To the marsh and back

My sister has been telling me about a hike to Goat Marsh, up in the Mt. St. Helens Monument area, but she said that there was one spot that was too hard for me, a steep ascent up a wash-out that she said she had to crawl up. However, a month or so ago, she took my brother and sister-in-law, and they discovered a way around the wash-out. So, last Sunday, on a cold but sunny day, my sister and I went to Goat Marsh.

Here is the first body of water of Goat Marsh Lake. In the foreground are frozen ice crystals and on this cold day the marsh was frozen, although I’m not sure you can tell from this picture. If you take the trail around the lake, you end up with a view of Mt. St. Helens, I’m told. There is a second, larger body of water, but we didn’t get that far.

With the long cut, this is an easy hike that ends up at the marsh, a protected scientific area. We went during elk season, and the national forest was full of elk hunters (and mushroom hunters), but we felt safe in this area and only ran into one other party. We could hear guns off in the distance.

Goat Marsh Trail

Mt. St. Helens Volcanic Monument near Cougar, Washington

Distance: 2.4 miles in and out

Difficulty: easy

Panting stops: 1 or 2

Elevation changes: 275 feet

Parking at a barely noticeable slot for two cars, we headed up a continuation of the Kalama Ski Trail. The trail at this point is an easy downhill, fairly wide and not rough. However, note that this first part is downhill all the way, so that means, of course, that the end of the hike is uphill, but at a relatively easy slope.

I’m guessing about a quarter mile down the trail, the Kalama Ski Trail goes off to the left while the Goat Marsh trail goes straight. The ski trail is subtle, though, so you have to pay attention. Take that trail to avoid having to climb up the steep wash-out (and it really is steep and high—we went and looked at it). Just a short way down that trail, there is a sign that points back sharply to the right to Goat Marsh or to the left to continue the Kalama Ski Trail. Go right.

The trail goes easily along through forest of lodgepole pine and some old growth mostly of noble fir until you get to a little crease of a wash-out. I think this might be a continuation of the big wash-out farther up. It is a steep descent but only of a couple of feet and then steep back up, so easy enough to get over. It just is a place to be aware of your footing. It was at that point that I realized the ground was frozen solid. We were there on a cold day, with temperatures in the 30’s in October. This area is probably muddy at other times.

After you get across this cut and walk a bit further on, you intersect with the Goat Marsh trail, and if you go back along it, you see a very deep slope that’s the steep climb that you avoided. Turn back up the trail, which continues through the forest to the wooden fence indicating the Goat Marsh scientific study area. In the Goat Marsh be sure to stay on the trail (well, we went off just to go up to the edge of the marsh—I suppose technically we weren’t supposed to do that). However, I saw no signs that my dog wasn’t allowed or even that he had to be on a leash. Since he always stays on the trail, we let him off leash.

Until you get to the first lake, the trail goes through a beautiful forest area, and then it opens up with a view of the mountains across the marsh. None of it is difficult. Because I dropped my dog’s leash in the marsh area and had to turn around and go back to it, we didn’t end up going farther, but my sister told me that trail just comes to an end after you go through a bit more difficult areas, whereas another hiking page says there’s another lake further on. We had intended to walk around the marsh for a view of Mt. St. Helens, but we decided to turn back because my sister was cold.

How to get there

From Battle Ground or farther south

Take WA-503 north toward Cougar. About 3/4-1 mile after you pass Yale Park on the right, take National Forest Road 81 on the left. Follow NR 81/8100 back quite a while past Lake Merwin and into the Gifford Pinchot Forest and then into the Mt. St. Helens Monument. When you get to the intersection of 8100 and 8123, where there is a sign pointing you toward Blue Lake Trailhead to the left, take 8123 to the left. This is a rough road. There is a small pull-out on the left side of the road, so keep your eyes out. This is the Goat Marsh trailhead.

From Woodland or farther north

Take I-5 south to the Woodland exit for WA-503. Take WA-503 toward Cougar. About 3/4-1 mile after you pass Yale Park on the right, take National Forest Road 81 on the left. Follow NR 81/8100 back quite a while past Lake Merwin and into the Gifford Pinchot Forest and then into the Mt. St. Helens Monument. When you get to the intersection of 8100 and 8123, where there is a sign pointing you toward Blue Lake Trailhead to the left, take 8123 to the left. This is a rough road. There is a small pull-out on the left side of the road, so keep your eyes out. This is the Goat Marsh trailhead.

