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.

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.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

A deep forest hike

I took this photo of a tributary leading down to Siouxon Creek from the wooden bridge near the start of the hike.

The main difficulty we had on our hike at the Siouxon Trailhead was finding the trail we intended to hike, which was at a different trailhead. We had a difference of opinion about where it may be, but it turned out that neither of us was right. In any case, once we floundered around for a while, we finally ended up at the Siouxon Trailhead, and a beautiful hike it was, through lush forests and along the creek. Many of our hikes have been a little on the urban side, but this one was truly a deep forest hike.

Because it took us an hour longer to get there than planned, we only went  a couple of miles down the trail. But we plan to return now that we know how to get there.

Siouxon Trail

Gifford Pinchot National Forest, WA

Distance: 18 miles out and back, if you go all the way (we went about four miles)

Difficulty: Tougher to do the whole trail (we didn’t go very far and found it moderate)

Panting stops: four, mainly at the end, returning to the trailhead

Elevation changes: 2076 feet, if you do the whole trail, about 300 feet on the part we did

Although my friend and I both have maps of the Gifford Pinchot Forest, we made the mistake of leaving them home. This was a mistake because we lost phone service long before we entered the park, so that the Google directions from AllTrails didn’t work to lead us to the trailhead. We were actually trying to find the North Siouxon Creek trailhead in the state forest, but the written description of how to get there on AllTrails only mentioned two of the several roads we needed to take there. However, we finally found the Siouxon Trailhead (for a different trail) just before we gave up and went home.

A view of a cataract along Siouxon Creek in an area that has some color. Most of the trees were coniferous, but we occasionally came through patches of fall color.

On the way up there, once you leave WA-503 and turn onto Healy Road, is absolutely stunning scenery, especially at this time of year, with the leaves changing. First we passed through green valleys full of cows, and then we climbed up into gorgeous mountain scenery. One you’re in the National Forest, of course, there aren’t as many wide-open views except in areas that have been heavily logged, and then the views aren’t pretty. However, the hike itself was really nice.

The trail takes you on a relatively steep downhill along a needle-covered woodland path. It is well kept and quite wide in parts, although it is occasionally rocky. The path goes over a wooden bridge (which I understand had to be replaced a couple of years ago, and there are lots of big fallen trees around it to explain why) and then down to run along above Siouxon Creek. We saw a few cataracts in the creek, and I understand that farther up, there are waterfalls. This is truly a deep woods hike, with lots of big trees all around and not many open places except by the creek. The path is fairly level for over a mile, and then it begins climbing again, which is the where the large elevation changes come in. As I said, because we spent an extra hour getting lost on the way out, we only walked in a couple of miles and then turned back. However, now that we know how to get there, we will certainly return for the beautiful hike.

Keep in mind as you go down toward the creek that you have to have enough energy on to go back up these steepish slopes on the way back!

During our Wednesday October hike, we encountered only one other hiker with dogs and two mountain bikers.

How to get there

From Vancouver or Amboy

Take WA-503 up to Chelatchie and turn right on NE Healy Road, right next to the Chelatchie store. Stay on this road, which becomes Rashford Spur Road, then Calamity Peak Road/NF-57, for 14 miles. When you get to the intersection of Calamity Peak Road and NF-5701, turn left onto NF-5701. NF-5701 dead ends at the Siouxon Trailhead.

The roads are very rough leading to and in the national park. They are paved most of the way, but the paving is broken and cracked in spots, making it difficult to drive over. The forest service website recommends using a 4WD vehicle to go to this trailhead.

Parking and facilities

There is parking for maybe 15 cars at the trailhead, This trailhead is also the head for four other trails, but there was only one other car there when we were there. There are no other facilities, except that a way down the trail, there are fallen logs and a campfire circle. You are asked to pack out any trash you take in. Dogs are allowed here. We saw no indication that a pass was required for this trailhead. There is access to the trail near the beginning of NF-5701 for horse trailers.

