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Lewis and Clark State Park Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Big Douglas-fir, Trail of the Deer (bobcat)
Trail of the Deer map, Lewis & Clark State Park (bobcat)
Maple grove, Equestrian area, Lewis & Clark State Park (bobcat)
Mt. St. Helens, Equestrian area, Lewis & Clark State Park (bobcat)
Stringy cedar, Trail of the Deer, Lewis & Clark State Park (bobcat)
The loops described in red; other trails in orange (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Google Maps
  • Start point: Trail of the Deer TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Lacamas Prairie Swamp
  • Trail Log:
  • Hike Type: Loops
  • Distance: 4.8 miles
  • High point: 570 feet
  • Elevation gain: 340 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Seasons: Year round
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: No

Contents

Hike Description

This Washington state park straddles both sides of the Jackson Highway, an old pioneer route. First, just south of Mary’s Corner, you can stop at the John R. Jackson House, an extensively reconstructed log cabin built in 1845. This was one of Washington’s first two state parks. Lewis & Clark State Park is just south of here; it is gated mid-fall to mid spring, but you can walk in and enjoy the towering trees, one of the largest old growth stands of Douglas-fir and western red-cedar in the Puget Lowlands. On the west side of the highway, the Trail of the Deer and the Old Growth Trail take you on meandering routes under some awe-inspiring conifers. On the east side of the highway, unsigned equestrian trails (closed to horses for six months of the year) wander through more old growth. Unfortunately, two-thirds of the park’s huge trees crashed down during the 1962 Columbus Day ice storm, so what you see is a mere remnant. When emigrants came through here on the “northern extension” of the Oregon Trail (sometimes known as the Cowlitz Trail), they had no way to saw through the massive fallen old growth, so they built ramparts up and over the logs for their wagons. The campground/day use area of the park is also worth exploring, with some interpretive exhibits and structures built by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression. There is also an Old Growth viewing platform and interpretive area off of the Jackson Highway north of the main entrance.

The hike is described for those visiting during the off-season:

  • Trail of the Deer and Old Growth Loop: 1.8 miles
  • Equestrian loop (east side of the highway): 2.8 miles


Walk down the entrance road past the gate. Opposite an information kiosk and fee booth, the Trail of the Deer begins. Pass a map board showing the key to this numbered interpretive loop. Hike into a cedar, maple, salmonberry bottomland and cross a tributary of Lacamas Creek on a footbridge. At a junction, go right and then keep right at the next junction for Loop A. Tall old growth Douglas-firs and western red-cedars tower overheard, with the alder shaded bottomland to your right. The trail veers left up the slope and comes to a junction signposted for the Trail of the Deer. Here, go right and keep rising in a forest of cedars carpeted with sword fern. Keep to the right at the junction with Loop B and drop to a crossing of a shallow gully. Now hike up past more giant Douglas-firs to the junction with Loop C. Go right and make two short switchbacks down the slope before winding up again to an unmarked junction. Take a right here and plunge down through a salmonberry thicket.

Reach a service road and go left. Now you are walking along the western border of the park with a vast clearcut to the right. Take the first trail into the woods on your left and then go right on the Old Growth Trail, the second loop in this part of the park. This path meanders through a sword fern carpet under large Douglas-firs and cedars. Ignore a trail going right to the group camp area and wind up to an Old Growth Trail sign at the Lewis and Clark Park Old Growth Trailhead.

Walk straight across the parking circle and down to a junction with Loop B. Go right and, at an Exit sign, take a right to reach the trailhead road. Hike down the road to the junction for the group camp area. Go left there, and see a trail heading back into the woods after a few yards. Make a right down the slope on Loop A, passing large cedar stumps, and reach the main arm of the Trail of the Deer. Make two right turns to reach the covered Forest Exhibit, which details the biology of conifers, and then return to the park entrance.

For the next loop, walk or drive 0.1 miles down the Jackson Highway to the Upper Cowlitz River Recreation Area Office. Walk across the grassy field, part of the RV camping area, to the north of the office. Pass through a fence, and reach the park’s equestrian trailhead. At a map sign, keep right and then go left on a wide trail that heads up a gentle slope through a carpet of sword fern. Among the cedars here, there are also larger Douglas-firs. Reach a junction and go left along a narrow foot trail. This comes to a service road above a gate, where you can go right.

At the next junction, which is at a road bed, keep on the service road. Where the trail levels, turn right into mossy woods of big-leaf maple, vine maple, hemlock, cedar, and large Douglas-firs (Keeping straight would take you around the perimeter of the park on a less interesting route). You’ll reach a corridor of 60-year-old Douglas-firs planted after the devastation of the 1962 Columbus Day Storm. The trail meanders through this woodland on the level and then curves right and passes through a salmonberry thicket before dropping down through plantation forest. At a junction, go left and cross an alder-shaded brook. The trail switchbacks left and recrosses the creek.

Ago right at a junction where the main trail may be blocked by Caution tape, and enter an open field colonized by blackberries which disguise the foundations of demolished buildings. This area is a new addition to the park, so take care here here as the trail junctions are not signed. You’ll get a view of Mount Saint Helens and Goat Rocks across Lacamas Prairie farmland before you descend past a pond on a soggy, grassy tread. Past the forest of conifers, turn right into the Lacamas Prairie Swamp, an extensive thicket of spiraea, willow, and dogwood. At a junction, stay left on a grassy track with clumps of sedge. At the next junction, stay left again. At this point, you may have to get your feet wet as there are deep pools of water and running brooklets everywhere at the height of the wet season. The trail veers to the right and winds around through the thicket to reach an open field. Go right here across a parking lot neer the Community Center to find your way back to the Upper Cowlitz Recreation Area Office and the Jackson Highway.


Maps

Regulations or restrictions, etc

  • $10 day-use pass or annual Discover Pass required
  • Dogs on leash
  • Picnic tables, campground, interpretive trail
  • Park entrances closed September 30th – May 1st: walk-in hiking only during those months
  • Open 8:00 a.m. to dusk at other times of the year

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Day Hiking Mount St. Helens by Craig Romano & Aaron Theisen
  • Washington State Parks: A Complete Recreation Guide by Marge & Ted Mueller
  • Best Old-growth Forest Hikes: Washington & Oregon Cascades by John & Diane Cissel

More Links


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.

Hiking is a potentially risky activity, and the entire risk for users of this field guide is assumed by the user, and in no event shall Trailkeepers of Oregon be liable for any injury or damages suffered as a result of relying on content in this field guide. All content posted on the field guide becomes the property of Trailkeepers of Oregon, and may not be used without permission.