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.

A lunar landscape

Here was our view of Mt. St. Helens from the middle of the lava fields. You can just barely see my sister off to the left. I thought I had her, but she moved.

We returned to the shoulders of Mt. St. Helens this week with a hike on 1900-year-old lava fields. This hike took us through the lava fields and into a lodgepole pine forest. The footing is tricky in parts, but it is overall a hike that is not difficult, at least as far as we went. The scenery is absolutely spectacular.

Be prepared for a steep but short hike up to the lava fields and a few areas of rough footing. Apparently the trail becomes more difficult as it goes on, but we only went down it about a mile, for a fairly easy two-mile hike.

Toutle Trail from Red Rocks Pass trailhead

Mt. St. Helens Volcanic Monument near Cougar, WA

Distance: the trail is about 7 miles in and out, but we went 2 miles

Difficulty: middling

Panting stops: 5 or 6

Elevation changes: about 80 feet

I also couldn’t find this hike listed on any hiking websites, so my information is a little more sketchy than usual. Most people using this trailhead are going to either Red Rocks Pass, which is across the road from this hike, or to Butte Camp up on Mt. St. Helens.

Here is a look at the lava fields looking toward Cinnamon Peak. The color of the lava is actually more black than gray, but this is the only photo I took that reflects that.

We hiked up a short but steep incline from the trailhead (on the same side of the road as the parking) up onto the lava fields, where the path became more level. Although there are a few places on the lava fields where the footing is tricky, for the most part the path is easy, with just a few rocks in the middle of it. If you look at my photo at the top of this post, the trail is visible to the left of the photo.

Views from the lava fields of Mt. St. Helens, ahead, Cinnamon Peak behind, and the lava fields themselves are gorgeous. The little knob off the side of Mt. St. Helens is where Butte Camp is located, so you can see that would be a quite difficult hike and well above my abilities at this point.

After the lava fields, we entered a lodgepole pine forest, walking on a mild slope downward, so that coming back is a little more difficult. The trail forks to go to Butte Camp. That path is forward, indicated by a post, and the trail we took goes off to the left. The path through the forest is quite easy for that first mile, but we stopped just before a steepish canyon where it becomes more difficult.

How to get there

From Vancouver

Take WA-503 north through Cougar, Washington. After passing through Cougar, the highway becomes Rd. 90. Keep driving on Rd. 90 until you are up next to the Swift Reservoir. Turn left on NF 83 at the sign for Ape Caves. Pass the entrance to the road to Ape Caves and follow the signs for Red Rocks Pass, turning left on NF 81. The trailhead is on your right a little less than three miles later.

From Seattle

From I-5, take the WA-503 exit from Woodland and go in the direction of Cougar. After passing through Cougar, the highway becomes Rd. 90. Keep driving on Rd. 90 until you are up next to the Swift Reservoir. Turn left on NF 83 at the sign for Ape Caves. Pass the entrance to the road to Ape Caves and follow the signs for Red Rocks Pass, turning left on NF 81. The trailhead is on your right a little less than three miles later.

Parking and Facilities

There is parking for about five or six cars next to the trailhead. There are no other facilities.

 

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.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Finding the trail we lost before

Cedar Creek with a little waterfall, the end of the line for this hike, although the Bells Mountain Trail continues over the bridge and goes more than 7 miles to Moulton Falls Park. I understand that this is a difficult hike. I haven’t tried it yet. My hiking partner’s friend came along with us and posed for this cute picture.

Last winter, I wrote about a hike we took in the Yacolt Burn where we ended up on the wrong trail because we couldn’t figure out where the trail was. The only map posted at the trailhead is one of the entire region, so it isn’t very useful. This week, we returned to the trailhead to look for the trail we planned to hike originally. The signage is confusing, because it clearly labels the entrance to the Tarbell trail but then has right-hand arrows for the other trails that could mean Take the Tarbell trail or Go across the road. My sister, during the original hike, thought our hike was down the Tarbell Trail, but actually, we needed to go across the road to pick up the Bells Mountain Trail. That’s what we did this time and found ourselves on the trail as soon as we crossed the road.