A family hike above Dole Valley

Here is one of the views from the Tarbell Trail on the way to Hidden Falls.

This week, my hiking friend and I were joined by my niece and her two children. We decided to return to a place where we had hiked before, the Tarbell trailhead (before I started this blog, so that hike isn’t on it). The trailhead forks into two directions. The first time, we went towards Rock Creek Campground. This time, we decided to go toward Hidden Falls.

This is a long hike, rated moderate on AllTrails. We only went about two miles toward the falls and two miles back. Still, it is a beautiful hike, well up off the floor of Dole Valley, so that you can see really nice views.

Hidden Falls via Tarbell Trail

Yacolt Burn State Forest, Yacolt, Washington

Difficulty: Moderate

Panting stops: 3 or 4

Distance: 10.9 miles

Elevation changes: 1617 feet

We went up on a coolish but sunny day. The trailhead takes you to a fork, where you can go left for Hidden Falls or right toward Rock Creek Campground. We went left this time. The trail alternates between going through forest or through logged areas, some that have begun to grow back and some that are new. So, if it is sunny bring your hat. I kept taking mine off and putting it back on. We felt that it was unfortunate that they had logged right up to the path, but on the other hand, those areas were the ones most open to views.

My great nephew and niece on the giant rock.

Most of the trail on the way out is uphill, but not at a steep grade. Although the overall gain in elevation is quite a bit, it’s a long trail. The path is a narrow dirt one, sometimes rocky and other times carpeted in needles from the firs. We saw lots of wild irises and Oregon grape and other wildflowers during this late spring hike. We also saw lots of little wild roses that were about to bloom. A bit past the one-mile marker, we came to a giant rock, which the kids had fun climbing.

This hike was rated Moderate on AllTrails. So far, I have stayed away from Moderate hikes, as I sometimes have difficulty with Easy ones. I would agree on this rating just based on the length of the hike, if you want to go all the way, and the ultimate elevation change. That being said, since we took a shorter hike, I would rate it no harder than Middling. Of course, I can’t say whether the hike gets more difficult on the part we didn’t try.

This was one of the prettiest hikes we have taken right in our local area. We had a good time. Hiking on a weekday, we only met one other person on the trail.

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 2.5 miles. Make a left onto the L-1100, which is a forest road. After 2.2 miles, a road off to your right takes you to the trailhead, which is right around the corner.

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 about 2.5 miles. Make a left onto the L-1100, which is a forest road. After 2.2 miles, a road off to your right takes you to the trailhead, which is right around the corner.

Parking and Amenities

The parking lot for the trailhead has room for about five or six cars. There is a pit toilet at the trailhead, a picnic table, and a pump. On the path up to the trail, there are several secluded areas with more picnic tables. The path is for hikers, bikers, and horses. No motorized vehicles are allowed, but dogs are, on a leash.

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 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.

A ruined stone mill

The nice well-kept path of the Stone Mill Loop

We have gone several times to do the other loop trails in Whipple Creek Park, but this week we returned to do the Stone Mill Loop. This loop trail goes down the middle of the secluded, deeply wooded park that is such a surprise to find so near suburban Vancouver. Then it loops around near a decrepit stone mill.

If you are using the All Trails app or looking at information on other trail sites, for some reason this trail is called Grist Mill Loop. It is called Stone Mill Loop on the actual park maps. That is additionally confusing because there is a historic Grist Mill in Clark County, but it is nowhere near this trail.

Stone Mill Loop

Rating: Middling

Panting stops: 3-4

Distance: 1,9 miles

Elevation changes: 216 feet

The Stone Mill itself. It was abandoned in 1960, the signs say.

Whipple Creek Park is a surprisingly large and densely forested area for as close to the Vancouver area of Salmon Creek as it is. It is a nice park with well-marked trails that is used for horse-back riding, biking, hiking, trail running, and nature trips. We returned again on a gloomy day that was a little wet, but the trails were all in great condition.

