A pleasant sunny walk

On the way in you pass a marshy area with channels. These channels had lots of ducks in them, although that is not obvious from the photo. (There are ducks in the photo, I promise.) There are nice views of Mt. Hood in this park. I thought I’d taken a picture of it here, but it is just off to the left.

After several days of rainfall and sickness for both of us, Maja and I were ready to tackle something not so hard. We ended up going to the Gibbons Creek Wildlife Art Trail in the Steigenwald Lake Wildlife Refuge. Part of the trail is closed for migration and breeding from October through April, but because the trail connects to the Columbia Dike Trail, you can walk as far as you want to.

The day we went out was sunny and chilly, a beautiful day. Most of the hike is not wooded, so be sure to take a hat. Quite a few people were roaming around with gigantic lenses on their cameras, taking pictures of wildfowl. On the day we were there, we saw ducks and geese, possibly a harrier hawk and an osprey, a large blue heron, and we just missed seeing an eagle.

Gibbons Creek Wildlife Art Trail

We had had lots of rain before the hike, but the dirt trail is well drained and very well kept.

Steigerwald Lake Wildlife Refuge, WA

Distance: 2.8-mile loop trail, but connects to the Columbia River Dike Trail, so you can go farther; we walked about 4 miles

Difficulty: Easy peasy

Panting stops: 0

Elevation changes: 42 feet

The art along the trail appears occasionally. It was particularly marked on the first bridge, which had bronze insects along the rails. The trail begins with a marshy area where it looked like workers were digging more channels. I would guess that in the spring, this area is full of birds. We saw quite a few as we went in. In this area and later on, there are great views of Mt. Hood. After the marsh, the trail enters a small wooded areas before coming back out into the open.

We saw this Great Blue Heron as we were crossing the bridge and were able to take the best picture of it from behind it on the path. He didn’t seem too worried about people.

The trail has two wooden bridges along which people were photographing birds. We also saw a very large nutria that was so accustomed to people that we had to walk around it on the trail. It was too busy eating grass.

This is a super easy trail, pretty much flat, dirt and gravel but very well kept. The eastern end of the trail was closed, but because the trail comes out onto the banks of the Columbia River at the Columbia River Dike Trail, which is seven miles long, you can walk farther. We ended up going east on that trail up to the end of it.

We had a beautiful walk on a gorgeous day, and we were glad to have found this really enjoyable trail.

How to get there

From Vancouver

Go east on WA-14. just after the second traffic circle in Washougal, you will see the entrance to the wildlife refuge on your right.

Parking and Facilities

There is parking for twenty to thirty cars in the parking lot. There are also two pit toilets next to the lot. In the refuge, there are some benches formed from rocks. No dogs are allowed in the refuge, but they are allowed on the nearby Columbia River Dike Trail.

 

Finding the trailhead we couldn’t find before

A view of the ridge above the North Siouxon Creek (or River) Trail

A couple of weeks back, my hiking friend Maja and I tried to find the North Siouxon Creek Trail, but we had problems because we were relying on GPS from her phone to get to the trailhead, and it lost track of where we were. We ended up at the Siouxon Trail instead, doing a brief hike (because we spent so long driving around in the forest), which I already reported on.

So, this week, armed with better instructions, we headed off to look for the North Siouxon Creek Trail, with the caveat that at the trailhead signpost (but nowhere else we can find), it is called the North Siouxon River Trail. It lies within the Siouxon County Park next to Gifford Pinchot National Forest and offers a pretty forest walk near the creek and a waterfall at the end if you can hike that far. I will warn you that the references to this trail are few, they are all under North Siouxon Creek Trail, and some searches will turn up the Siouxon Trail instead. (This confused my sister-in-law, Nancy, who thought we were going there.)

North Siouxon River Trail

Siouxon County Park, Amboy, WA

Distance: 9.8 miles in and out to Black Hole Falls (we went about two miles in and back)

Difficulty: Middling as far as we went, but probably Moderate to Tougher if you go the whole way

Panting stops: 5 to 7

Elevation change: 1,578 feet (we did about 500 feet)

A look at the trail

It was another gorgeous fall day, although many of the leaves had fallen from the trees. We drove back to this remote hiking trail to enjoy a couple hours of hiking. The route to this trailhead is tortuous, and we almost thought we weren’t going to find it again, so please be sure to bring good driving instructions. Your phone GPS won’t work this far back in the forest, and the driving instructions on AllTrails are horrible. Also note that while the road is in good condition, it is rough.

