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Lacamas Creek Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Looking down Lacamas Creek to the McEnry Bridge (bobcat)
Woodburn Falls in Lacamas Regional Park (bobcat)
Camas and plectritis blooming in the Lily Fields, Lacamas Park (Steve Hart)
Pothole Falls (The Potholes) in Lacamas Regional Park (bobcat)
Vine maple (Acer circinatum), Lacamas Park (bobcat)
The lollipop loop in Lacamas Regional Park (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo/MapBuilder Topo
  • Start point: Lacamas Creek TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Potholes
  • Trail Log: Trail Log
  • Hike Type: Lollipop loop
  • Distance: 4.1 miles
  • Elevation gain: 670 feet
  • High point: 405 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: All year
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: Yes
Falling
Poison-Oak

Contents

Hike Description

A forest oasis in a rapidly developing suburban setting, Lacamas Regional Park offers a fascinating sampling of landforms and habitats. At the end of the last Ice Age, over 12,000 years ago, a series of massive floods (the Missoula or Bretz Floods) swept down the Columbia River and scoured the landscape, creating exposed rock scablands and shallow depressions. This small park boasts no fewer than three waterfalls, including the pockmarked bench at the Potholes, a couple of lakes, scablands supporting oaks and camas lilies, and a deep forest dominated by maple and Douglas-fir. This loop begins on 3rd Avenue, but you can also start at Round Lake and include the Round Lake Loop Hike in the excursion. The itinerary includes a diversion to seasonal Woodburn Falls, which becomes dry during the summer but which is also best avoided when trails are extremely muddy.

This hike starts at the far south end of the park at the Lacamas Creek Trailhead. The trail starts northward, following a gated road. The first 0.7 miles of trail works its way gently up and down, usually with views of Lacamas Creek flowing below. At first, most of the trees here are maples and alders, and the fall colors are quite spectacular in November. Douglas-firs predominate as you hike farther up Lacamas Creek, and ivy runs rampant in the understory. Trails coming in from the left connect uphill to the alternative Saint Thomas Aquinas Trailhead off of Oak Street. Soon you'll hear Lower Falls, a splashing slide falls with lots of exposed rock in the summer but a roaring spate in winter. Then you'll come to the McEnry Bridge, a steel span over Lacamas Creek. As you cross the bridge check upstream for a dippers diving into the creek waters in search of aquatic prey.

At the far side of the bridge, there's a four-way junction. For a better view of the Lower Falls, turn right to follow the McEnry Trail. A couple of viewpoints off this trail allow you to see how the Lower Falls splits, with a branch cascading down a narrow defile below a mossy slab. The trail then begins to climb, sometimes steeply, through thickets of salmonberry under maples and alders. You'll reach a road pullout: to your right is the one-way Red Tape mountain biker's trail, while the access road is to your left.

Make a right on the access road, and hike up to a T-junction with another old road. There'a an information kiosk with a park map here. Go left on this wide road, and drop gently in a beautiful wood of Douglas-fir, grand fir, hemlock, and maple. You'll soon reach a junction with a trail signposted for Woodburn Falls. If you're making this diversion, which is very muddy in winter (and the waterfall dries up in summer), go left on the trail. You'll come to a four-way junction very soon. Make a right here to reach a T-junction above Woodburn Creek's gully. Turn left at this junction, then right at the next junction to wind steeply down on a slippery, muddy track. Stay right at another junction to stop and get a view of Woodburn Falls splashing down a rock face. This viewpoint is good enough as the descent to the creek is deep and treacherous. Return up the slope, and keep left at all junctions as you make your way above Woodburn Creek to reach a junction with the access road.

Go left here, and cross Woodburn Creek on a bridge to hike up the road, passing a stand of alders and a new development that borders right on the park. The trail reaches the park boundary and comes to a junction labeled 'Lily Fields Loop.' Make a right here to head up alongside the new housing development to cross over a rocky oak knoll that blooms with camas, rosy plectritis, saxifrage, and blue-eyed Mary in spring. Keep left at the next three junctions as you cross this mossy scabland to drop down an open slope and reenter a forest where toothworts and fawn lilies flower in early spring. Then veer right to reach a junction with a map sign.

Continue straight across the wide trail. (If you're going to include the Round Lake Loop Hike, make a right here.) The trail switchbacks twice to pass a large boulder, a remnant of the Missoula Floods. Keep straight at a four-way junction. Round Lake glistens to the right. At the next junction, cross the main track to angle left and join the path above a dark gorge. Go right here and get a view down to Pothole Falls, also known as just The Potholes. Winter floods circulated hard stones in pools here, creating the "potholes." Some of the holes are ten feet deep, and the entire area is eroded into curving, smooth shapes that seem other-worldly. The potholes themselves are better seen in the summer, when the creek flows at a much lower volume. In winter, the sheer size and force of the spate conceals most of these formations.

Cross a basalt scabland of oak and licorice fern (the camas also bloom here in April) above the gorge. There's an open viewpoint here with another look at the Potholes. The trail drops rather steeply as you get good views of Lacamas Creek flowing through the shady woodland. Stay on the creek trail as you cross the Woodburn Creek footbridge, and pass a large pool in the creek. Short spurs down the bank lead to the water. Soon you'll come to the east side of the McEnry Bridge above the Lower Falls. Cross the bridge to return to your car.


Maps

Regulations or restrictions, etc

  • Open 7:00 a.m. to dusk
  • Dogs on leash
  • Port-a-potty at trailhead

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Best Hikes With Kids: Western Washington by Susan Elderkin
  • Oregon & Washington: 50 Hikes With Kids by Wendy Gorton
  • Take a Walk: Portland by Brian Barker
  • Curious Gorge by Scott Cook
  • Urban Trails: Vancouver by Craig Romano
  • Day Hiking: Columbia River Gorge by Craig Romano
  • 100 Hikes in Northwest Oregon & Southwest Washington by William L. Sullivan
  • Take a Hike: Portland by Barbara I. Bond
  • Urban Hikes Oregon by Adam Sawyer
  • Best Outdoor Adventures Near Portland, Oregon by Adam Sawyer
  • Hiking Waterfalls in Washington by Roddy Scheer with Adam Sawyer

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.