A walk in the woods toward Larch Mountain

This photo shows the angle that the path maintains for practically the whole hike, just slightly upward on the way out and downward on the way back. Here we were just starting out, in the lightly wooded area.

This week’s hike was the perfect combination for my family, because it gave me a workout without exhausting me, while to my family it was a walk in the woods. That was because the trail, through light and then heavier forest dotted with meadows, was uphill all the way out but at a mild angle of maybe 10 to 20 degrees. I felt that this hike was about perfect for me, even though it lacked some of the spectacular views afforded by the more difficult hikes, because of its lower elevation. Still, it was in deserted, quiet woods high above Grouse Creek. We did not go all the way to Larch Mountain, but when I looked at the grade and remaining distance, I was confident that I could make it all the way up to the beautiful views at another time.

Tarbell Trail toward Larch Mountain

Yacolt Burn State Park, Yacolt Washington

Distance: we went about four miles in and out (total to Larch Mountain and back is 11.6))

Difficulty: easy to middling

Panting stops: 3 o 4

Elevation changes: about 750 feet as far as we went (3496 total)

We parked at the Yacolt Burn trailhead and found the Tarbell trail at the front right corner of the parking lot. The trail goes down a short, steep declivity and then it divides. If you take the trail to the left, you’ll end up on a portion of the Tarbell trail that is mostly a bike trail now and has been modified to include bike ramps and other obstacles, so I find is no longer an enjoyable hiking trail. We took the path to the right.

The path goes steadily upward at a moderate angle through lightly forested areas and meadows until it reaches a more densely forested area. In the dense forests, you can see Cold Water Creek below and there are a few small waterfalls. The path is a little stony until you reach the denser forest, when it becomes mostly forest floor. It had rained the day before, so there were muddy patches, but they were easily got around.

The day was gloomy and cold, but it was refreshing and kept us from getting hot. We saw just one biker on the path. We turned around because the kids wanted to, but I think if we had known how close we were to the top of Larch Mountain, we would have gone farther.

Overall, I found it a lovely hike with just the right amount of exertion for me and a lot easier for my family members, who are in better shape.

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. There are also two restrooms. This trail begins next to the road on the same side of the road as the parking lot and is clearly marked Tarbell Trail.

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.

On the shoulders of Mt. St. Helens

A little pool with sandy beaches in the river that runs beside this trail for a while. The kids caught small frogs and let them go. This pool was beside the path on the left toward the beginning of the hike.

Our wanderings took us to a different area of the Mt. St. Helens Monument this week, at least it was different for me. We took a short hike on part of the Blue Lake Horse Trail and then took the Toutle Trail toward McClure Lake. When we came back, we took a side jaunt on the Toutle Trail going the other direction along the Kalama River toward Kalama Horse Camp. Our day included varied terrains: forest walks with beautiful views of the river (more creek-like in this area) and Mt. St. Helens followed by a sandy walk along the river. The terrain varied from forest duff to rougher stony areas to mud and sand, but we were in among some old growth forest of huge firs and western pine.

Blue Lake Horse Trail to the Toutle Trail

Mt. St. Helens Volcanic Monument

Distance: about 4 miles with our side trip, but you can take the Toutle Trail for miles if you want to

Difficulty: Easy to middling as far as we went

Panting stops: 1 or 2

Elevations changes: about 275 feet

Here’s the trail at the juncture that takes you toward Toutle Trail on the left. (You can see the sign at the bottom left.) Although the Horse Trail ahead looks more major than the trail to the left, not too far ahead it peters out. You can get some idea of the mountain ahead of us from this glimpse through the forest.

Because we couldn’t find this hike listed on any apps or web sites, my information for it is sketchier than usual. We started out, not at a trailhead, but at a two-car parking spot where the Blue Lake Horse Trail crosses over National Forest Road 81. At that point, the trail looks a little like a logging road. It is gravel and trends down at just a slight angle. Not too far up the trail on the right, we stopped for a few minutes at the little pool in the river that is deep enough to have a clear blue spot. We were in sight of the sign that points you toward the Toutle Trail and McClure Lake.

We hiked the Toutle Trail until we thought we had reached McClure Lake, which seems to be seasonal or occasional, and was not there on that summer August day, and then we continued a little above it. The trail is mostly flat for a while and is varied from forest duff to mud to rocky portions that are a little rough. At the area of the lake, it begins winding upward at a steeperangle. We decided to turn around once we saw that it was continuing to go up.

