OverviewThe fastest approach to Angel's Rest in the western Columbia River Gorge leaves from a nice modern parking area, and gains the "summit" in about 2.4 miles, and with about 1500 feet of elevation gain.
This is best done as a hike. There are some exposed cliffs at the top that I'm sure somebody has climbed, but it's all loose (note all the landslides all over the place), mossy, slick crap that I can't imagine providing a really enjoyable experience.
This is a fantastic wildflower hike in spring, from mid-April through mid-June.
Interstate 84 westbound (from Hood River): Take exit #35, keep going straight off the freeway, and take the Historic Highway just under 7.5 miles to the trailhead parking described above.
Columbia River Highway approach: The trailhead is accessed from the historic highways. From Wahkeena Falls, head west apprximately 2.5 miles. Parking is on the right hand side of the highway. From Bridal Veil State Park, head about 0.5 mile east, with parking on the left.
Note: There is an overflow parking area about 50 yards west of the main parking area mentioned above. Access this alternate from the Historic Highway.
The trail starts off in a somewhat open mixed forest of bigleaf maple, red alder, and Douglas-fir, with a lush fern understory. The trail climbs steadily, passing many big mossy rocks. After about one third of a mile, the trail crosses a bigg mossy rockslide, and after about a half mile comes within earshot of Coopey Creek. Several short side trails lead to viewpoints that look out over the creek's canyon. Looking up-canyon, there is a decent veiw of Coopey Falls. This isn't an awe-inspiring waterfall, but if you've never seen it, it's worth the very short walk to an overlook. Shortly thereafter, the trail crosses Coopey Creek on a small bridge.
After about 11 or 12 switchbacks on the Columbia River side of the ridge, the trail comes to a rockfall area immediately below Angel's Rest. The trail switches back hard to the right, climbs a bit more, and then begins to curve back around to the left, crossing a ridge, and entering the upper portion of Coopey Creek's canyon. At this time, the wind usually picks up (I've noticed this in basically every month of the year). The trail crosses a really scenic landslide composed of big flat rocks with some moss and interesting lichens. Another switchback through some scrubby ridgetop, wind-battered vegetation, and the hiker is on the spine of rock that leads out to Angel's Rest. Bear left at the ridgetop junction (heading right will lead to Devil's Rest). There is some fun "climbing" over outcroppings on the ridge, and then Angel's Rest opens up. Views include much of the western Columbia Gorge, the Columbia River (duh), dramatic cliffs in the Washington Gorge, and a snippet of Portland.
It's usually windy at the top. Bring a windbreaker and tough it out, because it's a glorious place to hang out!