A walk along Lacamas Lake

It was a gray day, but you can get an idea of the view of the lake from this photo. Unfortunately, we did not encounter any areas where there were clear views of the lake.

This week we returned to Camas to look for a trail we failed to find a few months ago. We have hiked many times around Round Lake at Lacamas Creek Park, but I thought I had read about a trail starting from across the road. However, one day when we tried to find it, we gave up too soon. This time we found it, a long, well-kept trail that runs along Lacamas Lake.

This trail is not so scenic until you get in about a quarter mile, then its scenic value begins to increase, starting from a well-kept park to a more wooded area with a few minor hills. All of it runs along the lake, which also becomes prettier as it emerges from town.

Lacamas Lake Heritage Trail

Camas Heritage Park, Camas, Washington

Distance: 7.1 miles in and out (we went about 3)

Difficulty: easy peasy

Panting stops: 0

Elevation changes: 239 feet

Here is a look at the trail after it becomes a cinder trail but as it is going into the woods.

I understand that this trail leads to waterfalls. We had not been out hiking for a long time and were also pressed for time, so we were not able to go that far. However, the trail was nice, beginning as an asphalt path but quickly turning to cinder, and well kept. It was moderately populated on a gray day, but I understand it can be quite crowded.

The path begins at the northwestern edge of a small parking area in a groomed park and then continues into the woods along the lake. It becomes more wooded with a cliff alongside it, and you can glimpse houses up above the trail. At first, the lake itself is not very scenic, because a highway runs along the other side, but eventually you see countryside and hills.

The hike itself is very easy because the trail is so well kept that there are no roots or stones to worry about. There are a few mild inclines, and that’s about it as far as we went.

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. Turn right on NW Lake Road. The entrance to the park is the second right.

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. Turn right on NW Lake Road. The entrance to the park is the second right.

Parking and facilities

The park has a large parking lot for about 50 cars. It has a boat launch, restrooms, picnic areas, and a playground. In appearance, the park looks very small, but it contains the 3.5-mile hiking trail. Most of the facilities are located near the parking lot, but along the trail are also fishing docks.

Dogs are allowed on leash, and bikes are also allowed.

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.

 

On the Columbia again

Up along the path to the beaches, we saw a paddle wheeler on the Columbia.

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

Here is a glimpse of one of the minor trails that ends up at one of the beaches. The main trail is paved.

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.

 

A bit too urban

Turtles and a surprising duck on a platform sunning in the Turtle Pond. Photo courtesy of Autumn

Salmon Creek Park is a great place for its urban neighbors. It has a large swimming hole, a softball facility, and a three-mile hiking trail. We took that trail on our last hike. It’s wide, paved throughout. It runs next to a turtle pond, but although the map shows it running alongside Salmon Creek, at least on the part we were on, the creek was not evident without turning off the path and taking one of the small offshoots.

It was a muggy day and felt unpleasant, even though it was not hot. We ended up only going about three miles rather than the full five miles.

Salmon Creek Trail

Salmon Creek Park, Vancouver, Washington

Distance: about five miles

Difficulty: Easy peasy

Panting stops: 0

Elevation changes: 30 feet

The trail running next to the turtle pond approaching the wooded area. Briefly there was only one other person ahead of us.

This paved path is heavily used. The day we were there, we saw many walkers, joggers, runners, and bikers. Lots of people had their dogs.

We saw at least three different parking lots on our way in, so the park is ready to accommodate many people. The park is very urban until we passed the softball venue. Then the trail enters a wooded area that is much more pleasant. On another day, we might have been tempted to walk the entire trail, but it was muggy, and since we are spoiled by hiking more in rural areas, we decided to turn back. I am sure the residents near this park find it a godsend. It was a bit too urban for us.

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 entire trail is wheelchair accessible. Dogs are allowed on a leash. The WTA page on this trail reported a parking fee being required. We were there in July on a Wednesday and saw no indication that a fee was required, so perhaps it is only on weekends.

A long hike near Yale Lake

Here’s Autumn walking with my dog Luke down the trail.

The IP Road trail along Yale Lake is a relatively easy but long hike as it follows an old logging road, also known as the Yale Logging Road. The road has been closed since 2008 when a storm washed out sections of it. This is a beautiful hike with views of the lake to the west and cascades and rocky outcroppings of limestone and sideways lying basalt columns to the east.