The trail follows the Kalama River, which at this point appears to be a pleasant creek, and we picked wild huckleberries, the kids played on a huge fallen tree that crossed the river, and someone at a little campsite further on had made a teetertotter. It was lovely country, and as we continued along we caught a great glimpse of Mt. St. Helens across the river.

On the way back, once we returned to the Blue Lake Horse Trail, the Toutle Trail continued off to the left on the other side of the river. We followed it a way toward the Kalama Horse Camp. This trail was flat and sandy. We decided we would return and take it all the way to the Horse Camp at some time.

How to get there

From Battle Ground or Vancouver

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 into the Gifford Pinchot Forest and then into the Mt. St. Helens Monument. When you get to the intersection of 81 and 8123, where there is a sign pointing you toward Blue Lake Trailhead to the left, take 81 to the right. Shortly after taking that turn, turn into a parking space on the right with two parking places. This is the juncture of Blue Lake Horse Trail and 81. To get to the Toutle Trail, just walk forward on the trail from there.

From Seattle

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 into the Gifford Pinchot Forest and then into the Mt. St. Helens Monument. When you get to the intersection of 81 and 8123, where there is a sign pointing you toward Blue Lake Trailhead to the left, take 81 to the right. Shortly after taking that turn, turn into a parking space on the right with two parking places. This is the juncture of Blue Lake Horse Trail and 81. To get to the Toutle Trail, just walk forward on the trail from there.

Parking and facilities

There is parking space for two cars along 81. There are no other facilities, although there are informal camping sites all along the trail.

 

Revisiting Yale Lake

Last summer, I wrote up this post after a hike on the IP Logging Road along Yale Lake. Just this week, the state opened its parks back up, so my family and I were looking for a place that we could hike that would NOT be full of people. We decided to try walking the logging road again.

Although I have already written about this hike, we did something different this time, taking two side trips. My Fitbit was broken, so I could not track mileage and have no idea about elevation changes, but I thought I would write a post mostly about these side trips. We picked the right place to go, because we only encountered one couple on the trail and another couple in a kayak that landed at the sandy beach.

IP Logging Trail Side Trips

Yale Lake, Cougar, Washington

Distance: 7.3 miles to take the entire road, there and back; we did about 3 miles with our side trips

Difficulty: Easy

Panting stops: 0

Elevation changes: maybe 300 feet

Here are my dog, my sister, and my niece relaxing on our green beach along the Lewis River while we wait for the kids to play on a rock down the beach. It was peaceful.

We walked at least a mile along the IP Logging Trail before we spotted the first trail off to the right. I had brought my dog and was without my poles, but I was able to make the trip down the trail to a narrow green beach along the Lewis River before it goes into Yale Lake. The walk down was on a narrow dirt trail with a few small difficulties, but it was beautiful and green, and the beach was mossy and rocky. A bit farther down the shore was a large rock that the kids enjoyed playing on. It was a nice place to relax and perhaps to picnic at.

We returned to the logging road after combating great reluctance on the part of my great niece and nephew, who wanted to stay at the green beach. Not too much farther along the road, we encountered another side trail to the right. This one led down to a broad, sandy beach right across Yale Lake from Beaver Bay Park. The path down was a little more difficult. There was a fallen tree to get over or under and a rocky descent to the beach, but it was not especially difficult if you took care. The rocky descent was the hardest without my sticks, but I picked up a long piece of driftwood on the beach and using that was able to go up and down with little difficulty.

It was very windy that day, and at one point, those of us on the beach were blasted with sand. However, the beach was really pleasant, and the children and the dog, especially, were delighted. The children now want to return to the sandy beach with a picnic and don’t care that much about the green beach.

How to get there

From Portland or Vancouver

Get on I-5 going north and take Exit 21 for WA 503 toward Cougar. Drive east for 30 miles. About three miles after Cougar, after the Yale Dam, the next unmarked paved road on the right (at the Skamania County Line) is your turn. Cross the bridge and take the right branch of the Y toward a gate and the trailhead.

From Battle Ground

Take WA 503 northeast. When you get to the place where it branches, take the spur toward Cougar. About three miles after Cougar, after the Yale Dam, the next unmarked paved road on the right (at the Skamania County Line) is your turn. Cross the bridge and take the right branch of the Y toward a gate and the trailhead.

Parking and facilities

There is parking for a couple cars at the trailhead and for several more along the road leading to it. There are no other facilities. Dogs are allowed, I assume on a leash although there is no posting. I did not have mine on one, and nobody cared.