On the way out, we drove past Tumtum Mountain and again found ourselves on the narrow paved and gravel roads leading back to the forest. The trail itself begins in a Douglas fir and western hemlock forest and goes steeply down from the trailhead, so be sure to save some energy to get back up. The path is a narrow dirt one, but it is well kept and not rocky. The forest eventually becomes one of red alder and bigleaf maple. As we made our way down toward the creek, we passed over some places where small rivulets of water crossed the trail, and we could tell there would be more when it was wetter.

North Siouxon Creek, from one of the bridges on the road leading to the trailhead

The trip report we were following cited several creek crossings. The first one was easy, just a big step from one bank to another. However, when we got to the second one, I felt uncertain about making it across. You are presented with a choice of stepping from rock to rock over the creek (just three steps, and Maja made it across easily) or a tree trunk covered with shingles with a hand rope. I did not feel that my balance was equal to either, and Nancy said her dog had an open wound, so she didn’t want him in the water. So, at that point we decided to go back.

However, for people who want to go farther, there is the promise of an impressive waterfall at Black Hole Falls and according to the trip report we were using, the best access to Mitchell Peak (11 miles round trip from the falls).

How to get there

From Vancouver

You can either take I-5 north to the Battle Ground exit, turn east on WA-502 and then left on WA -503 in Battle Ground or take WA-500/503 up from Vancouver. From Battle Ground it’s about 17 miles to Chelatchie. In Chelatchie, turn right next to the Chelatchie store (across the road from the Mt. St. Helens Park Headquarters) on NE Healey Road. After 2.4 miles, the road becomes FR-54 and the pavement change is noticeable.

From the turn onto Healey, drive 5.2 miles to a fork, where you keep right. Take the second left after crossing the bridge, which is 1.6 miles after the fork.

After 0.7 miles, stay left. Keep left again after another 0.5 miles.

In another 0.1 miles, you’ll pass through a gate with signs that say “Discover Pass Required.”

In 0.4 miles, stay right on S1000. You will continue to follow S1000 all the way to the trailhead.

In 2.3 miles, you’ll pass over the bridge on Siouxon Creek. At the junction of S2000, stay left.

About 0.7 miles after the Siouxon Creek bridge, you will cross over the North Fork Siouxon Falls bridge (and another bridge about 0.5 miles later).

About 0.8 miles after the North Siouxon Falls bridge, you will come to the very noticeable trailhead at a sharp left turn.

Parking and Facilities

A Discover Pass is required.

The parking lot has room for about 20 cars. There are no other facilities. Dogs are allowed on a leash.

 

 

 

 

I fail to hike Silver Star Mountain (but give it a darn good try)

It was a beautiful day up on the mountain, and here is the view from the highest point that I made it to. You can see that a lot of logging is going on in the middle right, and we could see the loggers working from the trail.

My sister-in-law, Nancy, who is so much more fit than I am that she probably has no idea of how trepidatious I can be about a hike, wanted to go up Silver Star Mountain this week. This hike, via Grouse Vista Trail, is rated Difficult on some sites, and I just started doing Moderate hikes. To top it off, the longest hikes I have done so far have been seven miles, and they were both on almost completely flat surfaces. Both times, I was really tired when I got back to the car, so I wasn’t sure I would have the endurance to do the 6.8-mile hike, let alone the ability. But Nancy talked me into it, and Maja, who is also able to do more than I can, agreed to go.

The payoff of this hike, if you make it to the top (which I didn’t) on a clear day is a gorgeous view of up to five mountains, Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, Mt. Adams, Mt. Hood, and Mt. Jefferson. (I was hoping to include Nancy’s photo from the top, but she never sent it, so you’ll have to do with mine.) The view from where I stopped was pretty nice also.

Silver Star Mountain via Grouse Vista Trail

Yacolt Burn State Forest and Gifford Pinchot National Forest, WA

Distance: 6.3 miles in and out (I went about 4.5 miles)

Difficulty: Difficult

Panting stops: Too many to count!