Bells Mountain Trail to Cedar Creek

Yacolt Burn State Forest near Yacolt, Washington

Difficulty: Middling

Panting stops: 3 or 4, all on the way back

Distance: about 4 miles out and back

Elevation changes: 606 feet

I’ll tell you right away the the AllTrails app shows the distance of this hike as 6.1 miles. We went all the way to Cedar Creek, and the distance was no more than 4 miles. It’s possible that the hike entered into the app goes beyond the creek, although it doesn’t sound like it from the name of the hike, but even with adding a short side trip to the Coldwater Creek Day Use area, we hiked at most four miles. We had no cell phone reception past a certain point, so we were unable to check where we were on the map in AllTrails to see if the intent was to go further. We stopped at the creek.

Here’s an idea of the views at the beginning of the hike and a glimpse of the dirt trail. Yes, it’s going up a bit here, but mostly it goes down on the way out.

The trail is a narrow dirt one that can be a little rough, but it is a relatively easy hike with the caveat that what goes down must go up. That is, the trail goes gradually down almost all the way out to the creek with just a few upward areas. That means that it goes gradually up all the way back and has the steepest grade at the end. That’s the only reason I rated it middling instead of easy. It is a good hike, though, and not at all difficult to do that last upward grade unless you get really tired.

The hike takes you through an open area that was logged a few years ago, but this area offers a nice view as well as some interesting fallen trees with huge but shallow root bases revealed. When we were there, someone had placed part of the skeleton of an animal on a stump, and we spotted lots of wild irises and other flowers on our late spring walk. If you’re going on a sunny day, you’ll need a hat for this part. Then you go into a forest the rest of the way, ending at a lovely little spot with a waterfall, bridge, and viewing platform. We took a side trip from there on the wheelchair accessible path back to the day use area. If you have accessibility issues, you can still see the waterfall by driving to the day use area and taking this trail, which is about 0.2 miles.

So, we had a nice hike, not too hard to do with nice scenery. We met no people on the entire hike.

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. The actual trail is across the road from the parking lot. There are two pit restrooms at the parking lot. If you take a side trip to the day use area when you get to the creek, there are picnic tables, a pump, and more pit restrooms.

In the rainforest

A view of the Lake Quinault from the hiking trail

This weekend, my husband and I took a trip to Lake Quinault in the Olympic Peninsula, where we stayed at the old Quinault Lodge, a lovely example of an early 20th century northwestern lodge. While we were there, I went off on a hike of the Quinault Loop Trail. I didn’t manage to finish the trail because I mistakenly got off on the Rainforest Nature Trail and took that, and then I started worrying about getting back to the Lodge before our dinner reservation. However, I hiked about 3.5 miles, counting the portion of the Quinault Loop Trail that I hiked plus the Rainforest Loop.

Quinault Loop Trail plus Rainforest Nature Trail

Colonel Bob Wilderness and Olympic National Park, Quinault, Washington

Difficulty: Middling

Panting stops: 1-2

Distance: 3.8 miles for the Quinault Loop, .9 for the Rainforest Loop

Elevation change: 367 feet

You can begin the trail from the Ranger’s Station next to the Quinault Lodge, by walking across the highway to the trailhead. Since I was staying at the lodge, however, I just walked back to the trail where it crosses behind the lodge and started there, going south. From there, the trail runs along the lake for nearly a mile before cutting up through the forest and crossing underneath the highway. Shortly after you cross the highway, you can continue on the Quinault Loop path or go off on a tangent for the Rainforest Nature Trail. I was thrown off because the Quinault Loop itself is not marked, just the Rainforest Nature Trail. I got confused about the name of the path I was taking, so from then on, I was on the Rainforest Trail. This loop goes through the rain forest, and the change in surroundings is obvious. The Rainforest Nature Trail features informative signs about what you are seeing in the forest.

