A hike on the coast of Oregon

Tillamook Lighthouse is that object in the middle of the photo almost at the horizon line. This view is at a little stop on the trail where someone is keeping the foliage trimmed enough to see the view.

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted a new hike, so I was happy to accompany my family on a hike on Tillamook Head in Oregon. The trail starts at Indian Beach in Ecola State Park and makes a loop through the rain forest. Even before starting the hike, the park offers spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean. During part of the hike, you are high above the ocean and have a view of the Tillamook Lighthouse (or Terrible Tilly) way out at sea.

You can take the loop either way. Both ways involve a trek uphill on the way out and downhill on the way back, but I understand from my brother that the more eastern side of the loop has a steeper grade.

We only did part of the westernmost loop, because I hadn’t hiked in a long time and was out of shape for the steady uphill. We stopped at the view of Tillamook Lighthouse and turned around.

Clatsop Loop Trail from Indian Beach

Ecola State Park in Cannon Beach, Oregon

Distance: 2.8 miles (we went in about 0.8 miles and then turned back)

Difficulty: moderate

Panting stops: 6 or 7

Elevation changes: 784 feet

Here is the view from that first lookout on the western edge of the loop. It is a short but steep walk up from the parking lot. It was a blustery day, but we still had a great view of Haystack Rock near Cannon Beach.

Ecola State Park is a beautiful rainforest park near Cannon Beach, Oregon. However, almost every year during the winter it closes up because of roads being washed out or other reasons. So, if you decide to go, be sure to check to see if the park is open. Even if it is closed, however, locals park their cars in the neighborhood outside the park and walk in, because the winding roads through the rainforest take you through beautiful territory. However, that’s another hike. We actually went in planning to walk the roads but found to our surprise that the park was open, as it had been closed just recently.

Once in the park, we drove to Indian Beach. Even in the parking area, there are gorgeous views of the cliffs and ocean, and many people go just a short way up the Clatsop Loop trail to be able to see the views of Haystack Rock from a little higher up. Doing that involves a steep but short walk up the western loop of the trail. The trail is paved on the eastern side of the loop but although the western side is not rough, it is dirt and can be very muddy in places. The worst puddle is right after you depart from the eastern loop.

My brother on the trail. You can see that it is a narrow dirt trail but not muddy at this point.

To get to the loop trail, walk toward the bathrooms. It begins just after you pass them.

The steepest part of the western side of the loop is at the beginning up to that first lookout; however, it is pretty much all uphill, which is very hard on me. The path begins to flatten out just before you reach the view of Tillamook Lighthouse. That is where we turned back. I believe the path goes uphill some more and the loop reaches its apex at a camp for hikers. Near that point, it joins another trail that goes four miles to the North Tillamook Head parking lot or you can go back down the other edge of the loop.

The rainforest is lush and gorgeous at all times of year. We were hiking in the April. It was quite wet and muddy on the trail, but we saw huge trees and a herd of elk on the roads driving through the park.

How to get there

From Seaside

Drive south on Highway 101 until you see the signs for Ecola Park on your right, about 9.6 miles from the center of town. Follow the signs through a neighborhood and enter the park to the right. Then follow the signs to Indian Beach.

From Cannon Beach

Drive north on Highway 101 until you see the signs for Ecola Park on your left, about 3 miles from the center of town. Follow the signs through a neighborhood and enter the park to the right. Then follow the signs to Indian Beach.

Parking and facilities

At Indian Beach there is a parking lot with room for about a dozen cars. There are picnic tables there and a bench at the first lookout. There is beach access. Pets are allowed on a leash. There is an accessible bathroom with flush toilets.

However, large motor homes are discouraged from entering the park, as the roads are narrow, at times only one lane wide, and twisty. My brother saw a huge motor home down in a ravine last winter, so this “discouragement” is no joke.

Familiar trail, unfamiliar hike

Unfortunately, this is the edge of a logged area, so the foreground isn’t pretty, but the view is nice.

On Sunday, my family and I went on a leg of the Tarbell Trail further than we have gone before. I haven’t done much hiking the past nine months, ever since I got plantar fasciitis last summer, so this one was a tough one for me, because I was out of shape. It was mostly downhill at a gentle slope, through logged areas, wooded areas with some old forest and some newly planted forest, and meadows, and across several streams. We put cars at both ends of the hike and started at the Tarbell trailhead. Then we hiked down to the trailhead at the Rock Creek Horse Camp.

