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Speed Trail Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Old-growth forest on the Speed Trail (bobcat)
Stepped creek near the Lewis River, Speed Trail (bobcat)
Looking up the Lewis River (bobcat)
Heart-leaf montia (Claytonia cordifolia), Lewis River (bobcat)
The Speed Trail down to the Lewis River (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo
  • Start point: Speed TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End Point: Lewis River Ford
  • Hike Type: In and out
  • Distance: 2.0 miles
  • Elevation gain: 680 feet
  • High Point: 1,835 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: Mid-spring into fall
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: No



The Speed Trail #31E is billed as a primitive trail by the Forest Service and is ostensibly a fisherman’s trail that offers quick access to a little-visited section of the Lewis River; it also connects to the much longer Lewis River Trail #31, but this would involve a ford only safely possible in late summer or fall. Nevertheless, this trail offers delights of its own. It is not as steep as you might believe and includes a lovely bench of massive old growth trees as well as forest wildflowers in season. Elk droppings and predator scat are more common on the trail than human footprints. You’ll reach a wide cobbled bar on the Lewis River, where you’re almost guaranteed to have solitude even on a busy summer weekend.

Head down the trail to the right of the signboard, which instructs fishermen to release any bull trout that they catch. After the alder fringe along the highway, you’ll enter a venerable woodland of Douglas-fir, western hemlock, western red-cedar, and Pacific yew. Off to the right, you’ll hear a creek running and see some massive Douglas-firs. Arrive at a bench lushly wooded with red-cedar. The trail reaches a creek bank collapse where two large cedars came crashing down. Take the detour to your right, but be careful along the edge, which is in a constant state of disintegration.

After this creek, you’ll hike along a bench of large old-growth Douglas-firs and cross a second creek in a cathedral-like setting of tall trees where vanilla leaf and inside-out flower form the carpet. Cross a small, trickling skunk-cabbage brook, and then drop steeply down a slope of younger trees in an area that was burned perhaps 60 years ago; burn snags rot among the regenerating forest.

Traverse a bench, and descend again. After crossing a well-established elk track, encounter your first and only switchback of the descent. Then drop down steeply to a creek, and veer right to step across an overflow channel of the Lewis River. From a grassy alder bar that blooms with cow parsnip in the spring, cross a second channel to reach a wide cobbled bar studded with shrubby willow and alder. While tarrying here, explore the river bar for stream side wildflowers, and look for mergansers bobbing in the shallows. In the late summer and early fall, before the onset of the rains, you can ford the Lewis River (use two trekking poles and have good footwear) to join the Lewis River Trail #31 on the opposite bank.

Fees, Regulations, etc.


  • 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

  • Day Hiking: South Cascades by Dan A. Nelson & Alan L. Bauer

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.

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.