I was totally confused about where I was on the maps, which after a point did not show the You Are Here spot, so I thought I was much further along than I was and took the trail to the parking lot after I finished that loop. When I arrived at the parking lot, I realized I wasn’t at the one I expected to be, and since I was late, I just walked up the highway to Quinault instead of continuing on the trail back. In fact, by that time, I would have been quite far off the track of the Quinault Loop and would have had to spend a lot of time backtracking.

The scenery is quite spectacular, from the path along the lake, then to waterfalls and the deep forests of the rainforest. The path is narrow and has some footing issues, particularly along the lake, where I encountered several places with rocky, rough footing. It is a dirt or rock trail. The footing issues and some big elevation changes (but not too big) are why I rated this trail Middling instead of Easy, as it is rated in most guides. In particular, as you hike up the hillside from the highway, there is a really big step, about twice as high as a normal step. I didn’t have my sticks with me (always bring your sticks!), so as I looked at it, I considered whether I would have to turn around. However, I didn’t want to traverse some of those rough footing areas going downhill. So, I got as close to the step as I could, where the step wasn’t quite as high, and I used a nearby fallen tree to haul myself up. It was a good decision, because the trail was easier on the other side of the step.

Also, it is a rain forest. It was raining when I took the hike, and I got to walk through lots of mud puddles. So, be prepared with some decent footwear. I saw only one party out on the trail, and they had on athletic shoes and some even less suited to hiking. I don’t know how far they had gone, but they are on their way back to the lodge when I saw them, and I suspect they couldn’t get very far wearing the shoes they had on.

I enjoyed the hike, though, and hope to return sometime when I have more time to take the entire loop.

How to get there

From Portland or Vancouver

Take I-5 north toward Seattle. Take Exit 88 in Tenino and follow Old Highway 99/US 12 West. Follow US 12 until you see the signs for 101 North in Aberdeen. Take 101 North through Aberdeen and Hoquiam and continue on it north along the edge of the peninsula.

About 20 miles north of Aberdeen, you will see signs for Quinault. Take S. Shore Road to Quinault. The trailhead is about two miles up the road, opposite Lake Quinault Lodge, or you can go behind the lodge and take the trail from there like I did.

From Seattle

There are two ways to get from Seattle to Lake Quinault. You can take the ferry to Bainbridge Island and then drive around and across the peninsula, or you can drive south down I-5. These directions are for the I-5 route, which is shorter.

Take I-5 south toward Portland. Take Exit 104 for US 101 North. Take the Exit for WA-8 toward Montesano and Aberdeen. WA-8 merges with US 12 in Elma.

Follow US 12 until you see the signs for 101 North in Aberdeen. Take 101 North through Aberdeen and Hoquiam and continue on it north along the edge of the peninsula.

About 20 miles north of Aberdeen, you will see signs for Quinault. Take S. Shore Road to Quinault. The trailhead is about two miles up the road, opposite Lake Quinault Lodge, or you can go behind the lodge and take the trail from there like I did.

Parking and facilities

There is parking at the ranger station in Quinault and a small lot across the road from the lodge. If you are just interested in the Rainforest Nature Trail, there is a trailhead across the road from the Willaby Camp Ground. That parking lot has rest rooms. I did not see any other facilities on the trail.

Forest, lake, and waterfall

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

Our latest hiking adventure was quite a discovery, a beautiful woodland park nestled into the small city of Camas. It features playscapes, picnic areas, a lake with some small beaches, creeks, waterfalls, a fish ladder, and hiking trails. It is a nice park for just relaxing but also offers hiking trails with a variety of difficulty. We attempted to take the large loop around the park but got off the trail at one point and never made it around to the other side of the lake. Still, we saw some beautiful scenery and had a good time.

It is clear that this is probably a heavily used park during the summer. When we went to the park in mid-March during the week, it was not crowded at all, although there were more people in the main part of the park when we left than when we arrived. While hiking in the deeper reaches of the park, we only encountered a few people with dogs, a couple of bikers, and maybe 10 groups of hikers. The morning started off cool, but we got quite hot when we were there and started peeling off layers. Most of the park is shaded, however, so we did not get too hot.