Elevation change: 2096 feet if you do the whole trail (I did about 1000 feet)

The steepish first part of the path. We found the footing not too bad on the way up but keep in mind that you have to come back down.

On a gorgeous fall day, we tackled the Grouse Vista Trail up Silver Star Mountain. The trailhead is where the Tarbell Trail meets the Grouse Vista Trail, so if you go north (across the road from the parking area), you are on Grouse Vista, and south is Tarbell Trail to Larch Mountain. At the beginning of the hike there is a steep section that is also rocky after you reach the place where the Tarbell Trail branches off toward Hidden Falls. (The day we were there, that trail was blocked off two miles in from this junction, before you get to Hidden Falls, because of logging.) The day we were there, the rocky section of this first steep stretch was running water down it, almost like a very shallow creek, but on the way back we found someone had done a better job of diverting it across the path instead of down it. The steep stretch continues for about the first 0.8 miles of the trail. We didn’t find the footing difficult on the way up because most of the rocks seemed to be embedded in the mud. The way back down, however, was much more difficult, because we were tired. The trail continues to be rocky most of the way, with some stretches of forest duff.

After the first 0.8 miles, the trail levels off, and you begin to see nice views to the south. It eventually opens up into a large meadow, where you can see Pyramid Rock to your right and Sturgeon Rock to the north. The trail cuts around the front of Pyramid Rock and you walk below it. For a short period, you drop down in elevation a bit. Along the meadow, the walking was easy, although the path was quite a bit narrower and in one place almost obscured by bear grass. However, I was so tired from the first ascent that even after a rest and a snack, I felt drained and decided to stop shortly after we rounded Pyramid Rock.

My second-hand understanding of the rest of the hike is that the trail dips back into forest ahead and that there is a one more really steep section at the Silver Star-Grouse Vista junction where the rocks are larger and loose. This section lasts 0.2 miles, and is described on one site as “an open scree slope.” Both of my hiking partners said I had been wise to stay back and wait for them. (I waited for Maja, who went another half hour forward and then came back to get me. Nancy was the only one to make it to the top.) At the junction, you take the Silver Star Trail (#180; Grouse Vista is Trail #180F) to get to the top.

For me, being so tired, the most difficult part of the hike was coming down the last 0.8 mile slope, because I had to pick my way across the rocks that had seemed relatively easy to traverse on the way up. I was so tired that by the time I got to the part of the path that reverted to a nice forest floor that I couldn’t actually walk normally, and I felt lucky to be able to make it to the car. I figure that maybe in five years I can make it to the top of Silver Star on this trail! However, it was a beautiful day and great to be outside in the forest.

How to get there

From Yacolt

Turn south on N. Railroad Avenue. Go 2.5 miles and turn left on NE Sunset Falls Road, which is just across from a parking lot for Moulton Falls Park. Go 2 miles and turn right on NE Dole Valley Road. After 2.5 miles, stay on Dole Valley Road as it continues to the right. After 2.6 miles, turn left on L-1200. The trailhead is on your left about 5.1 miles down this road.

From Vancouver

Take WA-500 east. Turn right on NE Fourth Plain. Go 1.2 miles and turn left on NE Ward Road. At 3.3 miles, go straight onto NE 182nd Avenue. After a mile, turn right on NE 139th Street. Go 2.4 miles and make a slight left onto NE Rawson Road. Go 3.3 miles and go straight to take L-1400. After 2.5 miles, still go straight to be on L-1500. in 0.3 miles, turn left on L-1200. The trailhead is on your left about 5.1 miles down this road.

Parking and facilities

There is parking for about four cars at the trailhead. The only facility is a pit toilet.

A deep forest hike

I took this photo of a tributary leading down to Siouxon Creek from the wooden bridge near the start of the hike.

The main difficulty we had on our hike at the Siouxon Trailhead was finding the trail we intended to hike, which was at a different trailhead. We had a difference of opinion about where it may be, but it turned out that neither of us was right. In any case, once we floundered around for a while, we finally ended up at the Siouxon Trailhead, and a beautiful hike it was, through lush forests and along the creek. Many of our hikes have been a little on the urban side, but this one was truly a deep forest hike.