It was a beautiful day to be out, and we had a good time, even though I was so out of shape that I was very tired by the end of the hike. We only encountered three other people on the trail.

Tarbell Trail to Rock Creek Horse Camp

Yacolt Burn State Forest, Yacolt, WA

Distance: about three miles

Difficulty: moderate

Panting stops: 2 or 3

Elevation changes: about 1000 feet (150 feet up and the rest down)

Here’s Luke on the trail.

We have been on the Tarbell Trail before and even gone partway in this direction, but this time, we parked one car down in the Rock Creek Horse Camp and then drove up to the Tarbell trailhead. This allowed us about a three-mile hike of not too much difficulty, because it went downhill most of the way (up 150 feet at the beginning and then back down) at a nice, easy grade.

There is a short walk up from the trailhead to where the Tarbell divides one way to Rock Creek and the other way to Hidden Falls. However, we know that when you take the path to Rock Creek you come out very shortly on the road that the trailhead is on, so this time we just walked up the road, around the yellow gate, and came upon the trailhead on the right just a little way up the road.

At first, the trail traverses wide logged areas, so you have a view but the close-up landscape is ugly. However, it’s not too long before it reaches the first wooded area. From then on, it is mostly forested, sometimes with older growth and other times with newly planted trees. At one point, we estimated the trees at three years old and at another point at ten, so this area is constantly being logged and replanted.

Here is the final bridge over Rock Creek just before the trailhead.

There are a few uphill treks before reaching the highest elevation at 2000 feet, but none of them are difficult. Then the trail winds downhill for most of the way. It crosses several streams, all bridged. The path was sometimes muddy at this time of the year, but it wasn’t deep or sloppy. The makeup of the path is mostly dirt with some rocks in it, but sometimes it becomes a pleasant forest duff. Toward the Rock Creek End, the mountain bikers had cut it to quite a trench, which I personally found hard to walk on, but that stretch is only for a while.

The trail crosses several logging roads. For the most part, the trail is easy to pick up, but each time that it wasn’t directly across from us, it was down a way to the left.

The large bridge over Rock Creek is the indication that you are almost back to the trailhead and parking lot.

Although the footing was occasionally difficult either due to rocks or the trench that the bikers cut into the path, for the most part this is hike is only rated moderate because of the distance and the shape I was in when I took it. I definitely felt it the next day.

How to get to the Rock Creek Campground

From Yacolt

The first thing we did was drive to the Rock Creek Horse Camp to leave a car. Head south on SE Railroad Avenue. Just where the road is about to bend to the right is NE Sunset Falls Road on your left. Turn left. About two miles down, turn right on NE Dole Valley Road. There is an arrow on the left marking the road. Take Dole Valley road for almost ten miles. You will go over a one-lane bridge. Right before your turn, you see a sign that says the county road is ending. Then there is a sign for Rock Creek Campground. Turn left. Follow the road inside the campground to the right (it is one-way) until you get to the little parking area that marks the trailhead.

How to get to the Tarbell Trailhead

From Rock Creek Campground

Follow the road back around and out of the campground. Turn right onto Dole Valley Road. Go back up Dole Valley, over the one-lane bridge for about 2.4 miles, when you will go straight onto L-1100. This is an unpaved road in the State Forest. Take the L-1100 for 2.2 miles, and then turn right onto L-1210. The trailhead is visible from the L-1100 as you approach.

Parking and facilities

At Rock Creek Campground there is parking for four cars, and there is a restroom. Otherwise, there are camping facilities for horse campers and a few for people without horses. At the Tarbell trailhead, there is parking for up to six cars, a pit toilet, and a picnic table. Just a bit up the trail there are a few secluded areas with more picnic tables. The trail is for people, bikes, and horses, but no motorized vehicles are allowed. Dogs are supposed to be on a leash, although mine wasn’t.

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 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.

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.

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.

 

Logging road with great views

On the way up is this view of Mt. St. Helens on the left and Mt. Adams on the right. You can also see what the road looks like. This is looking back along the road that we’ve already traveled.

This week, my sister, great nephew, and I walked up a logging road and then took a short path to the top of Dunegan Mountain. I didn’t find this hike on any hiking sites or on AllTrails. It is on DNR land behind a gate, but we saw no No Trespassing signs. This is a lovely hike. It is uphill all the way but not too strenuous. A detour up a woodland path gets you to the top of the mountain, which has views of Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Hood, Yacolt Mountain, and an obstructed view of Mt. Adams (although you can see slightly better views of Mt. Adams on the way up). We went on a sunny day. Although the forest has been logged (so bring your hat!), we also passed through shaded areas, because one side of the road is protected from logging.

