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Beaver Bay Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

View across Yale Lake from Cougar Park (bobcat)
Footbridge on the Beaver Bay Trail (bobcat)
Backwater pond below the Beaver Bay Trail (bobcat)
Douglas-firs shading the Beaver Bay Trail (bobcat)
The route between Beaver Bay and Cougar Park on Yale Lake (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Google Maps
  • Start point: Beaver Bay TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End Point: Cougar Park
  • Hike Type: In and out
  • Distance: 3.9 miles
  • Elevation gain: 195 feet
  • High Point: 605 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Seasons: All year, but best fall into spring
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: No



PacifiCorp operates several campgrounds on its Lewis River reservoirs and, in 2015, opened a trail between two of them, Beaver Bay and Cougar Park. The route is an exemplar of trail engineering, with five footbridges and almost 300 steps as it squeezes between Highway 503 on a bluff near a powerline corridor and the Beaver Bay Wetland. Both parks are gated for seven months of the year, and this is the best time to visit for a peaceful experience. During those times, it’s best to begin from the Beaver Bay side as the walk down the entrance road is shorter. In the spring and summer months, when the campgrounds are open and busy, there are no fees for day use Monday through Thursday.

If you’re coming when the park is open, you’ll need to walk back along the park road half a mile to find the campground road leading into Section A just before the park host’s spot. In other months, walk 0.2 miles down the entrance road past the kiosk, and turn into the campground, which is just past the park host’s spot and an information kiosk with a map.

In a few yards, you’ll see the sign for the Beaver Bay Trail, which leads off into a Douglas-fir/big-leaf maple forest an understory of vine maple and sword fern. Bear left behind the camp host’s site, and follow the trail through the woods before it swings left up a slope of rustling alders and cottonwoods. Here you’ll use the first of many steps on the trail as the route passes just below Highway 503 and enters a powerline corridor. Descend to cross a maintenance track at a cluster of large maples. Traverse the slope above the powerlines and the Beaver Bay Wetland. Looking back, you can see the craggy summit of Mount Mitchell across the Yale Reservoir. Cross a footbridge over a small creek, and walk some wide planks placed over boggy ground. Switchback down to another footbridge, and pass through a blackberry patch. Cross two more bridges on a hillside trickling with small streams, and ascend an old roadbed to pass under powerlines once more.

The trail breaks off the roadbed to the left. Hike along a sword fern slope of old-growth Douglas-firs and gnarled, mossy maples. Below you’ll see an expanse of open water in the wetland. Pass above a wide flat littered with stumps; this area is underwater in the depths of the wet season. Hike up several flights of steps to an Oregon grape carpeted bench near Highway 503. Vine maples and hazels bow under the Douglas-fir canopy. Descend from the bench to reach a grassy track in Cougar Park. Go left to reach a beach of sorts. A path to the right takes you up to the campground, where you can get views above the lake. Walking around the campground, you’ll pass a swimming beach and reach the mouth of Cougar Creek in a small inlet. Return along the road and then the grassy track to find the trail leading back up the bluff.

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Day use fee of $3, Friday-Saturday-Sunday-holidays only, last Friday in April through September 30th
  • Entrance road closed from October 1st to last Friday in April; no fee during those months
  • Dogs on leash
  • Park gate closes at 9:00 during spring and summer
  • Campground, boat launch, picnic area, swimming beach, restrooms


Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Day Hiking: Mount St. Helens by Craig Romano & Aaron Theisen

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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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