Parking and facilities

The pull-out for two cars at the trailhead is the only facility. The gate to the 8100 road is closed in the winter, so be sure not to go too late. Dogs seem to be allowed. Horses are allowed on the Kalama Ski Trail but not in the Goat Marsh, nor are any vehicles. Only hikers are allowed there.

Back to Lacamas Park

Round Lake is one of the two lakes that intersect at Lacamas Park.

Our latest hike was quite a bit more difficult. Although we have hiked several times in Lacamas Park since I first wrote it up, we have never before tried the Camas Loop. This loop provides access to camas lilies in spring and is a side trail in the park. Unfortunately, I neglected to take pictures of the new loop so am going to have to make do with pictures from our previous hikes at Lacamas.

Round Lake and Camas Loop trails

Lacamas Park, Camas, Washington

Difficulty: tougher

Panting stops: 7 to 10

Distance: about 2.5 miles (more than 3 if we had followed our original plan

Elevation changes: 374 feet

Here’s what the path looks like around Round Lake.

As I mentioned in my previous post on this park, most of the hiking sites rate the paths in this park as easy, but I rated them as more difficult because they were certainly tough for me. The Round Lake trail, with which you begin this hike, is certainly easy, a nice, wide, well-kept trail that circles the lake with just a few changes in elevation.

Once you cross over the dam, bypass the first path to the right, which goes to Pothole Falls, and take the Lower Falls trail to the right. We didn’t stay on that for long, though, just long enough to cross over to a continuation of the main path, which is the next path on the left. (Unfortunately, the paths on the map are not all named, and the map appears only sporadically within the park, which can lead to confusion.) This path stays fairly level and wide as it crosses a good deal of the park.

We took the second entrance to the Camas Loop trail with the idea of looping around counterclockwise and then taking the Round Lake trail back. Although the entire loop trail is only 0.7 miles long, the terrain got considerably rougher almost immediately. This trail is a narrow one that goes steadily upward until you reach some rugged rock outcrops that you have to walk up. These are a little difficult, and we saw that the site had become a popular mountain biking trail, except one or two of the riders we saw had to walk their bikes down this outcrop.

The trail is less difficult for a while, but it continues steadily upward until you find yourself high above the main trail, with a view of it below. We encountered trails branching off in quite a few places, including one that directed us into the lily fields, but since it was not lily season, we continued on what seemed like the main loop. What goes up must come down, however, and that is the part I found most difficult. At one part, because I brought my dog and hence only one of my hiking poles, my hiking partner had to give me one of her poles and I had to let go of the dog and carefully step down, each step at her direction. I am not an accomplished hiker, so this part felt more like rock climbing. Finally, we took what looked like a short cut down the hill to the main trail, and this was steep.

When we arrived back at the main trail, we encountered another walker, who told us that the way to our right was a lot shorter and we could use it to get more quickly to our cars, because I, at least, probably looked exhausted, and I was soaking in sweat from the effort, even though it was not a hot day. To the left on the main path there was an immediate hill, and we knew it was a mile or two back that way, so we went right and ended up coming out of the park after a short distance and a small hill, walking along the street and around the corner, and taking the bridge back to the parking lot. I would like to see the lilies sometime but not until I am in better shape!

How to get there

From Battle Ground

Take WA-503 south from Battle Ground to Padden Parkway and turn left. Follow the signs for WA-500 until you get to NE Everett Street in Camas. Continue down NE Everett until you see two lakes, one on each side of the road. The park entrance is on your left.

From Vancouver

Take WA-14 east from Vancouver toward Camas. Take Exit 12 toward Camas on NW 6th Avenue. Turn left on NE Garfield Street. Turn left again on NE 14th Street. In two blocks turn right on NE Everett Street, which is also WA-500. Follow NE Everett Street until you see two lakes, one on each side of the road. The park entrance is on your right.

Parking and facilities

There is a large parking lot at the park for about 30 or 40 cars. The park has restrooms and porta-potties at the entrance, a playscape, picnic tables, and small beaches, as well as many benches along the main path.

