It begins with just a short drive to the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge. If you haven’t stood atop it, you’ve probably seen it — Beacon Rock.
“It's the center of an old volcano and essentially, with the Ice Age floods, they gouged through the gorge here. It just washed around the center of that creating what we now know as Beacon Rock,” said Heath Yeats, Battle Ground Area Manager for Washington State Parks.
Yeats’ area covers the state park of Battle Ground Lake, Paradise Point, Reed Island and, of course, Beacon Rock.
The land was purchased in 1915 by Henry Biddle. His sole purpose was to conserve it and build a trail to the top. The trail was completed by 1918, and years later his family would donate Beacon Rock and the surrounding area owned by Biddle to the state on the condition it would be remain a place for the public to enjoy.
“It's got those amazing views, iconic views that we all love and enjoy,” Yeats said. “And it's got 52 switchbacks up to the top.”
The landmark is impressive, but there’s much more to see and enjoy in the surrounding area — 5,100 acres offer camping, a boat launch, 26 miles of trails and 130 rock climbing routes — an embarrassment of riches, and Washington State Parks wants to spread the wealth. There are two more “free” days in 2021, meaning no Discover Pass or day use fee is needed to enjoy state recreation lands. The dates are Veterans Day, Nov. 11 and Native American Heritage Day, Nov. 26.
“Over the last couple of years, I think we all personally have felt the need to get outdoors and experience things,” said Yeats. “Right now is a beautiful time to do that. Especially with these free days coming up, but get out and come visit your Washington State Parks. It's a beautiful place to recreate and there's many many others across the state that it would be a great for folks to go visit.”
2022 Washington State Parks free days:
- Saturday, Jan. 1 – New Year’s Day
- Monday, Jan. 17 – Martin Luther King Day
- Wednesday, March 9 – Billy Frank Jr.’s birthday
- Saturday, March 19 – Washington State Parks’ birthday
- Friday, April 22 – Earth Day
- Saturday, June 11 – National Get Outdoors Day
- Sunday, June 12 – Free Fishing Weekend
- Sunday, June 19 - Juneteenth
- Saturday, Sept. 24 – National Public Lands Day
- Monday, Oct. 10 – World Mental Health Day
- Friday, Nov. 11 – Veterans Day
- Friday, Nov. 25 – Native American Heritage Day
Let's Get Out there airs once a week on KGW's 4 p.m. newscast and The Good Stuff, which airs Monday-Thursday at 7 p.m. We're including viewer photos for this series. You can text your photos to 503-226-5088 or post them on the KGW Facebook page.