Category Archives: Washington

Steigerwald National Wildlife Refuge (Summer 2018)

Directions: Take I-205 North to exit 27. Merge onto Highway 14 east and follow it for about 12 miles. Take a right at the sign for Steigerwald National Wildlife Refuge.

This is one of our favorite places to go to watch birds and get some quick exercise. We try to get out here multiple times a year and it never disappoints.

      

Get on the gravel trail next to the bathroom and follow it past an open grassy marsh area. You may see a few ducks or geese in the water, we saw a young vole along the grass here on this visit which was a first for us!

      

Next enter a small wooded area and follow the path as you pass along another marsh area to your right and come to a split in the trail. We went through the gate to the left (closed Oct-Apr) and followed the trail as it wound back around to the end of refuge and onto the bike trail. Go right here and pass the Purple Martin houses, following the bike trail for a while until you see a trail off to the right that takes you back into the refuge.

      

Next you’ll come to a bridge over Redtail lake. We saw blue-winged teals, mallards, great blue herons, and bullfrogs. After crossing the bridge follow the trail to another bridge and you’ll be back to the seasonal junction. From here you can head back out the way you came in.

      

Distance: 3 miles (easy)

Elevation: Minimal (easy)

Pet Friendly: No- dogs are not allowed in the refuge

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: Yes

Parking Fee: None

Seasons: All- some parts of the refuge are closed Oct-Apr.

Popular: Yes

Warnings: None

Beacon Rock (Summer 2018)

Directions: Take I-84 to Cascade Locks and take the Bridge Of The Gods ($2 toll) . Take a left on to Highway 14 and drive about 5 miles to the trailhead on the left side of the road.

From the parking area get on the dirt trail that winds through the woods for a short distance, until you hit a cement path that switches back once and takes you to the entrance gate for Beacon Rock.

      

From here the trail is mostly cement and boardwalk footbridges. There are 51 switchbacks that take you up to the top, they vary in length but most are short. There are numerous viewpoints that give you great views out to the Gorge and Columbia River. You also get good views of the burn area from last years Eagle Creek Fire.

      

Once the trail switches to a dirt/gravel mixture you know you are almost to the top. It’s quite a small area at the top with room for only about a hand full of people. Head back out the way you came in.

      

Don’t let the weather stop you from doing this hike. Yes a clear day is great for the views but we’ve been here on a very foggy and drizzly day and it was very pretty!

Distance: 2 miles (easy)

Elevation: 700 feet (moderate)

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: Yes at the parking area

Parking Fee: Washington Discovery Pass

Seasons: All

Popular: Very

Warnings: None

Falls Creek Falls (Summer 2018)

Directions: Take I-84 East to exit 44 (Cascade Locks). Cross the Bridge Of The Gods ($2 toll) and take a right towards Stevenson. Drive for about 6 miles on Highway 14 and take a left on a road signed for Carson (Wind River Road). Take Wind River Road for a little over 14 miles and stay right at the fork in the road. About a half mile later take a right onto FR 3062 for Falls Creek Falls. Follow the dirt road for a little over 2 miles to the trailhead (there are signs for Falls Creek Trails). Be aware that the dirt road is full of potholes and makes for a pretty bumpy couple of miles.

From the trailhead you start heading uphill gradually on a wide well maintained path with the creek off to your left. You will soon reach a suspension bridge that takes you across the creek and gives you a nice view of the narrow gorge. After crossing the bridge the creek will now be on your right as the trail stays fairly evenly graded for a bit. There are a few side trails that take you right to the creek.

      

The trail will start to gain elevation and gets fairly steep in areas. Cross another footbridge and not much farther you will start to hear the waterfall and see the upper tiers through the trees. You quickly head downhill and the trail ends right at the waterfall.

      

      

The waterfall is very large and leaves quite the impression! There are large rocks that make a nice place for lunch or to just sit and relax for a bit. Head back out the way you came in.

      

Distance: 4 miles (easy)

Elevation: 700 feet (moderate)

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: Most. The trail does get kind of steep in areas but we saw people of all ages on the trail.

Bathrooms: Yes at the parking area

Parking Fee: None

Seasons: Spring through Fall. Check for snow gate closures.