Beautiful walk by the water

Because of time constraints, I only hiked a little bit of the Columbia River Renaissance Trail, but it was enough to know what the entire trail was like. It is a smooth, paved trail that runs along the Vancouver waterfront from Esther Shore Park to Wintler Park. Right now, some construction prevents you from walking along the water all the way, but there are parallel trails that you can cut over to when you encounter roadblocks.

This trail features a series of signs, pointing out historical locations. It has beautiful views of bridges to Portland over the Columbia and Mt. Hood.

Columbia River Renaissance Trail

Esther Short Park, Vancouver, Washington

Difficulty: Easy peasy

Panting stops: 0

Distance: Five miles

Elevation changes: minimal

The cantilevered pier over the water

We started the trail not at one of the parks but in front if a small group of shops and the Twigs restaurant. Behind the restaurant is a cantilevered pier that hangs out above the water.

This trail features a paved path that is suitable for walking, running, biking, or rollerblading, and we saw many people with their dogs.

We also got some really nice views of Mt. Hood, although the pictures did not come out very well.

How to get there

From Portland, Oregon

Take I-5 North across the river and take Exit 1A WA 14 East toward Camas. Take exit 1 towards Fort Vancouver National Site. Keep right at the fork. Go straight onto Southeast Columbia Shores Boulevard. Turn right onto Southeast Spinaker Way. Turn right onto Southeast Cutter Lane. Turn into the park.

From Vancouver, WA

Going south on I-5, take Exit 1A WA 14 East toward Camas. Take exit 1 towards Fort Vancouver National Site. Keep right at the fork. Go straight onto Southeast Columbia Shores Boulevard. Turn right onto Southeast Spinaker Way. Turn right onto Southeast Cutter Lane. Turn into the park.

Going south on I-205, take the exit for WA14 West toward Downtown Vancouver. Exit to Southeast Columbia Way. Turn left onto Southeast Spinaker Way. Turn right onto Southeast Cutter Lane. Turn into the park.

Parking and Amenities

There is a large parking lot in the park. Other amenities are playscapes, boat launches, picnic areas, restrooms, and an amphitheatre, and there are shops and restaurants nearby .

A pleasant community park on a river

This trail loops through a pleasant community park just outside of Battle Ground, Washington. It has views of the Lewis River as well as facilities for picnics, playscapes, wading, and fishing. It is a well-used park that can be busy on the weekend and is popular in the mornings for joggers and runners. We went on a Wednesday morning before school started and encountered a few people with dogs, some families, and people getting exercise.

The trail has a few climbs, one at the beginning and one at the end, depending upon which way you go around the loop.

Lewisville Park Trail

Rating: easy

Panting stops: 1-2

Distance: 2,5 miles

Elevation changes: 141 feet

One of the steeper parts of Lewisville Park trail.

Right outside of Battle Ground is a pleasant regional park with a nice loop trail. It is the oldest park in Clark County, and it is well kept. The trail is wide and paved much of the way or a nice pebble and sand track. The park runs along the Lewisville River, and there are a few beaches or places to fish. This park is popular on the weekends, but during the week it is pleasantly empty.

Be sure to branch off the path occasionally to get a nice view of the river.

If you park just outside the park entrance and walk in, you do not have to get a parking pass. Since the parking station is seldom open, you have to use the pay station or buy a pass, I think, at the community center.

The purple trail is a loop that goes around the outside edges of the park. There are entrances to the trail all through the park, but the easiest one to find is on the left just before the toll booth. You can also find the trail right next to the free parking area. There are signs posted occasionally to show you where the path is. Because of its intersection with parking lots and other paths and the infrequency of posted signs, it is a little hard to stay on the purple trail. Your best bet when you have a question about which path to take is to watch where other people are going.

How to get there

Lewisville Regional Park, Clark County

From Vancouver

Take Washington 500 north from I-205. It merges with Washington 503. Take 503 north past Battle Ground. A few miles past Battle Ground, the entrance to the park is on your right, just after you cross the Lewisville River.

Parking and facilities

There is a free parking area before you pass the toll booth, with spaces for about a dozen cars. If you pay the toll, there is ample parking in many areas of the park.

The park has many picnic areas, including covered picnic shelters, and restrooms, barbecue pits, softball or baseball fields, several playscapes, a couple of beaches, access to the river, drinking fountains, and a basketball court.