A revisit to Salmon Creek Park

The first time I visited Salmon Creek Park, I wasn’t impressed. The first part of our walk was very urban, and it was so humid that day, despite being cold, that we weren’t enjoying our hike, so turned around. However, Maja and I decided to take my dog Luke to revisit the park this fall, and we took a side trail up to Cougar Creek. During this hike, we got farther into the park so saw more of its wilder side. There were lots of migrating birds, and by Cougar Creek, it was wooded rather than meadowy.

Salmon Creek Trail to Cougar Creek

Salmon Creek Park, Vancouver, WA

Distance: about four miles

Difficulty: Easy

Panting stops: 0

Elevation changes: 30 feet

We parked again at the first parking lot for the park and started down the trail. This time we made it further in past the Turtle Pond, where we saw turtles and lots of ducks as well as a Great Blue Heron. We saw ducks walking along the trail and geese flying overhead on this fall walk.

The trail is paved most of the way and is very popular. We saw lots of walkers, runners, bikers, and people with dogs. If you are going in the summer, there is also a really nice swimming hole near the first parking lot. Dogs are not allowed in there, however, so I have never seen all of it.

Cougar Creek runs along at the bottom of the gorge. You can just barely see it in the photo. In the center of the photo, there is a small waterfall.

The path goes past the softball fields and then into a meadowland. Despite the low temperatures, we got a little warm. Then we entered a wooded area, and people recommended we try the short trail up Cougar Creek. It is much more wooded there, and there is a little bit of a climb instead of it being completely flat, but it is not much of one. We ran up in a gorge that had homes at the top of it but still seemed very wild, and Cougar Creek ran picturesquely down at the bottom.

The side path to Cougar Creek is narrower and graveled but still very well kept.

How to get there

From Vancouver or Portland

From I-5, I-205 or Highway 99, go west on NE 139th Street until you reach NW 36th Avenue. Turn left and cross the Felida Bridge. The trailhead will be on the left side of the road.

From Battle Ground

Take WA 502 (Main Street) west from town. Turn left on NE 72nd Avenue. Go about five miles and turn right on NE 119th Avenue. Follow this road (it changes to NE 117th Street and then to NE 119th Street) until you pass under the I-5 and I-205 underpasses. Shortly after you go under the underpasses, you will see the park entrance on your right.

Parking and Facilities

There is lots of parking at the park. There are also a swimming hole with lifeguards, restrooms, and benches. The park has restrooms, softball fields, picnic tables and shelters, barbecue grills, and lots of benches. The entire trail is wheelchair accessible. Dogs are allowed on a leash except over by the pool. A parking fee or a regional pass is required.

A different hike in Whipple Creek Park

A glimpse of the nicely forested 45th Parallel trail. As you can see, the trail is a narrow dirt one. However, we found it nicely maintained.

This week, my friends and I returned to Whipple Creek, where, instead of just staying on the main loop or Stone Mill Loop trails, we hiked, in addition, one of the secondary maintained trails. These trails are not always open and during some seasons are only open to hikers, so be sure to pay attention to the notices in the park for when to walk them.

For this hike, we departed from the main trail at Carousel Hill to walk the 45th Parallel trail. We missed its start near a picnic area, but were able to find it later. We walked that trail all the way until it intersected with the Stone Mill Loop.

North Ridge Way, 45th Parallel, and Stone Mill Loop

Whipple Creek Regional Park, Ridgefield, Washington

Distance: 4 miles

Difficulty: Easy

Panting stops: two to three

Elevation changes: 216 feet

My friend Shawn and I on the 45th parallel trail. Sneakily taken by Nancy.

As I have written before, Whipple Creek Park is a beautiful park within a stone’s throw of the Salmon Creek area of Vancouver. It is heavily wooded, lightly trafficked (at least during the week), has some varied terrain, and you are likely to meet up with one or more groups of horses. We always enjoy that park.

As usual when we go to this park, we came in at the north entrance, off 21st Avenue. This time, we took North Ridge Way from the North-South Connector with the idea that once we cut over to the South Ridge Loop from Carousel Hill, we would find the start of the 45th Parallel Trail. We missed it. It must have been at the back of the meadow with the picnic area, but we cut over once we came to the Burl Cutoff.

The path is a dirt trail, narrow at times, but it makes a straight cut across the park along the 45th parallel instead of winding around like the other trails do. It is also relatively flat compared to the other paths, so more easy. The woods are denser here. All in all, it makes a pretty walk.

We came out at the Stone Mill Loop and continued that trail around to the North-South Connector and back to the parking lot. That was the most difficult part of our hike besides the long climb on the North-South Connector on the way back to the parking lot.

