far below. Once you have had your fill and taken enough pictures, head back down the way you came. If you are feeling more adventurous, you can connect to Devil’s Rest at the top of the trail.
There is a Yakama creation story involving the Columbia River in which Coyote and Beaver, two large gods, get into a fight. Coyote backs Beaver through the Cascade Mountains and into the ocean, then kills him. The movement of Beaver’s tale is said to have scraped out the path for the Columbia River, which Angel's Rest offers a spectacular view of.
Records of people in the area were wiped away during the last glacial flood about 13,000 years ago, but archaeologists believe there were people living in the area well before then. Before Lewis and Clark arrived in the Gorge, indigenous people of varying tribes and languages were living around the area, which provided salmon in abundance. Well before Captain Robert Gray arrived and named the river after his ship, the Columbia Rediviva, smallpox had arrived and wiped out more than half the indigenous population.
In early September of 2017, a teenage boy set off a firework during a burn-ban and started the Eagle Creek Fire. The fire burned about 50,000 acres over two months, and shut down Angels Rest for over a year.