Popular: VERY. We would recommend going early on a week day.

Warnings: None

Three Corner Rock (Spring 2018)

Directions: Take I-84 to Cascade Locks and cross the Bridge Of The Gods ($2 toll). Take a right onto Hwy 14 and drive for a little over a half mile and take a right where it’s signed for Skamania Lodge. In .3 miles take a left onto Foster Creek Road. In about another mile take a left onto Red Bluff Road. Drive for about .6 miles (the road will turn to gravel) and keep right onto CG 2000. In just less than 2 miles take a left on CG 2000 at a junction. Follow the road for a little over 5.5 miles and go left at a junction with CG 2070. Drive another 2 miles and there is a 3 way junction, stay to the far left. The trailhead is about .3 miles on your right.

From the trailhead (make sure you start at the trailhead on the right side of the road) follow the trail as you steadily gain elevation. You will switchback three times as you climb the ridge. Avalanche lilies and vanilla leaf were in full bloom and there were even some lingering bleeding hearts left too. You will pass a short side trail that is somewhat overgrown and hard to pick out but it takes you to a great viewpoint of Mt. Adams.

      

      

At about the 1.5 mile mark you will come to a signed trail junction. Go right and follow the trail that is more evenly graded and will take you to an ATV road. Go right on the road (it’s not in great shape with large potholes and washouts, but it is still easy to walk on.) and follow it a short distance until you reach the top and see Three Corner Rock to your right.

      

      

Once at the top you will have amazing views of Mt. Hood, Mt. Jefferson, Mt. Adams, Mt. St. Helens, and Mt. Rainier! You will also be seeing Table Mountain, Dog Mountain, Wind Mountain and so much more! The beargrass was just starting to bloom but the paintbrush was in full bloom- it was beautiful. You can go all the way up Three Corner Rock (be cautious because the last little bit is kind of sketchy). Make sure you do this hike on a clear day, the 360 degree view is really what make this hike special. Head back out the way you came in.

      

      

Distance: 4 miles (easy)

Elevation: 950 feet (moderate/hard)

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: Most (may be too hard for young kids and older folks)

Bathrooms: None

Parking Fee: Washington Discover Pass

Seasons: Mid spring- Fall

Popular: No

Warnings: None

Strawberry Island (Spring 2018)

Directions: Take I-84 East to Cascade Locks and cross Bridge Of The Gods ($2 toll). Take a left onto Highway 14 and drive for about 2.5 miles. Take a left onto N Bonneville Drive and then a right onto W Cascade Drive. Take another left onto Portage Drive, Portage ends at a baseball field and parking area.

From the parking area get on the trail and go straight. You will head up a hill and get a nice view of the Columbia River and the Bonneville Dam. You will also get to see some of the wildfire damage across the river in the Moffett Creek area. Lots of brown and burned up trees, but there are still areas of green!

     

Continue following the trail down the other side of the hill and head right as you wind your way around the island. You will see Beacon Rock and Table Mountain as you make your way to a marshy area. We saw a few birds in this area but it was pretty hot so there wasn’t much wildlife out and about.

      

Continue on the Strawberry Loop trail as you hike next to an inlet of the Columbia and back to the parking area.

      

 

Distance: 3 miles (easy)

Elevation: 100 feet (easy)

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: None

Parking Fee: None

Seasons: All

Popular: No

Warnings: None

Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge- Carty Lake Hike (Spring 2018)

Directions: Take I-5 north to exit 14. Go left at the intersection after getting off the freeway. Follow the road for about 3 miles through downtown Ridgefield. Go right at an intersection with Main St and drive for about a mile until you see a sign for the Carty Unit of the Refuge. Follow the gravel road to the parking area.

From the parking area cross the bridge over the railroad tracks and follow the ramp down to the gravel trail. Follow the trail past the plankhouse and take a left at the trail junction.

      

      

The trail goes past duck lake and winds around as you go over a small footbridge. You’ll enter a treelined area and in the spring you can see a lot of birds in this area. We lucked out and briefly saw a Virginia Rail. Keep following the trail and you’ll see Carty Lake off to your left.

      

      

The trail continues and heads left, with the lake off to your left as well. The trail goes all the way to the end of the lake. Head back out the way you came in.

