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Mill Ditch to Round Lake Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Pothole Falls, Lacamas Park (bobcat)
Mill Ditch, Camas (bobcat)
Mill Pond, Lacamas Park (bobcat)
White fawn lily (Erythronium oregonum), Lacamas Park (bobcat)
The Mill Ditch Trail to Round Lake, Camas (bobcat) Courtesy: Google Maps
  • Start point: Benton Park TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Round Lake Dock
  • Trail Log:
  • Hike Type: Lollipop loop
  • Distance: 6.4 miles
  • Elevation gain: 685 feet
  • High point: 365 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: All year
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: No


Hike Description

The Georgia-Pacific Paper Mill, with its broad columns of steam slowly billowing skyward, is the dominant feature of the small city of Camas. The town's industrial history goes back a long way - to the first sawmills of the 1850s. In 1884, Henry Pittock's LaCamas Colony Company used Chinese laborers to construct a 7,000-foot ditch that would carry water from Round Lake to its new mill on the site of the current Georgia-Pacific operation. This aqueduct is still in operation and serving its original purpose; indeed, hikers have to chance to walk much of the ditch as well as connect to its source at Mill Pond in Lacamas Park, where they can also make use of a much wider network of trails.

Walk back to Drake Street, and go left to take a paved trail heading up a grassy corridor in Benton Park. A gravel trail leads right through the park's wooded area. This is the Mill Ditch Trail, but first you can go straight up the hill. To the left, alders line a gully that becomes the rather deep ravine of Ostenson Canyon with its tall, ivy-festooned Douglas-firs. The paved trail ends at a continuation of Drake Street and a small park area with picnic tables and a playground.

Return to Benton Park and proceed left on the gravel trail. This is a small wood of Douglas-firs and big-leaf maples with lots of holly and English laurel. Pass a couple of picnic tables and reach Benton Street.

Cross this street and walk along 12th Avenue for a block; then head right down Ash Street. From here, there’s a view of the Georgia-Pacific Paper Mill complex. Go left on 11th Avenue and cross Division Street. Then make a right on Division over the aqueduct before heading left on the walking path that heads along the fenced channel. At a four-way junction, where steps head down to the right, keep straight. Ivied maples and Douglas-firs block views to downtown Camas. Cross Dallas Street, where you'll get views of Chamberlain Hill and the Sandy River Delta on the Oregon side of the Columbia River. Cross Garfield Street below Liberty Middle School. Licorice fern drapes attractively over the concrete banks of the ditch before you pass through a little thicket of bamboo. The trail bends left to where the ditch emerges from a tunnel.

The path now continues uphill to 19th Avenue (The upper section of the ditch runs through the lengthy tunnel). Go left here along the edge of a sports field, and then go right on Ione Street opposite Hayes Freedom High School. After crossing 22nd Avenue, come to a map sign for Lacamas Park. Turn into the parking area for the Camas School District offices, and go right through a gate into a soccer field. Pass along the edge of the field, and exit through another gate that leads into a wooded area.

At a trail junction, turn right and drop into cedar/Douglas-fir woods. The trails braid through here as you pass several mountain bike jumps. Eventually join the wide main trail past the end of a fence line. There’s a short spur to a viewpoint over the Potholes Falls. The main trail drops and then heads up to go right and cross the dam wall at Mill Pond, an old channel of Lacamas Creek. It is from here that the 7,000-foot Mill Ditch begins. Reach Round Lake, with the Round Lake Dam over Lacamas Creek to the right.

Go left and head along the wide path under Douglas-firs and cedars, with Mill Pond to the left and Round Lake to the right. Numbered posts tell you you're on the Round Lake Interpretive Trail. Near the restrooms, there is a big interpretive display on the geology and ecology of Lacamas Lake. A paved trail follows Round Lake’s shore to pass picnic tables near the Lacamas Park Trailhead and arrive at Everett Street. Make a right here, and take the footbridge/highway bridge that divides Lacamas Lake and Round Lake. Then go right on 35th Avenue, and hike uphill on a sidewalk until you reach a trailhead.

A wide trail leads down parallel the shore of Round Lake. A footbridge straddles a swamp, and next reach a viewing platform on the right. Here, look for sunbathing turtles and cormorants sunbathing farther out on the lake. From this platform, the path goes uphill over a small creek, drops, and then rises to the Round Lake-Lily Trail Junction, the latter a trail that loops around a camas meadow: this meadow is very much worth visiting in mid-spring (See the Lacamas Park Lily Field Hike). To continue the lake loop, keep straight below this oak-fringed knoll and reach another junction, where you make a right and head down. The trail switchbacks twice past a large boulder, a remnant of the Missoula Floods. Keep right at all junctions until you reach the Round Lake Dam (If you want to get a good view of Pothole Falls, go left at one of these junctions and then return up the creek). Cross over the dam and continue to the second dam over Mill Pond. Here, turn left and head back along the Mill Ditch Trail.

Another option for a bigger loop is to follow Lacamas Creek to the spur that leads to 4th Avenue. You walk down 4th to Joy Street, and then hike up Joy to 6th Street. A right-of-way leads from here up to the Mill Ditch, whence you go left to follow the trail back to 10th Street.


Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Park hours 7:00 a.m. to dusk
  • Dogs are permitted on leash
  • Mill Ditch Trail is on private land: respect all signs

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Wild in the City: Exploring the Intertwine edited by Michael C. Houck and M.J. Cody (Lacamas Park)
  • Curious Gorge by Scott Cook (Lacamas Park)

More Links


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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