Moulton on a gorgeous winter day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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.

Another way into Moulton

This nice paved path takes you about a mile down the route, later changing to a cinder track.

The Hantwick trailhead for Moulton Park is a good one because it has plenty of parking yet is not as popular and crowded as the other areas of the park can be. Its nice paved path slopes gently down from the parking lot and eventually follows the river, where it becomes a cinder path. You can take the path all the way to the other end of Moulton if you like or walk as far as you want. Although the path to the park from the upper lot is a little steep, there are no steep stretches from this end of the park.

Moulton Falls Trail—Hantwick Trailhead

You will pass this pretty pond before you get to the river.

Moulton Falls Regional Park near Yacolt, Washington

Rating: Easy peasy

Panting stops: 0

Length: 5.2 miles out and back

Elevation changes: 90 feet

The drive to the Hantwick trailhead takes you off the busy road and railroad track that run along the park by the other entrances. It takes a pleasant windy road back across the Lewis River and the tracks. You end up in a large parking lot that is above the trail. Walk down the nicely kept paved track into the park, where you will briefly follow the railroad tracks, pass a pretty pond, and eventually come to the river.

You do have to walk back up to the parking lot at the end of the hike, but it is a gentle climb. This end of the park offers views of the river and the houses across the river from the park. If you follow the path to the other end of the park, there is water access.

If you go all the way to the end of the park by the main road and cross the highway, you will see some beautiful falls.

How to get there

From Yacolt

Drive south on NE Railroad Avenue. Just after the junction of Sunset Falls Road, the road curves ninety degrees and becomes NE Lucia Falls Road. Follow the road past the other entrances to Moulton Park. About a mile down the road, you will come to NE Hantwick Road on your left. It is a hairpin turn. Take Hantwick Road down across the river. Just after it crosses the railroad track, the parking lot for the trailhead is on your 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. Just after you pass Lucia Falls, you will see NE Hantwick Road on your right. Take Hantwick Road down across the river. Just after it crosses the railroad track, the parking lot for the trailhead is on your left.

Parking and Amenities

There is a large parking lot at the trailhead and a porta-potty. At the other end of the park is a restroom facility. There are picnic tables throughout the park with a nice one at the Hantwick end of the trail. Technically, you’re not supposed to go swimming in the park, but there is access to the river at the other end of the trail, and people do go swimming.

 

A notorious park but an easy hike

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

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

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

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

Moulton Falls Trail

Moulton Falls Regional Park near Yacolt, Washington

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

Rating: Easy

Panting stops: 0-1

Length: 5.3 miles out and back

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

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

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

How to get there

From Yacolt

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

From Battle Ground or Vancouver

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

Parking and Amenities

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

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

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