Because it took us an hour longer to get there than planned, we only went  a couple of miles down the trail. But we plan to return now that we know how to get there.

Siouxon Trail

Gifford Pinchot National Forest, WA

Distance: 18 miles out and back, if you go all the way (we went about four miles)

Difficulty: Tougher to do the whole trail (we didn’t go very far and found it moderate)

Panting stops: four, mainly at the end, returning to the trailhead

Elevation changes: 2076 feet, if you do the whole trail, about 300 feet on the part we did

Although my friend and I both have maps of the Gifford Pinchot Forest, we made the mistake of leaving them home. This was a mistake because we lost phone service long before we entered the park, so that the Google directions from AllTrails didn’t work to lead us to the trailhead. We were actually trying to find the North Siouxon Creek trailhead in the state forest, but the written description of how to get there on AllTrails only mentioned two of the several roads we needed to take there. However, we finally found the Siouxon Trailhead (for a different trail) just before we gave up and went home.

A view of a cataract along Siouxon Creek in an area that has some color. Most of the trees were coniferous, but we occasionally came through patches of fall color.

On the way up there, once you leave WA-503 and turn onto Healy Road, is absolutely stunning scenery, especially at this time of year, with the leaves changing. First we passed through green valleys full of cows, and then we climbed up into gorgeous mountain scenery. One you’re in the National Forest, of course, there aren’t as many wide-open views except in areas that have been heavily logged, and then the views aren’t pretty. However, the hike itself was really nice.

The trail takes you on a relatively steep downhill along a needle-covered woodland path. It is well kept and quite wide in parts, although it is occasionally rocky. The path goes over a wooden bridge (which I understand had to be replaced a couple of years ago, and there are lots of big fallen trees around it to explain why) and then down to run along above Siouxon Creek. We saw a few cataracts in the creek, and I understand that farther up, there are waterfalls. This is truly a deep woods hike, with lots of big trees all around and not many open places except by the creek. The path is fairly level for over a mile, and then it begins climbing again, which is the where the large elevation changes come in. As I said, because we spent an extra hour getting lost on the way out, we only walked in a couple of miles and then turned back. However, now that we know how to get there, we will certainly return for the beautiful hike.

Keep in mind as you go down toward the creek that you have to have enough energy on to go back up these steepish slopes on the way back!

During our Wednesday October hike, we encountered only one other hiker with dogs and two mountain bikers.

How to get there

From Vancouver or Amboy

Take WA-503 up to Chelatchie and turn right on NE Healy Road, right next to the Chelatchie store. Stay on this road, which becomes Rashford Spur Road, then Calamity Peak Road/NF-57, for 14 miles. When you get to the intersection of Calamity Peak Road and NF-5701, turn left onto NF-5701. NF-5701 dead ends at the Siouxon Trailhead.

The roads are very rough leading to and in the national park. They are paved most of the way, but the paving is broken and cracked in spots, making it difficult to drive over. The forest service website recommends using a 4WD vehicle to go to this trailhead.

Parking and facilities

There is parking for maybe 15 cars at the trailhead, This trailhead is also the head for four other trails, but there was only one other car there when we were there. There are no other facilities, except that a way down the trail, there are fallen logs and a campfire circle. You are asked to pack out any trash you take in. Dogs are allowed here. We saw no indication that a pass was required for this trailhead. There is access to the trail near the beginning of NF-5701 for horse trailers.

A revisit to Salmon Creek Park

The first time I visited Salmon Creek Park, I wasn’t impressed. The first part of our walk was very urban, and it was so humid that day, despite being cold, that we weren’t enjoying our hike, so turned around. However, Maja and I decided to take my dog Luke to revisit the park this fall, and we took a side trail up to Cougar Creek. During this hike, we got farther into the park so saw more of its wilder side. There were lots of migrating birds, and by Cougar Creek, it was wooded rather than meadowy.