      

      

Since you already paid the entrance fee make sure you head to the ‘S’ Unit of the refuge a few miles away. You can take the driving tour where there is a LOT of wildlife to see.

      

Distance: 3 miles (easy)

Elevation: 60 feet (easy)

Pet Friendly: No dogs are not allowed in the preserve

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: Yes at the parking area

Parking Fee: $3 per car

Seasons: Carty Lake is open May-Sept

Popular: Yes on nice weekends

Warnings: None

Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge (Autumn)

Directions: Take I-5 north to exit 14. Go left at the intersection after getting off the freeway. Follow the road for about 3 miles through downtown Ridgefield. Go right at an intersection with Main St and drive for about a mile until you see a sign for the Carty Unit of the Refuge. Follow the gravel road to the parking area.

      

Take the path that follows the bridge over the train tracks and curves down into the refuge. Following the path as it passes a plank house you can take a left a follow the trail that takes you by Duck Lake and winds back in to where you’ll come to a seasonal closure.

      

      

Back at the plank house stay straight/right and follow the trail until you see a side trail with a hiker marker on your right. Take this path through the trees and eventually come to Boot Lake. You can’t walk around the lake so keep following the main trail as you gain a bit of elevation and get a look down into the marshy wetland area. Loop back around and down where you will be back on the main trail that takes you back past the plank house to your car.

      

      

We saw many geese, trumpeter swans, robins, flickers, hawks, and scrub jays.

      

Since you’ve already paid the refuge entrance fee you should drive out of the Carty Unit and head for the ‘S’ Unit section of the Refuge. This is an auto tour from Oct- Apr and we really enjoyed it. We were able to see great blue herons, nutria, deer, hawks, a kestrel, and many small birds.

Make sure to pick up a brochure at the pay station/trailhead at the Carty Unit. It has maps of the whole refuge and lots of great information.

Distance: 2 miles (easy)

Elevation: 80 feet (easy)

Pet Friendly: No. Dogs are not allowed in the refuge.

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: Yes

Parking Fee: $3 per car

Seasons: All

Popular: Yes

Warnings: None

Conboy Lake National Wildlife Refuge (Summer)

Directions: Take I-84 east to Hood River and cross the bridge into Washington ($1 toll). Turn left onto SR-14 and follow this road until you take a right onto 141A to Trout Lake. In Trout Lake, turn right onto Trout Creek Rd, this turns into Trout Lake Highway. You’ll see signs for Conboy Lake Refuge, follow them in and back to the parking area.

From the parking area get on the trail by the informational sign and follow it through the tall grass. We were here on a very hot day and even though it was early morning it was still a very toasty walk through this area. Soon you’ll come to a side trail that takes you off to the right to the Whitcomb-Cole Hewn Log House. This short side trip is worth it, as you can go into the old pioneer log home built in 1891. Look for small lizards in this area near the base of the house.

      

      

Back on the main trail you will start to see many birds flying around the area especially on the wires above and near the bird boxes. A few that we saw were tree and cliff swallows, red-winged blackbirds, and robins. We were also able to see a deer out in the field. After following this trail for a bit you will come to a split in the trail, go right and head towards the tree line.

      

Once in the trees you’ll get a nice respite from the heat and start to see different types of birds such as flickers and harry woodpeckers, we also saw a few different types of squirrels and a skunk. The trail is lined with pine trees and low shrubs as you eventually make your way to a viewpoint. The wooden platform overlooks a large grassy meadow and gives you a really nice view of Mt. Adams.

      

Once you’re done at the viewpoint continue on the trail, making sure you are following the signs that take you back to the parking area. The trail gets a little harder to follow once you get to where you can see the refuge office. Just pick up any of the narrow trails that head towards the office and you’ll be fine.

      

We were hoping to see the sandhill cranes that frequent this area but it wasn’t the best time of year for it. Parts of this hike are a little boring but we mostly think that was due to the time of year as well. We plan on coming back in fall or spring to see what wildlife we can see.

 

Distance: 2.5 miles (easy)

Elevation: 50 feet (easy)

Pet Friendly: No, dogs are not allowed on the refuge.

