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.

On the Columbia again

Up along the path to the beaches, we saw a paddle wheeler on the Columbia.

This week we discovered a delightful park wedged between the Columbia River and Vancouver Lake. The park has a bit more than 2.5 miles of trails itself, or you can hike across to Vancouver Lake Park. We did a little of both, although it was a hot day and the trail to the other park was completely in sunlight, so we didn’t hike as far as we intended.

Frenchman’s Bar Trail

Frenchman’s Bar Regional Park, Vancouver, Washington

Distance: nearly 4 miles one way if you walk all the way to Vancouver Lake Park and to the end of the trail; if you stay in the park, about 2.5 miles one-way

Difficulty: easy peasy

Panting stops: 0

Elevation changes: minimal

Here is a glimpse of one of the minor trails that ends up at one of the beaches. The main trail is paved.

This park offers well-kept paved or gravel trails with very little change in elevation. Because the hike isn’t on AllTrails, I was unable to find information about elevation changes, but the part we walked only had one very small rise, and that was off the main trail.

We arrived and parked in the first parking lot. That may have been a mistake, because we had lots of difficulty figuring out where we we were. The only map we saw was next to the main parking lot. Although we intended to take the trail over to Vancouver park, we ended up hiking up the Columbia River along the beaches and then briefly coming back along  a dead-end trail. Once we figured out where the main trail was (indicated by blue arrows on the pavement but only when you get as far as the main parking lot), it was much hotter and we only walked a short way toward the lake. Maps in several areas of the park would have helped us out a lot.

That being said, we saw some wildlife along the river, and from a distance we spotted the nest of a large bird, possibly ospreys or eagles. I took a picture, but it didn’t come out at all. Even zoomed in, you can’t tell you are looking at birds.

During the weekday, the park was only sparsely attended. It has many beaches and a playground, picnic areas, and we saw people picking blackberries.

How to get there

From Vancouver or Portland

From I-5 in Vancouver, take exit 1D onto 4th Plain Blvd. Head west 1.5 miles, then merge right to stay on 4th Plain. Fourth Plain branches to the right, and shortly after that, it turns into NW River Road. Follow the signs to the park entrance.

From Battle Ground

Take WA 502 to I-5 and turn south. Take exit 1D onto 4th Plain Blvd. Head west 1.5 miles, then merge right to stay on 4th Plain. Fourth Plain branches to the right, and shortly after that, it turns into NW River Road. Follow the signs to the park entrance.

Parking and Facilities

The park has two large parking lots. It also has two sets of restrooms, many picnic areas, including shelters, several beaches, beach volleyball courts, fishing areas, and a playscape. A fee of $3 is required unless you have a regional annual parking pass, which is good for four of the regional parks in Clark County.

 

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.

Beautiful walk by the water

Because of time constraints, I only hiked a little bit of the Columbia River Renaissance Trail, but it was enough to know what the entire trail was like. It is a smooth, paved trail that runs along the Vancouver waterfront from Esther Shore Park to Wintler Park. Right now, some construction prevents you from walking along the water all the way, but there are parallel trails that you can cut over to when you encounter roadblocks.

This trail features a series of signs, pointing out historical locations. It has beautiful views of bridges to Portland over the Columbia and Mt. Hood.

Columbia River Renaissance Trail

Esther Short Park, Vancouver, Washington

Difficulty: Easy peasy

Panting stops: 0

Distance: Five miles

Elevation changes: minimal

The cantilevered pier over the water

We started the trail not at one of the parks but in front if a small group of shops and the Twigs restaurant. Behind the restaurant is a cantilevered pier that hangs out above the water.

This trail features a paved path that is suitable for walking, running, biking, or rollerblading, and we saw many people with their dogs.

We also got some really nice views of Mt. Hood, although the pictures did not come out very well.

How to get there

From Portland, Oregon

Take I-5 North across the river and take Exit 1A WA 14 East toward Camas. Take exit 1 towards Fort Vancouver National Site. Keep right at the fork. Go straight onto Southeast Columbia Shores Boulevard. Turn right onto Southeast Spinaker Way. Turn right onto Southeast Cutter Lane. Turn into the park.

From Vancouver, WA

Going south on I-5, take Exit 1A WA 14 East toward Camas. Take exit 1 towards Fort Vancouver National Site. Keep right at the fork. Go straight onto Southeast Columbia Shores Boulevard. Turn right onto Southeast Spinaker Way. Turn right onto Southeast Cutter Lane. Turn into the park.

Going south on I-205, take the exit for WA14 West toward Downtown Vancouver. Exit to Southeast Columbia Way. Turn left onto Southeast Spinaker Way. Turn right onto Southeast Cutter Lane. Turn into the park.

Parking and Amenities

There is a large parking lot in the park. Other amenities are playscapes, boat launches, picnic areas, restrooms, and an amphitheatre, and there are shops and restaurants nearby .

Convoluted trails on a beautiful campus

A boardwalk area of the path becomes wood chips at the end.

On the Vancouver campus of Washington State University is a complex of walking and hiking trails. These trails go through a  heritage garden, where seeds from old farms have been planted to maintain the heirloom plants, lush woods with creeks, and a pretty campus area, depending upon the trails you pick.

The trails are poorly marked, however. For some reason, no one bothered to place on the occasional trail maps the You Are Here mark, rendering them almost useless (except on one occasion where a hiker penciled it in). To make matters worse, the maps are oriented with the West to the top of the map. We attempted to take the blue loop but ended up taking the yellow one when we realized where we were and that the blue loop was almost all campus and unshaded. It was a hot, sunny day, and we wanted to stay in the shade.

Cougar Trails Loop

Rating: Easy

Panting Dog from AnimateIt.netPanting stops: 1-2

Distance: 1.3 miles to 6 miles, depending upon which loops you take

Elevation changes: 242 feet

A glimpse of Mill Creek from the path

This path is varied. We started on a neat wood-chip path, but at times it became a boardwalk and at other times a sidewalk. Most of the time it is wide enough for two people to walk abreast, and there are only a few ups and downs.

We parked near the WSU barn and started our hike hear the Heritage Garden and walked along the edge of it. We encountered quite a few hikers, including a few with leashed dogs, but the area was not crowded. At one point, a hiker warned us that a coyote was ahead of us on the path, and we saw him at a distance.

The path goes over and around Mill Creek, up towards and around the campus and back into the Mill Creek Riparian Interpretive Trail.

How to get there

From Vancouver

Take I-205 to the NE 134th Street exit. Turn east on NE 134th, which becomes NE Salmon Creek Avenue. There are several entrances to the trails from around the campus. You can take the WSU Entrance Road to park on campus or park in several places just off campus.

From Battle Ground

Take Washington 502 west from Battle Ground. Turn left on NE 50th Avenue, and drive about 14 miles south. The entrance to WSU is on your right just before NE Salmon Creek Avenue.

Parking

We parked near the WSU barn on NE Salmon Creek Avenue, where there is a pull-off for three or four cars. There is also a parking place for a few cars on NE 50th Avenue.