A revisit to Salmon Creek Park

The first time I visited Salmon Creek Park, I wasn’t impressed. The first part of our walk was very urban, and it was so humid that day, despite being cold, that we weren’t enjoying our hike, so turned around. However, Maja and I decided to take my dog Luke to revisit the park this fall, and we took a side trail up to Cougar Creek. During this hike, we got farther into the park so saw more of its wilder side. There were lots of migrating birds, and by Cougar Creek, it was wooded rather than meadowy.

Salmon Creek Trail to Cougar Creek

Salmon Creek Park, Vancouver, WA

Distance: about four miles

Difficulty: Easy

Panting stops: 0

Elevation changes: 30 feet

We parked again at the first parking lot for the park and started down the trail. This time we made it further in past the Turtle Pond, where we saw turtles and lots of ducks as well as a Great Blue Heron. We saw ducks walking along the trail and geese flying overhead on this fall walk.

The trail is paved most of the way and is very popular. We saw lots of walkers, runners, bikers, and people with dogs. If you are going in the summer, there is also a really nice swimming hole near the first parking lot. Dogs are not allowed in there, however, so I have never seen all of it.

Cougar Creek runs along at the bottom of the gorge. You can just barely see it in the photo. In the center of the photo, there is a small waterfall.

The path goes past the softball fields and then into a meadowland. Despite the low temperatures, we got a little warm. Then we entered a wooded area, and people recommended we try the short trail up Cougar Creek. It is much more wooded there, and there is a little bit of a climb instead of it being completely flat, but it is not much of one. We ran up in a gorge that had homes at the top of it but still seemed very wild, and Cougar Creek ran picturesquely down at the bottom.

The side path to Cougar Creek is narrower and graveled but still very well kept.

How to get there

From Vancouver or Portland

From I-5, I-205 or Highway 99, go west on NE 139th Street until you reach NW 36th Avenue. Turn left and cross the Felida Bridge. The trailhead will be on the left side of the road.

From Battle Ground

Take WA 502 (Main Street) west from town. Turn left on NE 72nd Avenue. Go about five miles and turn right on NE 119th Avenue. Follow this road (it changes to NE 117th Street and then to NE 119th Street) until you pass under the I-5 and I-205 underpasses. Shortly after you go under the underpasses, you will see the park entrance on your right.

Parking and Facilities

There is lots of parking at the park. There are also a swimming hole with lifeguards, restrooms, and benches. The park has restrooms, softball fields, picnic tables and shelters, barbecue grills, and lots of benches. The entire trail is wheelchair accessible. Dogs are allowed on a leash except over by the pool. A parking fee or a regional pass is required.

A bit too urban

Turtles and a surprising duck on a platform sunning in the Turtle Pond. Photo courtesy of Autumn

Salmon Creek Park is a great place for its urban neighbors. It has a large swimming hole, a softball facility, and a three-mile hiking trail. We took that trail on our last hike. It’s wide, paved throughout. It runs next to a turtle pond, but although the map shows it running alongside Salmon Creek, at least on the part we were on, the creek was not evident without turning off the path and taking one of the small offshoots.

It was a muggy day and felt unpleasant, even though it was not hot. We ended up only going about three miles rather than the full five miles.

Salmon Creek Trail

Salmon Creek Park, Vancouver, Washington

Distance: about five miles

Difficulty: Easy peasy

Panting stops: 0

Elevation changes: 30 feet

The trail running next to the turtle pond approaching the wooded area. Briefly there was only one other person ahead of us.

This paved path is heavily used. The day we were there, we saw many walkers, joggers, runners, and bikers. Lots of people had their dogs.

We saw at least three different parking lots on our way in, so the park is ready to accommodate many people. The park is very urban until we passed the softball venue. Then the trail enters a wooded area that is much more pleasant. On another day, we might have been tempted to walk the entire trail, but it was muggy, and since we are spoiled by hiking more in rural areas, we decided to turn back. I am sure the residents near this park find it a godsend. It was a bit too urban for us.

How to get there

From Vancouver or Portland

From I-5, I-205 or Highway 99, go west on NE 139th Street until you reach NW 36th Avenue. Turn left and cross the Felida Bridge. The trailhead will be on the left side of the road.

From Battle Ground

Take WA 502 (Main Street) west from town. Turn left on NE 72nd Avenue. Go about five miles and turn right on NE 119th Avenue. Follow this road (it changes to NE 117th Street and then to NE 119th Street) until you pass under the I-5 and I-205 underpasses. Shortly after you go under the underpasses, you will see the park entrance on your right.

Parking and Facilities

There is lots of parking at the park. There are also a swimming hole with lifeguards, restrooms, and benches. The entire trail is wheelchair accessible. Dogs are allowed on a leash. The WTA page on this trail reported a parking fee being required. We were there in July on a Wednesday and saw no indication that a fee was required, so perhaps it is only on weekends.