How to get there

From Vancouver

From I-5, take the exit for Clark County Event Center at NE 179th Street. Go west on 179th St. to 21st Avenue, where you will see a sign for the park, and turn left. The road dead-ends at the park.

From Battle Ground

Take Washington 502 west to NE 10th Avenue. Turn left. Drive down to NE 179th Street. Go right on 179th St. to 21st Avenue, where you will see a sign for the park, and turn left. The road dead-ends at the park.

Parking and facilities

At the north parking lot, there is parking for about 10 cars and five or six horse trailers. Cars should park in the area closest to the park. The area behind it is for horse trailers. There is a porta-potty at that entrance as well as mounting blocks for the riders.

Beautiful views of Mt. Hood

The view of Mt. Hood from the top picnic area on the Lava Loop

Strictly speaking, I didn’t hike the trails at Scouters Mountain. Instead, I walked on them briefly during a Mushroom Discovery class. However, I think I saw enough of them to write up a hike review for those who are interested. Scouters Mountain has three trails, the Lava Loop, the Boomer Trail, and the Shelter Trail. The first two trails provide a couple of loops around the top of the mountain, one gentle, the other with a few more elevation changes. The Shelter Trail is paved and provides a path from the end of the Boomer Trail between the two parking lots. Both paths provide striking views of Mt. Hood.

Scouters Mountain Trails

Scouters Mountain Nature Park, Happy Valley, Oregon

Difficulty: Easy

Panting stops: 0-1

Distance: 1.2 miles

Elevation changes: 180 feet

Two deer in the park didn’t seem to be worried about us at all.

We parked at the lot and took the Shelter Trail up to the picnic area. From there we went around part of the Lava Loop and descended the Boomer Trail a bit for our class. On the way up the Shelter Trail, we saw two deer who weren’t afraid of us at all, and judging by some reviews I’ve read, this is not an unusual experience. At the top, there were beautiful views of Mt. Hood, and the park in general is very pretty, especially on a chilly but clear fall day.

The Shelter Trail is paved, and the other trails are well-kept gravel paths. Dogs are not allowed, however. The Lava Loop is wheelchair-accessible.

I didn’t actually walk the whole trail, so I put in one panting stop just because of the change in elevation. The rise between the parking lots on the Shelter Trail is very gradual, though, so you can probably park in the lower lot (you must park there unless you have a disability pass), walk up, and then take the Boomer Trail back down.

How to get there

From Portland or Vancouver

From I-205, take exit 17 for SE Foster Road. Turn left onto SE Woodstock Boulevard. Woodstock Boulevard becomes SE Foster Road. Go 0.6 miles and turn right onto SE 110th Avenue. SE 110th becomes SE 112th Blvd., and then SE Mt. Scott Blvd., and finally SE King Road. After 0.8 miles on SE King Road, turn right onto SE 145th Avenue. After 0.4 miles, turn left onto SE Boy Scout Lodge Road and follow the park signs.

Parking and Amenities

There is a large lower lot and a smaller upper lot that is only for folks with disabilities. The park has a covered picnic area and a bathroom at the top of the park.

 

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.

 

 

Convoluted trails on a beautiful campus

A boardwalk area of the path becomes wood chips at the end.

On the Vancouver campus of Washington State University is a complex of walking and hiking trails. These trails go through a  heritage garden, where seeds from old farms have been planted to maintain the heirloom plants, lush woods with creeks, and a pretty campus area, depending upon the trails you pick.

The trails are poorly marked, however. For some reason, no one bothered to place on the occasional trail maps the You Are Here mark, rendering them almost useless (except on one occasion where a hiker penciled it in). To make matters worse, the maps are oriented with the West to the top of the map. We attempted to take the blue loop but ended up taking the yellow one when we realized where we were and that the blue loop was almost all campus and unshaded. It was a hot, sunny day, and we wanted to stay in the shade.

Cougar Trails Loop

Rating: Easy

Panting Dog from AnimateIt.netPanting stops: 1-2

Distance: 1.3 miles to 6 miles, depending upon which loops you take

Elevation changes: 242 feet

A glimpse of Mill Creek from the path

This path is varied. We started on a neat wood-chip path, but at times it became a boardwalk and at other times a sidewalk. Most of the time it is wide enough for two people to walk abreast, and there are only a few ups and downs.

We parked near the WSU barn and started our hike hear the Heritage Garden and walked along the edge of it. We encountered quite a few hikers, including a few with leashed dogs, but the area was not crowded. At one point, a hiker warned us that a coyote was ahead of us on the path, and we saw him at a distance.

