Back to Lacamas Park

Round Lake is one of the two lakes that intersect at Lacamas Park.

Our latest hike was quite a bit more difficult. Although we have hiked several times in Lacamas Park since I first wrote it up, we have never before tried the Camas Loop. This loop provides access to camas lilies in spring and is a side trail in the park. Unfortunately, I neglected to take pictures of the new loop so am going to have to make do with pictures from our previous hikes at Lacamas.

Round Lake and Camas Loop trails

Lacamas Park, Camas, Washington

Difficulty: tougher

Panting stops: 7 to 10

Distance: about 2.5 miles (more than 3 if we had followed our original plan

Elevation changes: 374 feet

Here’s what the path looks like around Round Lake.

As I mentioned in my previous post on this park, most of the hiking sites rate the paths in this park as easy, but I rated them as more difficult because they were certainly tough for me. The Round Lake trail, with which you begin this hike, is certainly easy, a nice, wide, well-kept trail that circles the lake with just a few changes in elevation.

Once you cross over the dam, bypass the first path to the right, which goes to Pothole Falls, and take the Lower Falls trail to the right. We didn’t stay on that for long, though, just long enough to cross over to a continuation of the main path, which is the next path on the left. (Unfortunately, the paths on the map are not all named, and the map appears only sporadically within the park, which can lead to confusion.) This path stays fairly level and wide as it crosses a good deal of the park.

We took the second entrance to the Camas Loop trail with the idea of looping around counterclockwise and then taking the Round Lake trail back. Although the entire loop trail is only 0.7 miles long, the terrain got considerably rougher almost immediately. This trail is a narrow one that goes steadily upward until you reach some rugged rock outcrops that you have to walk up. These are a little difficult, and we saw that the site had become a popular mountain biking trail, except one or two of the riders we saw had to walk their bikes down this outcrop.

The trail is less difficult for a while, but it continues steadily upward until you find yourself high above the main trail, with a view of it below. We encountered trails branching off in quite a few places, including one that directed us into the lily fields, but since it was not lily season, we continued on what seemed like the main loop. What goes up must come down, however, and that is the part I found most difficult. At one part, because I brought my dog and hence only one of my hiking poles, my hiking partner had to give me one of her poles and I had to let go of the dog and carefully step down, each step at her direction. I am not an accomplished hiker, so this part felt more like rock climbing. Finally, we took what looked like a short cut down the hill to the main trail, and this was steep.

When we arrived back at the main trail, we encountered another walker, who told us that the way to our right was a lot shorter and we could use it to get more quickly to our cars, because I, at least, probably looked exhausted, and I was soaking in sweat from the effort, even though it was not a hot day. To the left on the main path there was an immediate hill, and we knew it was a mile or two back that way, so we went right and ended up coming out of the park after a short distance and a small hill, walking along the street and around the corner, and taking the bridge back to the parking lot. I would like to see the lilies sometime but not until I am in better shape!

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 and porta-potties at the entrance, a playscape, picnic tables, and small beaches, as well as many benches along the main path.

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.

I tackle the rock

Beacon Rock from the bottom. Here are Autumn and her mother Jules. This photo does not convey how intimidating it looks.

Those who have hiked with me know that I don’t like up, that is, not sustained, steep up. I feel like I don’t get a break from it if there is no flatness or at least less steep switchbacks. So, when Autumn suggested Beacon Rock, I wasn’t so sure how much I wanted to do it. It is a tall outcrop wedged between WA-14 and the Columbia River. Last year, when we attempted to hike a couple of miles up Hamilton Mountain, I saw it and was fairly sure I wasn’t ready for it. I thought I wrote an article about that hike, but all I did was mention it in my first post.

However, this week I decided to give it a try. It is a daunting prospect when you first see it, at least for people who aren’t in great shape, but the trails are all switchbacks with a short set of steps at the very top. It was rough on my knees and legs for such a short hike, but he views of the Columbia are worth the effort. I made it all the way up!

Beacon Rock Trail

Beacon Rock State Park, Stevenson, Washington

Distance: 1.8 miles out and back

Difficulty: Tougher

Panting stops: Too many to count, especially toward the top

Elevation changes: 680 feet

It was an overcast day when we started up the rock, but it cleared up nicely for the gorgeous views.

This trail is rated moderate on all the hiking sites, but I would rate it tougher. Although it has a few level areas, most of it is up, although on more gentle slopes because of the switchbacks. It is not a long hike, but my legs were feeling it by the time we got back down.

The path is stone or gravel with some short paved portions and some wooden bridges to cross. My friend Autumn has a fear of heights and had great difficulty crossing the bridges the first time. This time, she sometimes had to get her courage up, but she has been up several times since that first time. In a few areas, the stone on the path is loose, but most of the way it is rugged but not loose. Most of the stairs on the final flight have very high rises. So, uphill my hiking sticks were a necessity. Downhill, because almost all of the trail has guardrails, I didn’t usually need my sticks except for high steps or exceptional ruggedness. I would guess that the moderate rating on most sites is because of the ruggedness of some of the footing.

We left for our hike earlier than usual so that we could get well up the rock before it got too hot. Nevertheless, we were quite warm by the time we got to the top, even though it was probably only about 80 degrees there. Toward the top of the trail there is a lot of shade, and at one spot we came around a corner into a lovely cool breeze.

The trail has many gorgeous views of the Columbia River. If you feel you can handle the elevation change in such a short distance, it is worth it. There is no accommodation on this trail for people needing wheelchairs.

How to get there

From Portland

Take I-205 north into Washington. Almost as soon as you get to the mainland, take WA-14 east toward Camas. The park is on WA-14 about 28 miles along. There is more than one entrance to the park, but parking for this trail is best right next to the rock. Bypass the first entrance to the park. Just after you pass a ranger station on the left, you will see the rock on the right. Parking  is on the right just beyond it.