Lacamas Park Trail

Lacamas Creek Park, Camas, Washington

Difficulty: Middling to Moderate

Panting stops: 5-7

Distance: roughly 4 miles

Elevation changes: 374 feet

These are the upper falls from the fish ladder bridge over the creek. The lake is on the other side of the bridge.

Most hiking guides rate this trail as Easy, but I rated it Middling to Moderate, because if you go on the Lower Falls Loop, as we did, the trail gets quite rough in places, and the main trail has a long rise in elevation over about a half mile. I don’t know about you, but those long rises are the hardest for me.

We attempted to take the big trail loop, shown in purple or hatched lines on the trail maps. We went counterclockwise from the parking lot at the top of the lake. The trails are poorly marked, however, and we took a detour on the Lower Falls Loop.

The path of the main loop is wide and well kept. Some of the side paths are narrower and rocky.

After an interpretive discussion about one of the posted maps with my co-hikers, we went the way they thought was right and ended up going left instead of taking the path around the top of the lake where it cuts to the right. Instead, we ended up retracing part of our route. We all agreed, however, that it was a beautiful park and worth returning to.

Except where we left the main trail to do the falls loop, the path is either paved or cinder, wide and easy to navigate. The Falls Loop was at some points rocky, and it was a narrower dirt trail. We saw lots of people with small children over by the playscape and beach but not deeper into the woods. In the woods, we saw hikers, bikers, and dog walkers.

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 (not open when we were there in March, but there were porta-potties), a playscape, picnic tables, and small beaches, as well as many benches.

A return to Whipple Creek

Here’s the stone mill on the Stone Mill Loop of Whipple Creek Park. We took this picture last fall, when there were still a few fall colors.

Lately, I haven’t posted much because our default winter hikes are to parks that we know will have good, cleared paths and that I have already documented on this blog. However, lately it has been dry, so we felt it was a good time to return to Whipple Creek Park. I realized I hadn’t posted on the Stone Mill Loop (for some reason called the Grist Mill Loop on AllTrails and other hiking websites), because on our first venture into the park, we didn’t try that loop. This post is a hike we took following several of the loops in the park, including Stone Mill.

It was a cool day in the park, which is beautifully wooded, but the paths were clear and in good condition. This is a popular park for horse riders. We saw several groups of horses as well as joggers and people walking their dogs. The paths are dirt or cinder and are well kept. Some seasonal paths, which we have not tried yet, are only open to hikers except in the summer.

Stone Mill Loop and other trails

Whipple Creek Park, Ridgefield, Washington

Difficulty: Middling

Panting stops: 4 or 5

Distance: 3.6 miles

Elevation changes: 403 feet

We parked at the north park entrance off 21st Avenue and walked down the North-South Connector to North Ridge Way. We took the north side of the Cedar Loop, which we hadn’t done before, returning to North Ridge Way and cutting away to go to the South Ridge Loop. Both sides of that loop look about the same length, but we hadn’t done the inner loop before, so we took that. When we returned to the North-South Connector, we went south to the Stone Mill Loop and took it all the way around to Everson’s Cutoff, which we hadn’t taken before. So, we took that.

This trail has some fairly steep ups and downs, but even if you are in poor shape, they are short enough to be challenging but doable. The first time I came to the park last spring, some of the hills looked daunting, and I had to stop a lot. The good thing about hiking, however, is that the more you do it, the easier it is. This time, I only stopped two or three times.

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 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.

Parking and facilities

At the north parking lot, there is parking for about 10 cars and five or six horse trailers. There were four trailers there when we arrived. 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.

A good trail to find when you’re lost

I took this picture of the path from a switchback above it. You can get a glimpse of the path in the middle of the photo.

We started out on this hike intending to take a completely different trail, but when we got to the Yacolt Burn Trailhead, the signage and trail map confused us, and we ended up on the Tarbell Trail. It was a beautiful winter day, and although we had had some rain in the past week, the dirt trail was a little muddy but not too bad. We saw some great views of the Yacolt Burn State Park. Because of time constraints, we only did about two miles of this loop trail (and technically, it was closed for construction, which we didn’t notice until we got back), but we had a nice envigorating hike.