The path goes over and around Mill Creek, up towards and around the campus and back into the Mill Creek Riparian Interpretive Trail.

How to get there

From Vancouver

Take I-205 to the NE 134th Street exit. Turn east on NE 134th, which becomes NE Salmon Creek Avenue. There are several entrances to the trails from around the campus. You can take the WSU Entrance Road to park on campus or park in several places just off campus.

From Battle Ground

Take Washington 502 west from Battle Ground. Turn left on NE 50th Avenue, and drive about 14 miles south. The entrance to WSU is on your right just before NE Salmon Creek Avenue.

Parking

We parked near the WSU barn on NE Salmon Creek Avenue, where there is a pull-off for three or four cars. There is also a parking place for a few cars on NE 50th Avenue.

 

 

A notorious park but an easy hike

Here is the view looking off the Moulton Falls bridge into the water. It’s hard to tell how high up you are, but it is 60 feet. Kids dive from cliffs below the bridge, but they are only about 1/3 as high. This is the view that will be spoiled if the county installs fencing on the bridge to keep people jumping off it.

The bridge at Moulton Falls Park has been in the news lately because a girl pushed another girl off it, injuring her badly. If you could see how high up you are on the bridge and how small the area of deep water is underneath it, you would wonder why anyone would be foolhardy enough to jump off it, but people do and are hurt every year. The hike along the East Fork of the Lewis River in this park, though, is easy but beautiful, and I have hiked it many times.

The actual falls in Moulton Falls Park are Yacolt Falls, which are on the other side of the road from the main park. I will write up that short hike in another post.

This park can be confusing if you get off the main trail. There are a few maps posted along the way, but they are not frequent. Just keep in mind that the main trail from the main lot makes a loop around the river and then goes roughly straight along the river.

Moulton Falls Trail

Moulton Falls Regional Park near Yacolt, Washington

The main trails at Moulton Falls are wide a well kept.

Rating: Easy

Panting stops: 0-1

Length: 5.3 miles out and back

Elevation changes: 90 feet (probably from the main parking lot; from the upper lot, a bit more)

There are three parking areas for Moulton Falls. I parked at the upper lot at the junction of NE Railroad Avenue and NE Lucia Falls Road. From there, you can see paths going off to the north (right from the parking lot) and the south (left from the parking lot). If you take the path to the right, you will end up going across the road and taking some steps down to Yacolt Falls. I went left, where the path descends to a smooth, well-kept cinder trail. If you keep going straight rather than turning right when you meet the main path, you will cross the bridge and continue on your way as long as you want until you decide to turn around or arrive at the Hantwick trailhead.

The elevation changes on this hike are very slight, but parking at the upper lot means you will have to walk up the hill to the lot at the end of your hike. It’s at most a one-pant stop. If you want to avoid the hill, you can park in the main lot or the lot across the road.

How to get there

From Yacolt

Drive south on NE Railroad Avenue. Just at the junction of Sunset Falls Road is the first parking lot for Moulton Falls Park on the right. The upper lot is just after Sunset Falls Road on the left.

From Battle Ground or Vancouver

Take Washington 503 to Rock Creek Road and turn right. Rock Creek Road becomes NE 152nd Avenue and then Lucia Falls Road. The main parking lot for Moulton Falls is on the right shortly after you pass Lucia Falls. The upper lot is straight ahead at the point where the road curves 90 degrees to become NE Railroad Avenue.

Parking and Amenities

The infamous Moulton Falls bridge, where foolish people injure themselves frequently every summer by jumping off. Thanks to these people, the county is considering installing fencing, which will spoil the view from the bridge (the best view of the river in the area).

There are three parking lots for Moulton Falls Park at that side of the park (and one more at Hantwick). I provided instructions for parking at the upper lot, but the first lot you will come to from Battle Ground or Vancouver is the main parking lot. That lot is small and tends to get filled up. If it is, you can either go straight when the road curves around to Railroad Avenue and up to the upper lot, or you can make the turn onto Railroad and park on the other side of the road across from Sunset Falls Road. If you park across the road, be careful crossing it. The speed limit is only 35 there, but people speed through there all the time. There is a crosswalk where the path from that lot crosses to the park, but don’t count on drivers to stop for it.

If you park in the upper lot and turn right on your way down from the lot when you get to the main path, restrooms are on your right a short way down the path. If you park in the main lot, the restrooms are just off the main trail after you loop around over a small bridge. Along that part of the path there are also numerous access points to the river if you want to go swimming or sit on the rocks. Over the bridge, there are picnic areas off the main path to the right.