If you’re looking for a nice day trip from the Tri-Cities, Hat Rock State Park east of Umatilla is a good bet with plenty to offer.
Sweeping views of the Columbia River. An unusual landmark noted in the journals of explorers Lewis and Clark. A scenic mile-long loop trail. A spring-fed fishing pond. Boat access to the river.
Rising about 70 feet from its base, the monolith that the park is named for is a remnant of a 12 million-year-old basalt lava flow, according to Oregon State Parks.
Capt. William Clark mentioned Hat Rock on Oct. 19, 1805, saying it resembled “a hat just below a rapid at the lower point of an island in the (middle) of the river.”
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Interpretive signs throughout the park explain the area’s rich geological and human history.
An easy hike up a gravel path leads to the base of the rock, which is fenced off. Another monolith — Boat Rock — is visible from the top of the hill to the east.
The trail continues down the hill and loops around a pond stocked with rainbow trout. Families with young children will appreciate the bridge and dike for exploring the water’s edge.
If you’re looking for a longer hike, you can easily pick up a spur near the boat launch area beside the restrooms that connects to the 10-mile Umatilla County Lewis and Clark Commemorative Trail and an overlook of the river.Even if you skip this longer hike, do take the short walk up to the bluff for a stunning view of the river. When the trail forks, head left, up the hill.
About 110,210 people visited the 719-acre park last year, according to Oregon State Parks.
But on a recent spring Sunday, the park was mostly empty. It’s a good time of year to visit since wildflowers are in bloom — their bright colors a lovely contrast to the brown desert landscape.
Pack a picnic lunch and hang out in the well-maintained grassy picnic area that’s perfect for tossing a Frisbee or baseball, or for kicking back on a blanket to watch the clouds roll by.
-- Kristina Lord: 582-1481; email@example.com; Twitter: @klord