From Vancouver

Take WA-14 exit east toward Camas. The park is on WA-14 about 28 miles along. There is more than one entrance to the park, but parking for this trail is best right next to the rock. Bypass the first entrance to the park. Just after you pass a ranger station on the left, you will see the rock on the right. Parking  is on the right just beyond it.

Parking and Facilities

The lot next to the trailhead has parking for about 20 vehicles. There is also parking across the highway next to the ranger station. The park also has restrooms near the trailhead. Rock climbing is allowed on the face of the rock away from the hiking trail. The state park has five other trails, as well as campgrounds, picnic and day use facilities, and fresh water fishing, docks, and a boat launch. Dogs are allowed on the trail, and bikes and horses are allowed in the park but not on this trail. Most of the park’s facilities are available from other entrances to the park, not the one near the Beacon Rock trailhead.

A spectacular bay

If you look along the trail, past the dog, you can just barely see a set of steps.

Remember that a few weeks ago I learned the rule, never forget your sticks? Well, I guess I’m a slow learner. I had them in the car when we went to Second Beach in La Push (not to be confused with Beach 2 farther south on the Olympic Peninsula), but my brother and sister-in-law said that the beach was on a boardwalk. What they meant was that the path has some steps created with boards. It was a steep descent, which meant I had to come back up, but more was in store for me than that.

When you get there, however, it is absolutely spectacular. Camping is allowed on the beach, but this is a leave no trace area.

Second Beach Trail

Rating: Tougher

Panting stops: 5-7

Distance: 4 miles, out and back

Elevation changes: 310 feet

Some of the rock formations at Second Beach. My niece is on top of the rock.–Picture credit, Steve Schimmelman

You’ll be too far from the beach to hear the surf when you first get to Second Beach. The parking lot is extensive and runs along the road. The opening to the trailhead is unprepossessing. Walk up to the chain link fence and the porta-potty to find it.

The trail goes up a small rise. It is a good path, with steps inset into it where needed. Once you get over the rise, you encounter a set of switchbacks that go down to the beach. Notice the “keepsake” tree towards the end of the trail, where people have left little tokens.

At the bottom of the trail, we encountered the part that, for me, was more challenging than the return trail up the hill. The beach is blocked by about a hundred feet of huge downed trees that fell into the water and were brought up by the waves and pushed into the back of the beach in stormy weather. There is no trail around these trees. You have to climb over them to get in and out. I did this with the help of my brother on the way in and two brothers and a sister-in-law on the way out, looking for the best path, giving me a hand and moral support. So, bring your sticks! If you have a walking disability, you may not be able to reach the sandy beach.

The beach itself is marvelous. The coast is dotted with haystack rock formations and other geological formations. Don’t miss this one if you feel you can handle the trees and the return walk.

How to get there

Quilete Reservation, La Push, Washington

From Forks

Drive north on US 101 to US 110. Turn west on US 110 and drive 12.5 miles to the trailhead, where the road ends.

Parking and facilities

There is lots of parking at Second Beach, a lot and and an overflow lot. There are also a porta-potty at the trail head and an outhouse near the beach. Camping is allowed but dogs are not, and it is a leave no trace area.


Water, water everywhere but not for me

On a hot Saturday afternoon, my family and I went for a hike at the Lewis River with the payoff of a gorgeous waterfall and a beautiful blue swimming hole. Negatives to this hike are the descent to the swimming hole and on that day, the crowds.

Lower Falls Trail

Rating: Easy if you just want to view the falls; tougher to difficult to get to the swimming hole

Panting stops: 0 (but I did not go down the last bit to the water)

Distance: 3 miles out and back

Elevation changes: 659 feet

The path to lower falls, briefly without people

From the parking lot, the well-travelled path ascends gently before heading down to the river and the falls. The view of the waterfall is impressive, and the swimming hole just below it looks lovely on a hot day. The swimming hole has stone ledges immersed in a couple of inches of water, allowing those who don’t want to swim to enjoy the water.

Lower Falls

To get to the swimming hole, hike further down the path, where you will find a couple of descents to the river. However, I found that the climb down a cliff to get to the swimming hole was too steep. I was mostly worried about getting back up, so I did not try to go down. Instead, my niece and I walked further down the trail and eventually found access to the water down just a slight slope. It was well below the swimming hole, however, with no good way to get back up to it. The water was shallow there and rocky, so bring your swimming shoes.

Also, on that particular day, it was crammed with people, which we found surprising for such a remote area. You had to wait in line to go down to the water, and people were trying to climb up and down at the same narrow spot. It’s steep enough that the climb up involves using tree roots as a ladder. When we left, more people were arriving with rolling coolers, boom boxes, and umbrellas. So, not a quiet retreat from everyday cares. We actually encountered a traffic jam in this remote area when we were leaving.

Later: We found out after we returned home that this particular falls had been featured on the cover of a Portland magazine and in an article about alternatives to the Gorge, since many trails there are closed because of fires and damage from last year’s fires.

How to get there

Gifford Pinchot National Forest, Mount Adams Ranger District

From Vancouver

Take Washington 503 north past Cougar. It becomes Lewis River Road and then NF-90. A mile or so before you get to the falls, you will encounter a wash where some cars were getting stuck on their way out. You will turn right off NF-90 into the Lower Falls Recreation Area. After that, you’ll see the entrance to the parking area on your right. On the day we were there, the parking lot was full and people were parked way down the road. We were lucky enough to get a spot in the lot anyway.

Parking and facilities

There is a large parking area by the falls. Nearby there is also a campground. There are also a pit restroom and some picnic tables at the trailhead.