The Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge offers an easy loop trail through woodlands and meadows that are filled with wildlife. The trail itself can only be used from May to September, as it is closed during the times of the largest bird migrations. Before it is opened and after it is closed, in the spring and fall, you can take the CD-guided auto tour route (pick up the CD at the park entrance kiosk) and see thousands of water birds. We attempted this trail twice, once before it opened up and one time in the summer when it was closed because of a cougar sighting. We finally got a chance to enjoy it.
Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, Ridgefield, Washington
Rating: easy peasy
Panting stops: 0
Distance: 1.5 miles
Elevation changes: 3 feet
To get to the Kiwa trail, you drive into the wildlife refuge, stop at the park entrance to pay a small fee ($3), and follow the auto tour loop. You will come to a short hiking loop with a few parking places and a porta-potty on the left. The trail is actually just a bit farther down the road on the right. You can’t miss it. There is a big sign (shown above).
The trail takes you through some woodlands into a marsh that is full of wildlife. At the entrance to the trail are a few canals that may have ducks. Further in, we saw herriers, herons, egrets, a deer, and lots of field birds. The trail goes through a wooded area, across a bridge, and then around a large meadow. The path is well kept, cinder at the beginning and slightly elevated and covered with spongy ground cover when you enter the meadow and marsh.
On the auto road, we saw a nutria and a mink crossing the road at different points, and we saw nutria and ducks swimming in the waterways we passed. The refuge is a major stopover during migration seasons for all kinds of water birds and in the fall for sandhill cranes.
What we thought was going to be a cold, dismal day turned out bright and sunny. Much of this hike is in the open, so bring a hat!
How to get there
From Vancouver or Portland
Drive north on I-5. Take the exit for Ridgefield, WA-501/NW 269th Street/Pioneer Street. Turn left on Pioneer Street. Continue on Pioneer Street through all the traffic circles. Turn left onto S. 9th Avenue. This road becomes S. Hillhurst Road. Turn right at the entrance to the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge and drive into the park. Cross the one-lane bridge and turn right onto NW Tour Route Road after paying at the park entrance. Follow the auto tour route until you see the sign for the trail on your right.
From Battle Ground
Take WA-502 west from Battle Ground. Turn right on NE 10th Avenue. Turn left onto NE Carty Road. Turn right on NW Hillhurst Road. About a quarter of a mile up the road, you will see the entrance to the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge on your left. Turn left and drive into the park. Cross the one-lane bridge and turn right onto NW Tour Route Road after paying at the park entrance. Follow the auto tour route until you see the sign for the trail on your right.
Parking and Facilities
At the entrance to the wildlife refuge is a pit toilet. At the entrance to the trail, there is parking for about five cars.