Just a handful of miles East from where I-82 crosses the Columbia River, on the Oregon side, off Hwy 730, lies Hat Rock State Park. This park, in the Northeastern corner of the state is another off-the-beaten-trail treasure. This park has a little something for everyone… a boat launch, picnic areas, historical and geological features, as well as some breathtaking views of Lake Wallula, a reservoir of the Columbia River, that is just behind McNary Dam.

Many millions of years ago a volcanic basalt flow covered much of Northern Oregon, Southeastern Washington, and parts of Idaho. Many thousands of years ago, during the last Ice Age, the Lake Missoula Flood consumed and eroded vast stretches of the Columbia River, leaving Basalt Rock outcropping, such as Hat Rock in its wake.

It’s pretty simple really… Hat Rock is a distinct giant basalt rock outcropping that looks like a hat. It was described by Lewis and Clark in 1805 as they traveled West. In the park there is a short, very kid-friendly trail that leads right up to the base of hat rock. To the East is a quieter piece of the park, and to the West is the boat launch, fish pond and access to both the Lewis and Clark Commemorative Trail and the Columbia River Lake Wallula.

One of my sons is currently studying Oregon history in elementary school. The high point of his day was standing on and hiking a very short stretch of the Lewis and Clark trail. The trail is accessible to hikers, bikes and horses. Just West of the boat launch, it climbs to an incredible viewpoint of the Columbia River. We didn’t linger long, as there were steep cliffs that plunged down to the river, which is a mile or more across at this point. My kids are at an age where they like to flirt with danger, so we took in the view, shot some pictures and headed back down.

With no entry fee, and an incredibly rich history, geology and breathtaking views, this place is well worth the trip.

Becky is a mom, living in Pendleton, Oregon who likes to explore the outdoors and find free or low-cost activities to share with her family.

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