Dunegan Mountain Logging Road

DNR Land near Amboy, Washington

Distance: about 2.5 miles

Difficulty: moderate

Panting stops: 5-7

Elevation changes: 300-400 feet

My great nephew having a socially distanced lunch at the top of the mountain. Mt. Hood is that tiny white dot to the right of his head above the smaller mountains. It looks much bigger in person. Yacolt Prairie is beneath him. You can see a bit of it on the right.

Although Dunegan Mountain is 1760+ feet high, the Columbia Tie Road winds its way up it, so that by the time you park near the gate before the logging road, you are only about 300 or 400 feet from the top. The road is winding  and of gravel, with very big stones, the four-inch kind, in some places, so you have to be careful about your footing, especially on the way back down.

The road at first goes through logged territory that seems a little desolate, but as it climbs, which it does steadily but at a gentle angle, it emerges into forest on one side of the road with views of the Yacolt and Chelatchie Prairies and the surrounding big mountains. There are several good views of Mt. St. Helens and one or two of Mt. Adams on the way up. The trip is all uphill, but as it is not at a steep angle, I just needed to stop every once in a while to get my heart rate down.

Mt. St. Helens from the top of the Dunegan Mountain

Where the road makes a Y, go to the right both times. After the second Y, look for a faint trail on the right, marked by a cut log about four feet long, for a short cut to the top of the mountain. At the time I went, the trail was hard to see because it was overgrown. My sister, who went earlier in the year, said it was easier to see in the spring. Don’t worry if you miss this trail. You can still see good views ahead.

The short trail to the top goes through the woods and up some rocky territory, and is quite a bit steeper than the road. It look me longer, but I was able to go all the way up to the top. At the top is a grassy meadow, with really nice views of Mt. St. Helens, Yacolt Mountain, the prairies below, and Mt. Hood off in the distance. There is an obstructed view (behind trees) of Mt. Adams.

Once we came back down to the logging trail, we turned right to go on to the quarry at the end of the road. If you miss the woodland path, you can spend some time sitting on the rocks (or in my great nephew’s case, climbing them) and looking at a view that is almost as good. If you feel like clambering, there is a path up to the top from the quarry, but the woodland path is much easier. (My great niece and nephew found the woodland path by going down from the mountain after they clambered up to the top from the quarry.) If you missed the path in the first place and still want to try for it, it may be easier to see it on the way back, as it is just around the corner from the quarry. First, you’ll see a short path with some wooden barriers on it and farther on the cut log next to the woodland path.

The way back is downhill all the way but not steep, so it was easy, but I was tired from the effort of going uphill all the way, so I had a case of stumble foot. That’s why, especially if you’re clumsy like me, at least one stick is a good idea. Also a hat and plenty of water. I had my dog with me, so I only had one stick in case I needed to leash him, but having that stick was helpful.

How to get there

From Vancouver

Take WA-500 and then WA-503 north from Vancouver to Battle Ground. Once through Battle Ground, drive about 10 miles to Amboy. When WA-503 turns right next to Amboy Middle School, go straight on NE 221st Avenue. The road ends at NE Cedar Creek Road. Turn right. About two miles later, turn left on Columbia Tie Road. I couldn’t get a good measurement on this from Google Maps, but at about 1.5 miles, you will see Columbia Tie Pond Road on the left. You can park right across the road from it or you can turn right on the next unmarked road and park in front of the gate. This road is very narrow, so keep in mind that you will have to turn around to get out. Walk around the gate and start your hike.

From Portland or Seattle

Take I-5 north from Portland or south from Seattle to WA-502,, the Battle Ground exit. Turn left onto WA-503 in Battle Ground. Drive about 10 miles to Amboy. When WA-503 turns right next to Amboy Middle School, go straight on NE 221st Avenue. The road ends at NE Cedar Creek Road. Turn right. About two miles later, turn left on Columbia Tie Road. I couldn’t get a good measurement on this from Google Maps, but at about 1.5 miles, you will see Columbia Tie Pond Road on the left. You can park right across the road from it or you can turn right on the next unmarked road and park in front of the gate. This road is very narrow, so keep in mind that you will have to turn around to get out. Walk around the gate and start your hike.

Parking and facilities

There is room for one or two cars off Columbia Tie Road across from Columbia Tie Pond Road, or there is room on the unmarked road before the gate for two or three cars, but keep in mind it will be difficult to turn around.

