Category Archives: Washington

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.

Lewis River Falls (Spring)

Directions: Drive I-84 East to Cascade Locks and cross the Bridge Of The Gods ($2 toll). Take a right onto Highway 14 and drive for almost 6 miles where you will take a left onto Wind River Road. Follow Wind River Road up and over Old Man Pass, a couple miles after the pass take a left onto Curly Creek Road. Follow this road until you come to the junction with FR 90. Take a right onto FR 90 and drive for about 10 miles where you will take a right into the Lower Lewis River Falls parking area.

A small section of this trail between the lower and middle waterfalls is close. There is a detour that adds about a mile to your total hiking distance. You wont miss any of the waterfalls.

From the parking area head down the trail by the bathroom until it dumps you out at the main trail and Lower Lewis River Falls. There are multiple viewing areas for the lower falls. Go right and you will pass two of them, there are small wooden benches at them as well. Heading back up the main trail you’ll pass a staircase that takes you down to a viewing platform at the top of the lower waterfall.

      

From here get back on the main trail and head upriver. You will pass multiple staircases that allow river access and a small boardwalk turnout. As you pass these side areas the trail heads uphill gradually on a fairly wide and well maintained dirt path. There are campsites off to your left in the beginning and you will always see the river off to your right. When you are almost to the middle waterfall the trail is closed due to damage. It was like this the last time we were here (July 2016) and doesn’t seem to have had any work done on it. Take the detour trail that heads uphill somewhat steeply and through a slide area. It ends up at road level and the parking area for the middle falls. Briefly pass through the parking area and get back on the trail heading back into the forest. You’ll cross a bridge over Copper Falls and head downhill to Middle Lewis River Falls. The water level was so high this year that you couldn’t get out onto the rocks and get a good look at the waterfall.

      

Continuing on the main trail there are few spots on the way to the upper falls that have eroded quite a bit and you should be careful hiking through it. You will soon reach Upper Lewis River Falls, there is a place to get off trail and down to river level that offers a great view of the waterfall. There are a few big logs here that make it a great place to have lunch or sit and relax for a bit.

      

This is an out and back trail so head back out the way you came in.

This hike is very pretty with all the lovely trees and always having a view of the river as you go. All three waterfalls looks different and are each worth checking out. Visiting in spring this year was nice because the waterfalls were a lot fuller. In the summer this place gets very busy and becomes and popular swimming hole.

Distance: 6 miles

Elevation: 320 feet

Difficulty: Moderate

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: Yes

Parking Fee: Yes, a $5 NW Forest Pass is required

Seasons: All but check for road closures due to snow in the winter

Popular: Yes

Overall: We love this hike, theres a lot to see which is never a bad thing 🙂

Steigerwald National Wildlife Refuge (Spring)

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.

From the parking area get on the trail as it follows along a large open field with branches of Steigerwald Lake running through it. There were many different birds out in the grass and shrubs and some water birds in the stream. You will soon enter an area with more trees and a stream off to your right. When you get to the split, go left through the seasonal door (open May through September) and follow the trail as it goes along the field and enters a wooded area. There are lots of birds in this area as well.

      

      

You will round a corner and leave the refuge and get on the Columbia River Dike Trail. There are a lot of Purple Martin houses here and they are all flying around which is great. Go right on the trail and follow it a short distance where you will take a side trail and get back into the refuge. You’ll pass a tall interpretive sign and cross a bridge over Redtail Lake, here we saw a Cinnamon Teal, Mallards, and Canada Geese in the water. In the trees and grass lining the water we saw Red-Wing Blackbirds, Song Sparrows, and a Common Yellowthroat. After crossing the bridge you’ll enter and wooded area, we saw many birds here including an Osprey and Wilson’s Warblers.

      

      

      

There is another bridge that you cross and you’re back at the seasonal door. Go left and follow the trail back out the way you came in.

We were previously here in mid summer and it was nice but very hot. Spring is a great time, birds are nesting and very active, and the weather is great.

Distance: 3 miles

Elevation: None

Difficulty: Easy

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

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: Yes at the parking area

Parking Fee: None

Seasons: All

Popular: Can be on nice weekends

Overall: Spring is a great time to visit this wildlife refuge

Dog Creek Falls (Spring)

Directions: Take I-84 east and cross the Bridge Of The Gods ($2 toll). Go right on SR-14 to about mile post 55. There is a wooden sign on the left that says Dog Creek and a gravel pullout just past it.

This is a very short walk that takes you to a nice little waterfall.

From the gravel parking area follow the trail a short distance where it ends at dog creek with the waterfall tucked back in a bit but easily visible. The waterfall is only about 30 feet tall so it’s not the most spectacular, but it’s definitely worth the stop if you are in the area. This waterfall becomes a popular swimming area during the summer months.

We did notice a lot of trash here, we hope everyone who visits this waterfall follows the pack it in, pack it out rule. The Gorge is a special place, we gotta treat her right 🙂

Distance: Less than a quarter mile total

Elevation: None

Difficulty: Easy

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: No

Parking Fee: None

Seasons: All

Popular: Yes on hot days

Overall: Quick stop to see a pretty little waterfall.

Best Of 2016

We did a lot of great hikes in 2016, here are some of our favorites and our overall top hike of the year.

  • Willamette Valley:

Henline Falls– This is a short hike but it takes you to an amazing waterfall. Catch it at the right time of day and you might just see a rainbow at the base as well!

  • Columbia River Gorge:

Columbia Hills State Park– Great area to see wildflowers with amazing views of the Gorge.

  • Washington:

Lewis River Falls– So many pretty waterfalls in such a short distance. Definitely a must see.

  • Coast:

The Thumb– This was probably the most unique hike we did this year.