Salmon Creek Trail to Cougar Creek

Salmon Creek Park, Vancouver, WA

Distance: about four miles

Difficulty: Easy

Panting stops: 0

Elevation changes: 30 feet

We parked again at the first parking lot for the park and started down the trail. This time we made it further in past the Turtle Pond, where we saw turtles and lots of ducks as well as a Great Blue Heron. We saw ducks walking along the trail and geese flying overhead on this fall walk.

The trail is paved most of the way and is very popular. We saw lots of walkers, runners, bikers, and people with dogs. If you are going in the summer, there is also a really nice swimming hole near the first parking lot. Dogs are not allowed in there, however, so I have never seen all of it.

Cougar Creek runs along at the bottom of the gorge. You can just barely see it in the photo. In the center of the photo, there is a small waterfall.

The path goes past the softball fields and then into a meadowland. Despite the low temperatures, we got a little warm. Then we entered a wooded area, and people recommended we try the short trail up Cougar Creek. It is much more wooded there, and there is a little bit of a climb instead of it being completely flat, but it is not much of one. We ran up in a gorge that had homes at the top of it but still seemed very wild, and Cougar Creek ran picturesquely down at the bottom.

The side path to Cougar Creek is narrower and graveled but still very well kept.

How to get there

From Vancouver or Portland

From I-5, I-205 or Highway 99, go west on NE 139th Street until you reach NW 36th Avenue. Turn left and cross the Felida Bridge. The trailhead will be on the left side of the road.

From Battle Ground

Take WA 502 (Main Street) west from town. Turn left on NE 72nd Avenue. Go about five miles and turn right on NE 119th Avenue. Follow this road (it changes to NE 117th Street and then to NE 119th Street) until you pass under the I-5 and I-205 underpasses. Shortly after you go under the underpasses, you will see the park entrance on your right.

Parking and Facilities

There is lots of parking at the park. There are also a swimming hole with lifeguards, restrooms, and benches. The park has restrooms, softball fields, picnic tables and shelters, barbecue grills, and lots of benches. The entire trail is wheelchair accessible. Dogs are allowed on a leash except over by the pool. A parking fee or a regional pass is required.

I tackle the rock

Beacon Rock from the bottom. Here are Autumn and her mother Jules. This photo does not convey how intimidating it looks.

Those who have hiked with me know that I don’t like up, that is, not sustained, steep up. I feel like I don’t get a break from it if there is no flatness or at least less steep switchbacks. So, when Autumn suggested Beacon Rock, I wasn’t so sure how much I wanted to do it. It is a tall outcrop wedged between WA-14 and the Columbia River. Last year, when we attempted to hike a couple of miles up Hamilton Mountain, I saw it and was fairly sure I wasn’t ready for it. I thought I wrote an article about that hike, but all I did was mention it in my first post.

However, this week I decided to give it a try. It is a daunting prospect when you first see it, at least for people who aren’t in great shape, but the trails are all switchbacks with a short set of steps at the very top. It was rough on my knees and legs for such a short hike, but he views of the Columbia are worth the effort. I made it all the way up!

Beacon Rock Trail

Beacon Rock State Park, Stevenson, Washington

Distance: 1.8 miles out and back

Difficulty: Tougher

Panting stops: Too many to count, especially toward the top

Elevation changes: 680 feet

It was an overcast day when we started up the rock, but it cleared up nicely for the gorgeous views.

This trail is rated moderate on all the hiking sites, but I would rate it tougher. Although it has a few level areas, most of it is up, although on more gentle slopes because of the switchbacks. It is not a long hike, but my legs were feeling it by the time we got back down.

The path is stone or gravel with some short paved portions and some wooden bridges to cross. My friend Autumn has a fear of heights and had great difficulty crossing the bridges the first time. This time, she sometimes had to get her courage up, but she has been up several times since that first time. In a few areas, the stone on the path is loose, but most of the way it is rugged but not loose. Most of the stairs on the final flight have very high rises. So, uphill my hiking sticks were a necessity. Downhill, because almost all of the trail has guardrails, I didn’t usually need my sticks except for high steps or exceptional ruggedness. I would guess that the moderate rating on most sites is because of the ruggedness of some of the footing.

We left for our hike earlier than usual so that we could get well up the rock before it got too hot. Nevertheless, we were quite warm by the time we got to the top, even though it was probably only about 80 degrees there. Toward the top of the trail there is a lot of shade, and at one spot we came around a corner into a lovely cool breeze.