The Stone Mill Loop is the southern most trail in Whipple Creek Park. We went in from the northern parking area. To get to the loop, go down the North-South Connector trail to where the loop branches off, and then take the loop in either direction.

If you take the southernmost end of the loop first, you will see the Stone Mill on your left almost immediately. The trail takes you in front of it and then loops around and goes up so that you can see it from the top. If you go east when you get to the loop, then you will come to it towards the end of the loop, before you get back to the North-South Connector trail.

I rated this trail a bit more difficult than I did the other loop trails in Whipple Creek Park, because although it only has 216 feet of elevation changes, that is all in two different upward swoops, one of which is fairly steep and the other of which is long. However, I could do it with little difficulty, just some panting stops. Probably if I had hiked this trail early last year, I would have had more difficulty doing it, hence the rating. It may be a little easier if you walk it the other way around, heading east first.

How to get there

Whipple Creek Regional Park, Ridgefield, Washington

From Vancouver or Portland

From I-5, take the Vancouver 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. There is a porta-potty at that entrance as well as mounting blocks for the riders.

 

Always take your sticks!

Copper Creek Falls are a refreshing sight just before the trail gets a steeper.

When we went to Middle Falls, my niece’s husband was under the impression that the falls were just off the parking lot. Instead, this turned out to be our most challenging hike of the day. I had my hiking sticks with me and had taken them along on three other shorter and easier hikes, but because he made this remark, I left my sticks in the car. Lesson learned! Always take your sticks!

The payoff of this trip is a lovely but less spectacular waterfall than Lower Falls and a nice swimming hole. The only problem is that you have to be able to get back up the switchbacks. If you are in really poor shape or have disabilities, this may not be the hike for you.

I was doubting myself for a while, but I made it back up with encouragement from my brother.

Middle Falls Trail

Rating: moderate

Panting stops: 3-5

Length: about a mile, there and back

Elevation changes: about 300 feet

The path down to Middle Falls. This is the part that is not steep.

There is actually a loop trail that you can take at Middle Falls, but we did not know that at the time, so we just took the same trail out and back. It starts out on a gentle incline to Copper Creek Falls. Then, however, you go down several steepish switchbacks until you arrive at the falls and another beautiful blue swimming hole.

Middle Falls

These falls are not as dramatic as Lower Falls, but they still provide the rock shelf ledges for wading, falls for those who like to jump off, and a lovely swimming hole. They were also much less crowded on the day we went. However, because I did not have my sticks, I did not feel secure enough to step down the tall rocky ledges to the swimming hole. They were just tall and slippery looking enough that I did not want to try them. Anyone that is less of a chicken than I am could probably make it down with no problem.

Instead, my sister and niece and I went further down the trail where we discovered our own little waterfall. It had a hole for sitting in the base of it, and the kids slid down the fall. The others in our party swam in the swimming hole while we cooled off at our little waterfall.

How to get there

Gifford Pinchot National Forest, Mt. Adams Ranger District

From Vancouver

Take Washington 503 north past Cougar. It becomes Lewis River Road and then NF-90. You pass the entrance to the Lower Falls Recreation Area. The small parking lot for Middle Falls is farther up NF-90 just off the road on your right side.

 

 

Urban grit or lost: a hike unfinished

On Sunday, my friend Deb and I attempted to do a hike in Oregon City. I say attempted, because we couldn’t actually find the location for part of the hike. It’s hard to know how to break this one down as a result. I think I’ll start with a general description of our experience and then describe the hike as I normally would.

The top of the elevator from the promenade

We wanted to hike the McLoughlin Promenade in Oregon City. The first part of the hike, as described in an article on Oregon Live, is easy to find and easy to do. It begins with the city’s famous elevator, and then there are two directions in which you can go. Our mistake was in not bringing along the article, which we had in the car, and forgetting that it included directions for that part of the hike.