Tarbell and Thrillium Trail

Yacolt Burn State Forest near Yacolt, Washington

Difficulty: Middling to Moderate

Panting stops: 3 or 4 in the part we did

Distance: 6.9-mile loop

Elevation changes: 1,610 feet

The view is almost always obscured by a few trees, but it is a nice one nevertheless.

Although this well-maintained but narrow dirt trail spends most of its time going up, it uses switchbacks, which are easier to handle than straight up, especially for me. At some point it goes down again, but we didn’t get to that part. We hiked on a beautiful winter day, and the only people we saw were two bikers at the trailhead. Although the trail is wooded for most of the way, we saw some nice views on the way up. This is definitely a trail I would like to go back to when I have more time. This trailhead is a starting place for several different trails, so we will be sure to return.

I was out of shape from not having hiked most of the last two months, but although I found the hike challenging, I was well able to do it.

Note that a Discover Pass is required for this trailhead, and there is no self-purchase machine. You can buy a Discover Pass at any Fred Meyer store as well as at Battle Ground Lake State Park.

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. Just a bit up the trail, there is a picnic table. This trail begins next to the road on the same side of the road as the parking lot and is clearly marked Tarbell Trail.

Where are the falls at Moulton Falls Park?

Yacolt Falls, at the far end of Moulton Falls Regional Park. The bridge that you cross at the base of these falls is hidden in this picture.

This is actually a question I have had asked me when I’ve been hiking in Moulton Falls Regional Park. Because it is near to my house, I had visited the park many times before I realized that I hadn’t seen any falls. If you look at the map of the park, you can see that they consider the smallish cataracts near the main entrance to the park to be falls, but to my mind they are not. So, it was with surprise that I found, when I went hiking with a different person, that there actually are some real falls in the park, Yacolt Falls.

This hike isn’t really very long. In fact, I don’t have anything but guesses as to how long it may be. However, it has some ups and downs in the form of stairs that you go down to view the falls and then go back up on the other side. These are old blocks of stone, and some of them are rather high, so if you hike with sticks, I suggest you bring them along.

Yacolt Falls Trail

Moulton Falls Regional Park near Yacolt, Washington

Difficulty: Middling

Panting stops: 0

Distance: 0.5 mile loop or shorter (this is just a guess)

Elevation changes: maybe 50 feet

This trail is one of several hikes in the large and pleasant Moulton Falls Regional Park. There are a couple of different ways to get to the trail. My instructions are from the upper parking lot of the main entrance to the park. You can also get there from the parking lot across the road from the intersection of Railroad Avenue with Sunset Falls Road.

From the upper lot, take the rightmost trail, the one that seems to lead back to the road. In fact it does. After a short descent, you end up at a crosswalk on Lucia Falls Road. Cross the road, being very careful, because even though the speed limit is slow there, many people speed through the area, and pick up the trail on the other side.

After a short walk down the dirt path, you will come to a set of stone steps leading down to a bridge at the base of the water fall. This looks like perhaps it is the oldest area of the park, as the stone steps are obviously old. Walk down the steps and cross the bridge for a beautiful view of the falls.

Walk back up the other side. From here until you cross to the other parking lot, the path is narrow and a little overgrown. It goes through an ancient picnic area and along a creek, and then back to the road at a different place. Cross back over the road and turn left to return to where you started. The path up to the parking area is to your left just after you cross the small bridge and pass the restrooms. Alternatively, you can explore the rest of Moulton Falls Park.

Again, this path is a little rougher because it is not used as often as the main part of the park. The stone staircase has steps with a higher rise than a regular staircase, and at one place where you are descending on the other side of the falls to the path, there is an extra long step where I definitely needed my sticks. The stairs and long steps are the only reason I rated this path “midding.” Otherwise, it is very short and easy.

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 upper parking lot has space for about a dozen to twenty cars.  The part of the park by the falls has only a few old picnic tables. However, once you cross the road back to the main park, there are restrooms, picnic areas, and access points to the Lewis River.