We went there on a cool, cloudy day, but we got quite hot from the hiking despite the nice breezes off the lake. We noticed a side trail toward the lake early on in the hike that we think might lead to a beach on the northeastern shore of the lake. On another day, we might have been happy to jump in, but by the time we got back that far, we were too tired from walking. This is a long hike, but we made it all the way in to where the road is washed out, and what’s more, we made it back.

IP Road

Yale Lake, Cougar, Washington

Distance: 7.3 miles, in and out

Difficulty: Easy peasy (except for the distance)

Panting stops: 0

Elevation changes: 120 feet

This trail is along an old logging road, so it is partially paved and partially gravel and in good condition. The most difficult footing is still relatively easy and comes at a place where a rise in the road accompanies a change to large gravel. The scenery along the road is gorgeous, and I can imagine it would be even more beautiful in the fall. We saw lots of wildflowers and just ripening blackberries in our early summer hike.

Although we were walking along the lake the whole time, nice open views of it appear towards the endpoint of the hike. Here is Nancy’s dog, Freckles. In this picture, it looks like we are right next to the lake, but we are really high above it.

The road runs next to Yale Lake for most of its length, but it is high above the lake. We didn’t see any places where you could go down to it from our side, except perhaps the path we noticed running off to the right as we first started down the road. We could see as we came back that there appeared to be a nice beach at that end of the lake.

Along the other side is a steep cliff that has several waterfalls. At this time of the year, they weren’t running very much water through, and we could just barely see the falls. I notice they didn’t show up at all in my picture.

The hike ends after 3.7 miles where the road was washed out by storms.

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 on a leash.

A snippet of the Pacific Crest

The sign pointing the way to the Greenway from behind the dog park, where a road comes in across it

On my visit to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, my friends and I managed to hike a short way along the Bear Creek Greenway, which is part of the Pacific Crest Trail. The Ashland portion of it starts next to a dog park, goes briefly through a residential area, past the treatment plant, and then cuts out through fields and agricultural land in the foothills. We saw a few other hikers and lots and lots of bike riders.

I usually have a nice picture of the path and the scenery, but for some reason, I came away just with this one of the sign, taken by one of my friends. But you can catch a glimpse of the scenery behind it.

The path itself at this point is paved and wide enough to be a single-lane road. You can take it all the way to Medford and past it to Central Point if you want.

Bear Creek Greenway from Ashland

Bear Creek Park from Ashland Dog Park, Ashland, Oregon

Difficulty: Easy peasy

Panting stops: 0

Distance: 16.9 miles point-to-point

Elevation changes: 157 feet

Of course, if you hike the entire 16.9 miles, that makes it more than an easy peasy hike, but we just spent about an hour hiking in a little over a mile and returning. The path is paved. It looks like it was patched with concrete, but most of it is asphalt. It goes through some pleasant agricultural land, with lots of fields and Bear Creek running along beside it. We saw some beautiful wildflowers during our early summer hike.

At least the part we hiked was almost totally flat, and you can see by the small elevation gain over a long stretch that it would never qualify as a very difficult hike. The profile of the path shows that it goes steadily uphill all the way. Its consistency and length means that you can go as far as you want with little difficulty.

How to get there

From Downtown Ashland

From Main Street, turn north on Oak Street. Follow Oak Street to E. Nevada St. and turn left. Turn right on Helman Street, then right again on Perozzi Street. (Alternatively, you can turn north on Helman Street from Main Street and take it all the way to Perozzi Street. We were coming from the other direction.) Perozzi street ends in the parking lot for Ashland Dog Park. We parked there and found the trail going off from the west side of the parking lot.

Parking and Facilities

The dog park has parking for about fifty cars. There is also a restroom.

 

A ramble with beauty

This view doesn’t show very many of the rhododendrons but does provide an idea of the beauty of the park. Here we were up high in the park, close to the entrance but on our way out.

Last week, my friend and I went to Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden. To call this a hike is pushing it a little, because there are lots of paths in the park, but none of them are very long. Still, I thought I’d write about this beautiful location. It is actually in All Trails, so someone thought it was worthwhile documenting as a hike.