  • Central Oregon:

Smith Rock (Misery Ridge)– The views are amazing at the top and you get a very up close view of Monkey Face!

  • Mt. Hood:

Wind Lake– You get to ride a chairlift up to the top of Ski Bowl and then hike to a somewhat hidden lake. And the whole time you have great views of Mt. Hood and Government Camp. 

  • Portland:

Powell Butte- This is a great hike in the city. On a clear day you can see Mt. Hood, Mt. St Helens, and Mt. Hood.

  • Southern Oregon:

Plaikni Falls– This hike was inside Crater Lake National Park, it’s very pretty, especially in autumn with all the beautiful colors.

  • Kayak:

Disappearing Lake– This was such a treat! It’s a lake that’s only around for about a month out of the whole year.

Overall Best of 2016:

Bald Mountain– The hike up bald mountain is beautiful and lined with beargrass. Once at the top you round a corner and come to one of the best views of Mt. Hood we’ve ever seen. Do this hike!

What were some of your favorite hikes in 2016? Any you’re looking forward to doing in 2017?

 

Falls Creek Falls (Autumn)

Directions: 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)

We did this hike during the summer- click here to check out the post.

From the parking area follow the trail which starts out fairly wide and runs along the creek. You gradually start heading uphill as the trail narrows a bit and you come to a suspension bridge. You get great views down into the gorge below. Continuing on the creek will now be on your right and there are a few spots that you can get right down next to the creek.

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Autumn is of course a rainy season for Washington so the trail was pretty muddy in spots. There were also a lot more seasonal streams that ran across the trail.

You soon start to gain elevation, some parts are pretty steep but it’s not that long. You do have to cross a fairly decent runoff area, but there were plenty of rocks to hop, and no wet feet. Soon you will cross another bridge that takes you over another seasonal stream. This one is very pretty as it flows through moss covered rocks.

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Keep following the trail and just a short distance later you will start to hear the roar of Falls Creek Falls. The trail drops down right in front of the waterfall. There are a lot of big rocks here that would be a good place for lunch if you bring a tarp, otherwise they are too wet to sit on. Falls Creek Falls is massive year round but it’s just something else during the rainy seasons. It’s very loud, very full, and VERY impressive!

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There is a scramble that we did back in the summer that takes you to the middle tier. We decided to skip it this time because the ground was quite soggy and the rocks and logs were slippery.

The fall colors that were on display was great, just icing on the cake for this great hike.

Distance: 4 miles

Elevation: 700 feet

Difficulty: Moderate

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: Most ages. There are some steep sections that may be difficult for some.

Bathrooms: Yes at the parking area.

Parking Fee: None

Seasons: The snow gate closes late fall and opens in early spring.

Popular: Yes

Overall: We definitely recommend this hike, the waterfall is amazing.

Ape Caves (Summer)

Directions: Take I-5 North to exit 21 (Woodland/Highway 503) and follow Highway 503 East through the town of Cougar. Highway 503 turns into FR-90, continue on FR-90 and take a left onto Road 83 (signed for Ape Caves and Lava Canyon). Follow the signs to Ape Caves.

The Ape Cave is a large lava tube that was formed about 2,000 years ago from a lava flow on Mt. St. Helens. It is the third longest in North America. The lava tube temperature is 42 degrees year round (bring those jackets, even in the summer heat). It’s recommended that each person has two light sources. You can rent lanterns for $5 at the Ape Headquarters but it is not open year round, call ahead.

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From the parking area follow the short trail that takes you to the opening of the tube. There are lots of interpretive signs and usually a forest service employee in this area. Head down the steps and immediately feel the temperature drop, most people stop here and layer up! Head into the tube and come to two sets of stairs, follow signs for the lower cave.

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From here you are just walking through the tube, you may get dripped on a few times as well. You will pass the “meatball” which is a blob that hardened in a narrow space. The tube is .75 miles one way and narrows the farther you go. The ground is very uneven so watch your step! The very end of the tube is only accessible if you are comfortable crawling. Once you reach where you feel like stopping turn around and head back out the way you came.

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Distance: 1.5 miles

Elevation: 150 feet

Difficulty: Easy

Pet Friendly: Dogs are not allowed in the Ape Caves.

Good For: All ages- just make sure you are sure footed and ok with low light situations. We did see some young children crying, most likely because it’s so dark.

Bathrooms: Yes

Parking Fee: $5 NW Forest Pass

Seasons: Open all year but call ahead late fall through spring.

Popular: Very

Overall: Fun experience, can get extremely busy during summer weekends.

Trail Of Two Forests (Summer)

Directions: Directions: Take I-5 North to exit 21 (Woodland/Highway 503) and follow Highway 503 East through the town of Cougar. Highway 503 turns into FR-90, continue on FR-90 and take a left onto Road 83 (signed for Ape Caves and Lava Canyon). Follow signs for Ape Caves, the parking area for Trail Of Two Forests is just before the caves.

This is a short interpretive trail that is a great addition to any of the hikes in the area.

From the parking area get on the boardwalk trail and follow it to a split in the trail. Go right and head past some interpretive signs about the area. You will soon come to a fun part in the trail, the tree casts. This is where lava flowed through the area and made molds of the trees. There are quite a few of the casts along the trail. You can take a ladder down into one of the horizontal casts and crawl through them.

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Keep following the boardwalk around the loop and it takes you back to your car.

Distance: .3 mile

Elevation: 30 feet

Difficulty: Easy

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: Vault toilet at the trailhead.

Parking Fee: $5 NW Forest Pass

Seasons: Late spring through fall. There are snow gates, call before hiking.

Popular: Yes

Overall: Very informative little walk, great place for kids.