Familiar trail, unfamiliar hike

Unfortunately, this is the edge of a logged area, so the foreground isn’t pretty, but the view is nice.

On Sunday, my family and I went on a leg of the Tarbell Trail further than we have gone before. I haven’t done much hiking the past nine months, ever since I got plantar fasciitis last summer, so this one was a tough one for me, because I was out of shape. It was mostly downhill at a gentle slope, through logged areas, wooded areas with some old forest and some newly planted forest, and meadows, and across several streams. We put cars at both ends of the hike and started at the Tarbell trailhead. Then we hiked down to the trailhead at the Rock Creek Horse Camp.

It was a beautiful day to be out, and we had a good time, even though I was so out of shape that I was very tired by the end of the hike. We only encountered three other people on the trail.

Tarbell Trail to Rock Creek Horse Camp

Yacolt Burn State Forest, Yacolt, WA

Distance: about three miles

Difficulty: moderate

Panting stops: 2 or 3

Elevation changes: about 1000 feet (150 feet up and the rest down)

Here’s Luke on the trail.

We have been on the Tarbell Trail before and even gone partway in this direction, but this time, we parked one car down in the Rock Creek Horse Camp and then drove up to the Tarbell trailhead. This allowed us about a three-mile hike of not too much difficulty, because it went downhill most of the way (up 150 feet at the beginning and then back down) at a nice, easy grade.

There is a short walk up from the trailhead to where the Tarbell divides one way to Rock Creek and the other way to Hidden Falls. However, we know that when you take the path to Rock Creek you come out very shortly on the road that the trailhead is on, so this time we just walked up the road, around the yellow gate, and came upon the trailhead on the right just a little way up the road.

At first, the trail traverses wide logged areas, so you have a view but the close-up landscape is ugly. However, it’s not too long before it reaches the first wooded area. From then on, it is mostly forested, sometimes with older growth and other times with newly planted trees. At one point, we estimated the trees at three years old and at another point at ten, so this area is constantly being logged and replanted.

Here is the final bridge over Rock Creek just before the trailhead.

There are a few uphill treks before reaching the highest elevation at 2000 feet, but none of them are difficult. Then the trail winds downhill for most of the way. It crosses several streams, all bridged. The path was sometimes muddy at this time of the year, but it wasn’t deep or sloppy. The makeup of the path is mostly dirt with some rocks in it, but sometimes it becomes a pleasant forest duff. Toward the Rock Creek End, the mountain bikers had cut it to quite a trench, which I personally found hard to walk on, but that stretch is only for a while.

The trail crosses several logging roads. For the most part, the trail is easy to pick up, but each time that it wasn’t directly across from us, it was down a way to the left.

The large bridge over Rock Creek is the indication that you are almost back to the trailhead and parking lot.

Although the footing was occasionally difficult either due to rocks or the trench that the bikers cut into the path, for the most part this is hike is only rated moderate because of the distance and the shape I was in when I took it. I definitely felt it the next day.

How to get to the Rock Creek Campground

From Yacolt

The first thing we did was drive to the Rock Creek Horse Camp to leave a car. Head south on SE Railroad Avenue. Just where the road is about to bend to the right is NE Sunset Falls Road on your left. Turn left. About two miles down, turn right on NE Dole Valley Road. There is an arrow on the left marking the road. Take Dole Valley road for almost ten miles. You will go over a one-lane bridge. Right before your turn, you see a sign that says the county road is ending. Then there is a sign for Rock Creek Campground. Turn left. Follow the road inside the campground to the right (it is one-way) until you get to the little parking area that marks the trailhead.

How to get to the Tarbell Trailhead

From Rock Creek Campground

Follow the road back around and out of the campground. Turn right onto Dole Valley Road. Go back up Dole Valley, over the one-lane bridge for about 2.4 miles, when you will go straight onto L-1100. This is an unpaved road in the State Forest. Take the L-1100 for 2.2 miles, and then turn right onto L-1210. The trailhead is visible from the L-1100 as you approach.

Parking and facilities

At Rock Creek Campground there is parking for four cars, and there is a restroom. Otherwise, there are camping facilities for horse campers and a few for people without horses. At the Tarbell trailhead, there is parking for up to six cars, a pit toilet, and a picnic table. Just a bit up the trail there are a few secluded areas with more picnic tables. The trail is for people, bikes, and horses, but no motorized vehicles are allowed. Dogs are supposed to be on a leash, although mine wasn’t.

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.