The hike begins in a lovely walk above the downtown, where you have views of the Willamette River, the Willamette Falls, and an interesting old area of factories perched above the river. It’s when you go down that the urban grit comes in and we got lost. We were unable to find the part of the hike that goes to Canemah Park. We went back, got our car, and tried to drive there, but we saw no sign of access to the park except for areas where we couldn’t park. We even asked a resident, who had no idea what we were talking about. If we had taken the article along with us on the walk, we might have found it, but there seems to be no access to the park for a car. We also missed the waterfalls, because we ran out of time looking for the park. Hint: whatever you do, don’t try to find the park using the Heritage Trail brochure, available at the elevator.

There are also several ways to do this hike, only a few of which we took, which makes it more difficult to describe.

McLoughlin Promenade

Rating: Easy if you just go down the stairs and don’t have mobility issues (or you can stop at the stairs), Moderate if you decide to go back up the stairs instead of taking the elevator

Panting stops: 0 if you take the elevator up; otherwise, 1.

Length: 1.3 miles if you go as far as the pullout viewpoint of the falls; 2.5 miles if you can find the park and take the hike in both directions from the elevator

Elevation changes: 190 feet down the stairs; I don’t know about parts of the hikes we didn’t do.

You can park in downtown Oregon City and go up the elevator or do what we did, park near the elevator and take it back up at the end of the hike.

The hike we took

A view of the river from the promenade. You can see the quality of the path and get an idea of the scenery from up above

From the elevator, we turned right and walked along the promenade above the city to the southwest. From there, you can see a bit of the city but mostly the river and the Willamette Falls. At the falls, there is a collection of disused factories and docks that the city plans to make its centerpiece in years to come. The walk is pleasant. Even though it was hot, there was plenty of shade, and people came along the path with strollers. The path is paved and lined with a stone parapet built by the WPA in 1937.

The Willamette Falls from above

At the end of the upper part of the promenade you get a beautiful view of the Willamette Falls. At that point, you will see an old green metal stairway going down to the lower level. Take that stairway down. Here’s where the urban grit comes in. You will be walking alongside a busy highway (Hwy 99). When we were there, construction was going on. The sidewalk is right against the highway with no buffer, so just beware that there is lots of traffic.

When we got to the turnout, we saw another nice view of the falls, but we couldn’t figure out where to go from there to get to the park. We spent so much time after that trying to find the park that we didn’t see the other end of the promenade with the waterfalls.

The downtown area from next to the elevator with a view of the bridge over the Willamette

To get back you can return on the staircase or walk up the ramp to a pedestrian tunnel that goes above the traffic tunnel. This is a little creepy. The tunnel takes you out at the back of a parking lot. If you walk along the backs of the parking lots and around a corner, you can take the elevator back up. It might be more fun to explore the streets of the downtown area before going back, as it looks like a vibrant, interesting downtown with lots of shops and restaurants.

The hikes we didn’t take

South beyond the viewpoint: If you take the hike as described down the staircase ending with the viewpoint, cross the street at the viewpoint. I will warn you that at the time we went, a Sunday afternoon, this would have been difficult to do without being killed. There is no crosswalk, and there was construction. Walk down the highway until you see a power station on your left. Enter the parking lot and go to the back of the fenced-in station. There should be a path that takes you through a small field to the Old Canemah Park.

North to the left of the elevator: I’m now disappointed we didn’t go that way, because if we had, we would have gone down a set of concrete steps, followed a fence down the hill, and ended at a waterfall along Singer Creek and the Dr. John McLoughlin House. I can’t say anything about this end of the path, as we didn’t go this way.

How to get there

From Portland, take I-205 South. Take Exit 9 and turn left onto McLoughlin Boulevard. Turn left on 10th Street. Go up Sugar Hill and turn left onto 7th Street. The elevator is at the end of 7th Street, if you want to start at the bottom.

If you want to start at the top like we did, 7th Street veers right onto Mollala Avenue. That takes you to the elevator at the top.

Parking

You can park in one of several parking lots near the elevator, on the streets downtown, or in a very small parking lot at the top of the elevator.