The park has more than 2500 rhododendron bushes. I understand from its web site that the best time to go is June or July. We went in early May on a very hot day. Lots of the plants seemed a little wilty, probably because it was 90 degrees and so much hotter than usual at that time of the year. Still, the park features windy paths along a creek and small lake, lots of places to sit and enjoy the view, and beautiful landscaping. In early May, we saw lots of water birds.

Crystal Springs and Johnson Creek Trail

Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden, Portland, Oregon

Difficulty: Easy peasy

Panting stops: 0

Distance: 1.2 miles

Elevation change: 62 feet

Here is one of the several bridges in the park. You can get an idea of the path from this picture. There is a waterfall on the left and ducks on the right.

Right up front, let me tell you to check whether there are any special events going on in the park before you go. When we went, it was a Friday morning, and they were setting up to have a rhododendron sale in the only park parking lot. Reed College, across the street, had its parking marked for a private event and there is no street parking right around the park, so we had to drive back up into a nearby neighborhood and find street parking there. If you have mobility problems, this could be an issue for you. We had to walk about four blocks to the park, which was no issue for us.

Here are some actual rhododendrons.

This park does have an entrance fee, $5, but my friend was able to get free cultural passes for the park from her local library. When you walk in the entrance, you immediately have several choices for directions to go, since the paths through the park go off in several directions. There are several sets of stairs, but if you have mobility issues, you can stay off the staircases and just keep to the flats. You can easily see lots of the park that way.

We took a staircase down to a shady area around the creek, where there were waterfalls and ducks as well as beautiful landscaping. Then we looped around and basically randomly followed trails to try to cover most of the park. The paths are all paved, so the only barrier to seeing the entire park would be if you can’t take the stairs that go into some of the areas. Still, the park materials say you can see all of the major trails without using the stairs.

There is plenty to look at, benches and open areas to relax in, lots of photography opportunities. It’s a beautiful place.

How to get there

From Downtown Portland

Go over the Hawthorne Bridge and take SE McLouglin Boulevard south to SE 23rd Avenue. Turn right on SE Bybee Boulevard. Continue on to SE Tolman Street. SE Tolman Street veers slightly left and becomes SE 28th Avenue. The park is on your left across the street from Reed College.

Parking and Amenities

The park has a small parking lot for about 30 cars, but it was blocked off the day we arrived in preparation for a rhododendron sale. Parking at Reed College was also closed off, but if you cannot find a place to park in the parking lot, you can drive up to the nearby neighborhood around the corner.

The park has plenty of benches and places to rest. There is an information booth and restrooms. Major areas of the park are wheelchair accessible.

 

Moulton on a gorgeous winter day

Here is a view of the river on this gorgeous day.

I have already posted about hikes on three different trails at Moulton Falls Park (or at least two of them were about approaching the same trail from two different trailheads), but this week my hiking friends and I went to Moulton Park after a particularly beautiful snowfall. I thought I’d just write a post showing my pictures and talking about our hike. You can see the actual details of the hike, with ratings, distances, and elevation changes, driving directions, and so on, on my previous post about the park.

It was very cold on Wednesday morning, and the upper lot was closed, so this is the first hike we have taken from the lower lot. When we arrived, only one other car was in the parking lot, but we still encountered many more people in the park than we usually do on a winter weekday, and by the time we returned to the car, the lot was half full. it was such a beautiful day.

If you look very closely into the middle of this picture, slightly to the right, you’ll see a shower of snow falling from the trees down to the river. This is a view from the middle of the bridge over the river.

The sun was shining, the Lewis River was high, and snow was showering down from the laden treetops into the water. People were in a good mood and several stopped to remark about how happy they were to have come out. We walked all the way from the lower lot to the Hantwick trailhead and back, a distance we had so far not achieved before, about 5 to 6 miles. (The official sites on the walk say it is 2.4 miles one way, but we noticed that the sign that mentioned that distance was already partway along the trail, at the opening to the Bells Mountain Trail. I would guess there was another quarter to half mile more to the parking lot.)

Because the trails are easy and so well kept, the only slippery parts we encountered were the surfaces of the two wooden bridges, and they still had fairly good traction. You just had to take care. If you don’t park in the upper lot, you don’t even have to deal with the slope back and forth from the parking lot.

This is a lovely hike to take on a winter day. There are no very steep hills, the paths are either paved or cinder, and the views are lovely.

 

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 .