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
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.