There are no facilities. I took my dog and let him go off leash. There were no other people besides us on the road.

 

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.

 

Finding the trailhead we couldn’t find before

A view of the ridge above the North Siouxon Creek (or River) Trail

A couple of weeks back, my hiking friend Maja and I tried to find the North Siouxon Creek Trail, but we had problems because we were relying on GPS from her phone to get to the trailhead, and it lost track of where we were. We ended up at the Siouxon Trail instead, doing a brief hike (because we spent so long driving around in the forest), which I already reported on.

So, this week, armed with better instructions, we headed off to look for the North Siouxon Creek Trail, with the caveat that at the trailhead signpost (but nowhere else we can find), it is called the North Siouxon River Trail. It lies within the Siouxon County Park next to Gifford Pinchot National Forest and offers a pretty forest walk near the creek and a waterfall at the end if you can hike that far. I will warn you that the references to this trail are few, they are all under North Siouxon Creek Trail, and some searches will turn up the Siouxon Trail instead. (This confused my sister-in-law, Nancy, who thought we were going there.)

North Siouxon River Trail

Siouxon County Park, Amboy, WA

Distance: 9.8 miles in and out to Black Hole Falls (we went about two miles in and back)

Difficulty: Middling as far as we went, but probably Moderate to Tougher if you go the whole way

Panting stops: 5 to 7

Elevation change: 1,578 feet (we did about 500 feet)

A look at the trail

It was another gorgeous fall day, although many of the leaves had fallen from the trees. We drove back to this remote hiking trail to enjoy a couple hours of hiking. The route to this trailhead is tortuous, and we almost thought we weren’t going to find it again, so please be sure to bring good driving instructions. Your phone GPS won’t work this far back in the forest, and the driving instructions on AllTrails are horrible. Also note that while the road is in good condition, it is rough.

On the way out, we drove past Tumtum Mountain and again found ourselves on the narrow paved and gravel roads leading back to the forest. The trail itself begins in a Douglas fir and western hemlock forest and goes steeply down from the trailhead, so be sure to save some energy to get back up. The path is a narrow dirt one, but it is well kept and not rocky. The forest eventually becomes one of red alder and bigleaf maple. As we made our way down toward the creek, we passed over some places where small rivulets of water crossed the trail, and we could tell there would be more when it was wetter.

North Siouxon Creek, from one of the bridges on the road leading to the trailhead

The trip report we were following cited several creek crossings. The first one was easy, just a big step from one bank to another. However, when we got to the second one, I felt uncertain about making it across. You are presented with a choice of stepping from rock to rock over the creek (just three steps, and Maja made it across easily) or a tree trunk covered with shingles with a hand rope. I did not feel that my balance was equal to either, and Nancy said her dog had an open wound, so she didn’t want him in the water. So, at that point we decided to go back.

However, for people who want to go farther, there is the promise of an impressive waterfall at Black Hole Falls and according to the trip report we were using, the best access to Mitchell Peak (11 miles round trip from the falls).

How to get there

From Vancouver

You can either take I-5 north to the Battle Ground exit, turn east on WA-502 and then left on WA -503 in Battle Ground or take WA-500/503 up from Vancouver. From Battle Ground it’s about 17 miles to Chelatchie. In Chelatchie, turn right next to the Chelatchie store (across the road from the Mt. St. Helens Park Headquarters) on NE Healey Road. After 2.4 miles, the road becomes FR-54 and the pavement change is noticeable.

From the turn onto Healey, drive 5.2 miles to a fork, where you keep right. Take the second left after crossing the bridge, which is 1.6 miles after the fork.

After 0.7 miles, stay left. Keep left again after another 0.5 miles.

In another 0.1 miles, you’ll pass through a gate with signs that say “Discover Pass Required.”

In 0.4 miles, stay right on S1000. You will continue to follow S1000 all the way to the trailhead.

In 2.3 miles, you’ll pass over the bridge on Siouxon Creek. At the junction of S2000, stay left.

About 0.7 miles after the Siouxon Creek bridge, you will cross over the North Fork Siouxon Falls bridge (and another bridge about 0.5 miles later).

About 0.8 miles after the North Siouxon Falls bridge, you will come to the very noticeable trailhead at a sharp left turn.

Parking and Facilities

A Discover Pass is required.

The parking lot has room for about 20 cars. There are no other facilities. Dogs are allowed on a leash.