A different hike in Whipple Creek Park

A glimpse of the nicely forested 45th Parallel trail. As you can see, the trail is a narrow dirt one. However, we found it nicely maintained.

This week, my friends and I returned to Whipple Creek, where, instead of just staying on the main loop or Stone Mill Loop trails, we hiked, in addition, one of the secondary maintained trails. These trails are not always open and during some seasons are only open to hikers, so be sure to pay attention to the notices in the park for when to walk them.

For this hike, we departed from the main trail at Carousel Hill to walk the 45th Parallel trail. We missed its start near a picnic area, but were able to find it later. We walked that trail all the way until it intersected with the Stone Mill Loop.

North Ridge Way, 45th Parallel, and Stone Mill Loop

Whipple Creek Regional Park, Ridgefield, Washington

Distance: 4 miles

Difficulty: Easy

Panting stops: two to three

Elevation changes: 216 feet

My friend Shawn and I on the 45th parallel trail. Sneakily taken by Nancy.

As I have written before, Whipple Creek Park is a beautiful park within a stone’s throw of the Salmon Creek area of Vancouver. It is heavily wooded, lightly trafficked (at least during the week), has some varied terrain, and you are likely to meet up with one or more groups of horses. We always enjoy that park.

As usual when we go to this park, we came in at the north entrance, off 21st Avenue. This time, we took North Ridge Way from the North-South Connector with the idea that once we cut over to the South Ridge Loop from Carousel Hill, we would find the start of the 45th Parallel Trail. We missed it. It must have been at the back of the meadow with the picnic area, but we cut over once we came to the Burl Cutoff.

The path is a dirt trail, narrow at times, but it makes a straight cut across the park along the 45th parallel instead of winding around like the other trails do. It is also relatively flat compared to the other paths, so more easy. The woods are denser here. All in all, it makes a pretty walk.

We came out at the Stone Mill Loop and continued that trail around to the North-South Connector and back to the parking lot. That was the most difficult part of our hike besides the long climb on the North-South Connector on the way back to the parking lot.

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 right 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. 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 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 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.

 

Meadows, birds, and other wildlife

The entrance to the Kiwa Trail off the auto tour route

The Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge offers an easy loop trail through woodlands and meadows that are filled with wildlife. The trail itself can only be used from May to September, as it is closed during the times of the largest bird migrations. Before it is opened and after it is closed, in the spring and fall, you can take the CD-guided auto tour route (pick up the CD at the park entrance kiosk) and see thousands of water birds. We attempted this trail twice, once before it opened up and one time in the summer when it was closed because of a cougar sighting. We finally got a chance to enjoy it.

Kiwa Trail

Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, Ridgefield, Washington

Rating: easy peasy

Panting stops: 0

Distance: 1.5 miles

Elevation changes: 3 feet

The bridge takes you from the woodlands to the meadows.

To get to the Kiwa trail, you drive into the wildlife refuge, stop at the park entrance to pay a small fee ($3), and follow the auto tour loop. You will come to a short hiking loop with a few parking places and a porta-potty on the left. The trail is actually just a bit farther down the road on the right. You can’t miss it. There is a big sign (shown above).

The trail takes you through some woodlands into a marsh that is full of wildlife. At the entrance to the trail are a few canals that may have ducks. Further in, we saw herriers, herons, egrets, a deer, and lots of field birds. The trail goes through a wooded area, across a bridge, and then around a large meadow. The path is well kept, cinder at the beginning and slightly elevated and covered with spongy ground cover when you enter the meadow and marsh.

On the auto road, we saw a nutria and a mink crossing the road at different points, and we saw nutria and ducks swimming in the waterways we passed. The refuge is a major stopover during migration seasons for all kinds of water birds and in the fall for sandhill cranes.

What we thought was going to be a cold, dismal day turned out bright and sunny. Much of this hike is in the open, so bring a hat!

A heron up the trail

How to get there

From Vancouver or Portland

Drive north on I-5. Take the exit for Ridgefield, WA-501/NW 269th Street/Pioneer Street. Turn left on Pioneer Street. Continue on Pioneer Street through all the traffic circles. Turn left onto S. 9th Avenue. This road becomes S. Hillhurst Road. Turn right at the entrance to the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge and drive into the park. Cross the one-lane bridge and turn right onto NW Tour Route Road after paying at the park entrance. Follow the auto tour route until you see the sign for the trail on your right.

From Battle Ground

Take WA-502 west from Battle Ground. Turn right on NE 10th Avenue. Turn left onto NE Carty Road. Turn right on NW Hillhurst Road. About a quarter of a mile up the road, you will see the entrance to the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge on your left. Turn left and drive into the park. Cross the one-lane bridge and turn right onto NW Tour Route Road after paying at the park entrance. Follow the auto tour route until you see the sign for the trail on your right.

Parking and Facilities

At the entrance to the wildlife refuge is a pit toilet. At the entrance to the trail, there is parking for about five cars.

 

A hidden forest

Whipple Creek Park is surprisingly near the suburban Salmon Creek area of Vancouver, but you would never know it once you step into the beautiful mixed forest of cedar, big leaf maple, and fir. The park offers 4.3 miles of trails. The well-kept gravel trails are open all year to all users—hikers, mountain bikers, and horses—and the primitive dirt trails are open during the summer to all users and the rest of the year to hikers only. Dogs are allowed on leash.

Whipple Creek Park Loop Trail

Some of the riders we encountered on the trail.

Rating: Middling, generally easy but with some short steep sections

Panting stops: 2-3

Distance: 2.1 miles

Elevation changes: 190 feet

The park loop trail presents a series of loops through a lovely forest that skirts a deep valley down to the creek. There are three entrances to the park. We came in at the north side, where there is parking for cars and horse trailers and a mounting block for riders.

My great niece and nephew try out a tree.

The trail is well marked with maps at each junction. We took the North-South trail to North Ridge Way, around the Cedar Loop. At Carousel Hill, we cut down to the South Ridge Loop and came back on the North-South trail. We did not walk the Stone Mill Loop, because on the hot day we were there, it started to get very muggy.

During the hike, we had a nice time identifying plants and encountered several parties of horses, as well as two of bikers and two of other hikers with dogs on leashes. Most of the time we were alone on the trail.

How to get there

Whipple Creek Regional Park, Ridgefield, Washington

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. There is a porta-potty at that entrance as well as mounting blocks for the riders.