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: Yes

Parking Fee: None

Seasons: All

Popular: No

Warnings: None

Beacon Rock (Spring)

Directions: Take I-84 East to Cascade Locks and cross Bridge Of The Gods ($2 toll). Take a left onto Highway 14 and drive for about 5 miles until you come to the parking area on the left shoulder of the highway.

Beacon Rock is one of our favorite hikes, it’s short but packed full of great Gorge views.

From the parking area get on the trail that takes you into the wooded area at the base of the rock. Follow the dirt trail until you get to the first of many switchbacks that takes you to the entrance gate for Beacon Rock.

      

Immediately you get a view of the Columbia River below and since it’s spring we saw some wildflowers growing out the side of the rock. The trail is rock, cement, and boardwalk as you head up the west side. You will pass many viewpoints along the way, once you start to get around the south side of the rock you will start seeing the train tracks below.

      

      

We saw many red-tailed hawks, osprey, and vultures soaring around throughout the hike. We also saw some other small birds in the bushes and trees growing along the trails. Once on the east side of the rock the trail turns to dirt and thats a good sign you are close to the top.

      

There is a small set of steps that takes you to the very top. At the top there are a few big rocks that make for a nice place to rest or eat lunch. It’s a pretty small area and can get packed pretty quickly.

Head back out the way you came in.

Distance: 2 miles

Elevation: 700 feet

Difficulty: Moderate

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: With all the switchbacks and elevation this may not be the best hike for small kids and older folks.

Bathrooms: Yes at the parking area

Parking Fee: $10 Discovery Pass

Seasons: All

Popular: Yes especially on nice weekends

Overall: We really like this hike. It’s been great each time we’ve visited.

Disappearing Lake (Kayak)

Directions: Take I-84 East to Cascade Locks and cross Bridge Of The Gods ($2 toll). Go right onto Highway 14 and after a little over 14.5 miles take a left onto Cook Underwood Rd. Follow this road for about 5 miles and take a left onto Willard Road. Willard Road turns into Oklahoma Road, follow it a short distance until you see a sign for Forest Road 66. Take a left onto FR 66 and follow it for over 12.5 miles (the last couple miles of this road is gravel) until you come to two lakes. Disappearing Lake is on the left, South Prairie Lake is on the right.

We did this kayak last year and we liked it so much we have decided to do it every memorial day weekend. To learn more about this interesting lake (that’s only around for short time each year) see our first post here.

This year the water level was much higher from all the rain and snow we got. We even ran into snow on the forest road that the lake is next to. With the water level being higher we were able to explore more of the lake this time. There are a few side areas that you can squeeze your kayak through to get farther back into the trees.

      

The lake is almost split in two by a row of trees. The first part is pretty open and has a few small areas that you can easily get into with your kayak. We saw a snake hanging on to a tree out in the water which was quite interesting.

      

The back part of the lake is full of trees that you can kayak in between. In our opinion this is the best part of the lake. It’s really interesting and almost looks like a bayou. The trees are very tall and covered in vines and moss. There are dead trees that have fallen all throughout the lake as well. Back in this part is where we got to explore more of the side branches of the lake. In some places the water level was extremely low and we had to really squeeze our kayak through debris and low hanging branches. But once you got back into the side parts the pools deepened.

      

This lake is really calm which makes for an easy paddle. Make sure you plan enough time to really explore this area, there is a lot to see here. Just a few steps across the road from Disappearing Lake is South Prairie Lake. It would be a nice lake to paddle around in as well if you have the time.

It’s hard to predict when to visit this lake. It depends so much on what type of weather we had throughout winter. Plus how hot or mild spring starts out. We’ve found that memorial day weekend has been nice both years but we did prefer the higher water level so we may have to go earlier in May if we have a drier winter. Also, make sure you come back and visit this place after it drains, the meadow is beautiful! Check it out here.

Distance: —

Elevation:—

Difficulty: Easy

Pet Friendly: Yes if your animal enjoys hanging out on the kayak with you 🙂

Good For: All ages. This lake would be great for beginners!

Bathrooms: None

Parking Fee: None

Seasons: There is a very small season for this lake usually mid May through early June.

Popular: No

Overall: Very unique area, we’ll be back for years to come.