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Lewis River Traverse Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Looking downriver, Lewis River Trail (bobcat)
Through the mossy woods, Lewis River Trail (bobcat)
Bolt Camp Shelter, Lewis River Trail (bobcat)
At a gnarly cedar, Lewis River Trail (bobcat)
Looking upriver, Lewis River Trail (bobcat)
The lower 10 miles of the Lewis River Trail #31 (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo
  • Start point: Curly Creek Falls TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End Point: Crab Creek Trailhead
  • Trail Log:
  • Hike Type: Traverse (car shuttle or hike and bike) or in and out backpack
  • Distance: 10.0 miles one-way
  • Elevation gain: 1260 feet
  • High Point: 1,740 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: Mid-spring into Fall
  • Family Friendly: Yes, in shorter stretches
  • Backpackable: Yes
  • Crowded: No

Contents

Description

There are few places in our area where extensive stands of bottomland old growth remains: some of these are the flats along the Lewis River. On the section which the Lewis River Trail #31 follows, you’ll meet many huge Douglas-firs and western red-cedars. Almost the entire route is within sight of the river itself except when you diverge to rise almost 400 feet above it at the Lewis River Gorge Overlook. In addition to the old growth and the gorge, you’ll visit the restored Bolt Camp Shelter and encounter numerous streams and minor waterfalls. Begin the hike with the two best falls by starting at the Curly Creek Falls Trailhead.

The Lewis River Trail offers itself as one of the best hike and bikes in the region. Leave a bike at the Crab Creek Trailhead (10 miles walking and then cycle back) or the Quartz Creek Trailhead (a total of 14 miles walking). Then drive to the Curly Creek Falls Trailhead and park.

Hike down the trail in a carpet of moss and salal under Douglas-firs and hemlocks. At the junction with the Lewis River Trail go right to reach the viewpoint for Curly Creek Falls. These falls tumble under/over two basalt arches, but its best to visit in spring or early summer when water levels are substantial. The lower arch can only be seen when water levels are quite low. Continue down the wide trail to the viewing platform for Miller Creek Falls, which spout into an amphitheater on the south bank of the Lewis River. These falls are partially hidden by the maples and Douglas-firs in front of the viewing area. A use trail winds through the salal from here and then extends steeply down to the Lewis River to a gaging station if you want further exploration.

Head back and keep to the Lewis River Trail. Past the junction, a sign indicates it is 10 miles to FR 90 at the Crab Creek Trailhead. The trail runs under tall hemlocks about 30 feet above the river, which flows quietly here. Soon reach FR 9039 at the Lewis River Trailhead and road bridge. Cross the road and continue on the trail, passing the first of many fishermen’s trails leading down to the river. This section of the trail boasts many large old growth Douglas-firs and western hemlocks, which tower over a carpet of Oregon grape and sword fern. Undulate above a boggy flat shaded by red alder, big-leaf maples, and western red-cedar. Reach the level of the river at a flat of old-growth cedar and Douglas-firs. Cross two footbridges and enter younger woods: this area was previously logged as the large stumps attest. Pass through an alder grove and then hike along an old logging road, leaving it where it descends to ford the river via a steep-sided cutting. The river braids considerably at this point. Pass a campsite and then reach the Bolt Camp Shelter, which was constructed in 1931 by cedar shake bolt cutters. The shelter was restored in 1991, but was subsequently damaged by winter storms. The current reconstruction by volunteers was completed in 2013. A toilet trowel, kindling, and a dining table are provided for your convenience.

Continue along the trail on an alder/maple/cedar flat. The river braids around wooded bars again. A huge old cedar stands right next to the trail and presents a photo opportunity. The trail rises in mossy, sword fern carpeted woods and then drops through an area of blowdown regenerating with alder. Pass through another old growth bottomland, cross a creek on a large log, and admire the many large trees. Hike up a mossy slope: a side trail here leads down to a view through the alders of Big Creek entering the Lewis River. Traverse above a narrow channel that may run dry in the summer and drop to the river level to cross a mossy footbridge. Notice a grassy flat across the river and reach the Speed Junction Campsite. In late summer/early fall, it’s possible to descend the Speed Trail from FR 90 high above the opposite bank and ford the river to reach this campsite.

Continue hiking under more huge trees and cross a mossy bench. A steep trail leads down the bank to a beach and campsite. You are now entering the area of an early 20th century burn, so the trees are younger and huge blackened snags still stand in the forest. Hike above the narrowing river on a steep slope. After several dips and rises, switchback down and see the river funneling itself swiftly between rocky buttresses. Across the river, a 40-foot waterfall, visible after the alders have dropped their leaves, plunges to deliver a tumbling cascade into the river. Hike below dripping basalt cliffs and cross a stream: look for a 30-foot waterfall pouring off the ledge above. The trail continues across a mossy bench and passes below a slide waterfall before heading up a gully. Now you are high above the river. Cross a small creek and then hike above a deep ravine: two waterfalls plunge into this side canyon. The bridge over the lip of the first waterfall has been decommissioned, so you’ll need to make a small detour, and then step over the second creek. Begin to drop among alders, maples, and Douglas-firs. Make three switchbacks up a gully and come out above the river. To your right is the Lewis River Gorge Overlook, almost 400 feet above the narrow watercourse below. A plaque here commemorates a mountain biker.

Cross a creek using a footbridge and then descend to cross another creek. Step over three small streams and hike through a carpet of Oregon grape. Reach Spencer Creek, which you can cross on a big log upstream. Wind up and in and out of gullies to reach the Lewis River-Bluff Trail Junction. Continue a little further to reach wide Cussed Hollow Creek, which you can cross using the substantial Cussed Hollow Creek Footbridge. Switchback up above the river and then make a descending traverse. You’ll see FR 90 below you before you reach the signs at the Crab Creek Trailhead.

From here, if you’ve stashed a bike, you can cycle back along FR 90. If you’re continuing the hike keep on the Lewis River Trail #31 (See the Lewis River Waterfall Hike).


Fees, Regulations, etc.

Maps

  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • Green Trails Maps: Lone Butte, WA #365
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument & Administrative Area
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Gifford Pinchot National Forest
  • Adventure Maps: Hood River, Oregon, Trail Map
  • National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map: Mount St. Helens - Mt. Adams

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Hiking Washington’s Goat Rocks Country by Fred Barstad
  • Best Old-growth Forest Hikes: Washington & Oregon Cascades by John & Diane Cissel
  • Day Hiking: Mount St. Helens by Craig Romano & Aaron Theisen
  • One Night Wilderness: Portland by Douglas Lorain
  • Best Hikes With Kids: Western Washington & the Cascades by Joan Burton (to Bolt Camp Shelter)
  • Best Short Hikes in Washington's South Cascades & Olympics by E.M. Sterling & Ira Spring
  • Hiking Washington by Oliver Lazenby
  • 33 Hiking Trails: Southern Washington Cascades by Don & Roberta Lowe
  • Visitors' Guide to the Ancient Forests of Western Washington by the Dittmar Family for the Wilderness Society
  • Washington Hiking by Scott Leonard
  • Pacific Northwest Hiking by Scott Leonard & Sean Patrick Hill

More Links


Page Contributors

Oregon Hikers Field Guide is built as a collaborative effort by its user community. While we make every effort to fact-check, information found here should be considered anecdotal. You should cross-check against other references before planning a hike. Trail routing and conditions are subject to change. Please contact us if you notice errors on this page.

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