Last winter, I wrote about a hike we took in the Yacolt Burn where we ended up on the wrong trail because we couldn’t figure out where the trail was. The only map posted at the trailhead is one of the entire region, so it isn’t very useful. This week, we returned to the trailhead to look for the trail we planned to hike originally. The signage is confusing, because it clearly labels the entrance to the Tarbell trail but then has right-hand arrows for the other trails that could mean Take the Tarbell trail or Go across the road. My sister, during the original hike, thought our hike was down the Tarbell Trail, but actually, we needed to go across the road to pick up the Bells Mountain Trail. That’s what we did this time and found ourselves on the trail as soon as we crossed the road.
Bells Mountain Trail to Cedar Creek
Yacolt Burn State Forest near Yacolt, Washington
Panting stops: 3 or 4, all on the way back
Distance: about 4 miles out and back
Elevation changes: 606 feet
I’ll tell you right away the the AllTrails app shows the distance of this hike as 6.1 miles. We went all the way to Cedar Creek, and the distance was no more than 4 miles. It’s possible that the hike entered into the app goes beyond the creek, although it doesn’t sound like it from the name of the hike, but even with adding a short side trip to the Coldwater Creek Day Use area, we hiked at most four miles. We had no cell phone reception past a certain point, so we were unable to check where we were on the map in AllTrails to see if the intent was to go further. We stopped at the creek.
The trail is a narrow dirt one that can be a little rough, but it is a relatively easy hike with the caveat that what goes down must go up. That is, the trail goes gradually down almost all the way out to the creek with just a few upward areas. That means that it goes gradually up all the way back and has the steepest grade at the end. That’s the only reason I rated it middling instead of easy. It is a good hike, though, and not at all difficult to do that last upward grade unless you get really tired.
The hike takes you through an open area that was logged a few years ago, but this area offers a nice view as well as some interesting fallen trees with huge but shallow root bases revealed. When we were there, someone had placed part of the skeleton of an animal on a stump, and we spotted lots of wild irises and other flowers on our late spring walk. If you’re going on a sunny day, you’ll need a hat for this part. Then you go into a forest the rest of the way, ending at a lovely little spot with a waterfall, bridge, and viewing platform. We took a side trip from there on the wheelchair accessible path back to the day use area. If you have accessibility issues, you can still see the waterfall by driving to the day use area and taking this trail, which is about 0.2 miles.
So, we had a nice hike, not too hard to do with nice scenery. We met no people on the entire hike.
How to get there
From Yacolt, Washington
Take N Railroad Avenue south out of Yacolt. Turn left on NE Sunset Falls Road just before Railroad Avenue turns right and becomes Lucia Falls Road. After two miles, turn right on NE Dole Valley Road. Take Dole Valley Road out about 4.5 miles. The road will change from paved to gravel. The trailhead is on your left just after you pass the sign for the Coldwater Creek campground.
From Vancouver, Washington
Take WA 503 north past Battle Ground for almost six miles. Turn right on NE Rock Creek Road, which becomes NE Lucia Falls Road. Lucia Falls Road ends where it turns north and becomes N Railroad Avenue. Turn onto N Railroad Avenue and almost immediately after, turn right on NE Sunset Falls Road. After two miles, turn right on NE Dole Valley Road. Take Dole Valley Road out about 4.5 miles. The road will change from paved to gravel. The trailhead is on your left just after you pass the sign for the Coldwater Creek campground.
Parking and Amenities
There is a parking lot at the trailhead for about 20 cars. The actual trail is across the road from the parking lot. There are two pit restrooms at the parking lot. If you take a side trip to the day use area when you get to the creek, there are picnic tables, a pump, and more pit restrooms.