A beautiful day along the river

In the middle of the photo, you can just barely see Mt. Hood, but in actuality, it is very noticeable as you hike this trail.

I haven’t had a new hike to report in a while, but this last week we decided to hike the Columbia River Dike Trail, part of which we were on last fall at the end of our Gibbons Creek Wildlife Art Trail at Steigerwald Lake Wildlife Refuge. This is an easy but beautiful hike, although part of it runs along an industrial area on the north side of the Columbia River. Mt. Hood shines over us on the entire hike.

Columbia River Dike Trail

Steamboat Landing, Washougal, Washington

Distance: Sources vary on this. I’ve seen everything from 6.2 to 7 miles, in and out. We went about 5.5 miles.

Difficulty: Easy peasy

Panting stops: 0

Elevation change: 30 feet

We parked our car at Steamboat Landing, but there is also parking at Captain William Clark Park and at other places along the trail, plus there are several accesses for walkers and bikers from downtown Washougal. At Steamboat Landing, you can take a detour to a floating dock and observation point. The path is paved, running alongside the Columbia River, and it has several access points to docks and beaches. At Captain William Clark Park there are some exhibits and a side trail to Cottonwood Beach, which was a camping spot for the Lewis and Clark expedition.

Although there are a few industrial sites at the beginning and middle of the path, eventually you leave that all behind. Further along the path is access to Steigerwald Lake Wildlife Refuge. All along the way, we saw lots of water birds. The hike ends at a gate where the path becomes private property.

This is a really nice easy hike, a pleasant place to be on a sunny day.

How to get there

From Vancouver

Take Washington Highway 14 east toward Camas and Washougal. In Washougal, you will see a roundabout with a sign pointing to Steamboat Landing. Take that exit off the roundabout, and follow the road down to the parking area.

Parking and Facilities

The Steamboat Landing parking area has room for about 10 cars and a couple of restrooms. It also has a floating dock for fishing and an observation point.

Less than a mile down the path at Captain William Clark Park, there is a larger parking lot and multi-user bathrooms with showers. There are also some other areas along the trail where you can park.

Dogs and horses, bikes and jogging are allowed on the trail. However, there is no trash collection, so please pack out all your trash. Be aware, too, that if you take your dog, you cannot take the dog down into the Wildlife Refuge. The dog can go down onto the beaches, though, and anywhere along the dike trail.

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.


Lighthouse along the Columbia

The Warrior Rock Lighthouse isn’t very impressive, but it’s a nice goal for a hike.

Take a walk through lush fields and woods and along the sandy banks of the Columbia River. This trail is an easy walk along the edge of Sauvie Island in the Sauvie Island Wildlife Area. Depending upon whether you choose to walk along the shore or stay on the trail, take the loop at the end or not, the hike can be as long as six or seven miles, in and out. There are very few changes in elevation.

Parking for this trail requires an Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife day pass, but you can buy this pass at the grocery store on the island right when you cross the bridge.

Warrior Rock Lighthouse Trail

Rating: Easy peasy

Panting stops: 0

Distance: 6-7 miles, in and out

Elevation changes: 42 feet

The banks of Sauvie Island

Part of the time taking this hike, we used a guide book that my friend brought. Because the trail sometimes follows an old road but has forks off to the water, we couldn’t always figure out where the trail was and the book’s instructions were confusing.

Reeder Road dead ends at the trail head where there is parking and a porta-potty. Park there. If you want to start the trail by going down to the river bank, go through the fence at the right side of the parking area and take the trail down to the bank. If you want to stay on the trail, go past the trailhead sign.

Some classic fairy tale mushrooms along the trail

The guide book we used advised branching off to the river bank immediately and following it up until the sand starts to vanish, where you rejoin the trail. We had a hard time identifying that point, because it said it was a beacon 3. It is actually between the 3rd and 4th beacon. If you choose to take part of the hike along the river bank, you will see a fence between you and the trail and then a cliff. You can rejoin the trail by climbing up a little bit after the cliff disappears and just before you get to the point where the sand disappears.

The trail becomes an old road, but it sometimes diverges. Most of the time, it doesn’t matter which way you go, although some of the divergent paths just take you back to the bank. However, once you are well into the woods and about three miles from the start, if you want to go directly to the lighthouse, take the path that diverges there. If you look into the woods, you can see a small birdhouse or bat house attached to a tree at that point.

The path varies from being an old road, at times overgrown (which is why we sometimes accidentally ended up on the trail when we meant to be on the road) and a path that goes from wider to narrow and lined with grass and brambles. However, none of it is difficult to navigate. If it has been rainy lately, though, boots are recommended.

The road makes a loop away from the lighthouse and then returns to it, so if you take the loop, you will go the full seven miles and see the lighthouse on your way back.

How to get there

Sauvie Island Wildlife Area, Sauvie Island, Oregon

From Portland

Take US-30 toward St. Helens to Sauvie Island. Turn right across the Sauvie Island bridge. Turn left on Sauvie Island Road, where you can stop at the grocery store and buy your pass. Then turn left. Make a right on Reeder Road, and follow it all the way out to the end. There are lots of places to stop and go to the river bank if you would like to do that before going to the trailhead.

From Vancouver

Take I-5 south and take the Marine Drive exit right after you cross the river. This becomes US-30/St. Helens road. Follow US-30 until you turn right on the Sauvie Island bridge. Turn left on Sauvie Island Road, where you can stop at the grocery store and buy your pass. Then turn left. Make a right on Reeder Road, and follow it all the way out to the end. There are lots of places to stop and go to the river bank if you would like to do that before going to the trailhead.

Parking and facilities

At the trailhead, there is parking for about a dozen cars and a porta-potty.

Meadows, birds, and other wildlife

The entrance to the Kiwa Trail off the auto tour route

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.

Kiwa Trail

Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, Ridgefield, Washington

Rating: easy peasy

Panting stops: 0

Distance: 1.5 miles

Elevation changes: 3 feet

The bridge takes you from the woodlands to the meadows.

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!

A heron up the trail

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.