The trail has many gorgeous views of the Columbia River. If you feel you can handle the elevation change in such a short distance, it is worth it. There is no accommodation on this trail for people needing wheelchairs.

How to get there

From Portland

Take I-205 north into Washington. Almost as soon as you get to the mainland, take WA-14 east toward Camas. The park is on WA-14 about 28 miles along. There is more than one entrance to the park, but parking for this trail is best right next to the rock. Bypass the first entrance to the park. Just after you pass a ranger station on the left, you will see the rock on the right. Parking  is on the right just beyond it.

From Vancouver

Take WA-14 exit east toward Camas. The park is on WA-14 about 28 miles along. There is more than one entrance to the park, but parking for this trail is best right next to the rock. Bypass the first entrance to the park. Just after you pass a ranger station on the left, you will see the rock on the right. Parking  is on the right just beyond it.

Parking and Facilities

The lot next to the trailhead has parking for about 20 vehicles. There is also parking across the highway next to the ranger station. The park also has restrooms near the trailhead. Rock climbing is allowed on the face of the rock away from the hiking trail. The state park has five other trails, as well as campgrounds, picnic and day use facilities, and fresh water fishing, docks, and a boat launch. Dogs are allowed on the trail, and bikes and horses are allowed in the park but not on this trail. Most of the park’s facilities are available from other entrances to the park, not the one near the Beacon Rock trailhead.

On the Columbia again

Up along the path to the beaches, we saw a paddle wheeler on the Columbia.

This week we discovered a delightful park wedged between the Columbia River and Vancouver Lake. The park has a bit more than 2.5 miles of trails itself, or you can hike across to Vancouver Lake Park. We did a little of both, although it was a hot day and the trail to the other park was completely in sunlight, so we didn’t hike as far as we intended.

Frenchman’s Bar Trail

Frenchman’s Bar Regional Park, Vancouver, Washington

Distance: nearly 4 miles one way if you walk all the way to Vancouver Lake Park and to the end of the trail; if you stay in the park, about 2.5 miles one-way

Difficulty: easy peasy

Panting stops: 0

Elevation changes: minimal

Here is a glimpse of one of the minor trails that ends up at one of the beaches. The main trail is paved.

This park offers well-kept paved or gravel trails with very little change in elevation. Because the hike isn’t on AllTrails, I was unable to find information about elevation changes, but the part we walked only had one very small rise, and that was off the main trail.

We arrived and parked in the first parking lot. That may have been a mistake, because we had lots of difficulty figuring out where we we were. The only map we saw was next to the main parking lot. Although we intended to take the trail over to Vancouver park, we ended up hiking up the Columbia River along the beaches and then briefly coming back along  a dead-end trail. Once we figured out where the main trail was (indicated by blue arrows on the pavement but only when you get as far as the main parking lot), it was much hotter and we only walked a short way toward the lake. Maps in several areas of the park would have helped us out a lot.

That being said, we saw some wildlife along the river, and from a distance we spotted the nest of a large bird, possibly ospreys or eagles. I took a picture, but it didn’t come out at all. Even zoomed in, you can’t tell you are looking at birds.

During the weekday, the park was only sparsely attended. It has many beaches and a playground, picnic areas, and we saw people picking blackberries.

How to get there

From Vancouver or Portland

From I-5 in Vancouver, take exit 1D onto 4th Plain Blvd. Head west 1.5 miles, then merge right to stay on 4th Plain. Fourth Plain branches to the right, and shortly after that, it turns into NW River Road. Follow the signs to the park entrance.

From Battle Ground

Take WA 502 to I-5 and turn south. Take exit 1D onto 4th Plain Blvd. Head west 1.5 miles, then merge right to stay on 4th Plain. Fourth Plain branches to the right, and shortly after that, it turns into NW River Road. Follow the signs to the park entrance.

Parking and Facilities

The park has two large parking lots. It also has two sets of restrooms, many picnic areas, including shelters, several beaches, beach volleyball courts, fishing areas, and a playscape. A fee of $3 is required unless you have a regional annual parking pass, which is good for four of the regional parks in Clark County.