Home  •   Field Guide  •   Forums  •    Unread Posts  •   Maps  •   Find a Hike!
| Page | Discussion | View source | History | Print Friendly and PDF

Willapa Art Trail Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Tidal marsh, Willapa Interpretive Art Trail (bobcat)
Extinct birds memorial, Willapa Interpretive Art Trail (bobcat)
Labyrinth, Cutthroat Climb Loop (bobcat)
Stile, Cutthroat Climb Loop (bobcat)
  • Start point: Willapa Refuge TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Upper Cutthroat Creek Crossing
  • Hike Type: Lollipop loop
  • Distance: 1.1 miles
  • Elevation gain: 330 feet
  • High Point: 275 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Seasons: All year
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: No


Hike Description

The Willapa Interpretive Art Trail heads along a winding boardwalk above a tidal flat and restored salmon spawning stream in the Willapa National Wildlife Refuge. The wildlife art, created by students from the University of Washington Public Art Program, is explained in a brochure available at the refuge headquarters. Past the stream, the Cutthroat Climb, a loop trail with its own artistic embellishments, winds up the lush slopes in secondary woodland.

Pass through the ornate “phytoplankton” entry gate and notice the large-scale model of a salmon skeleton. The curving boardwalk above a tidal mud flat simulates the natural course of a stream. The particular stream here was restored as a chum salmon and cutthroat trout spawning ground after decades of being dammed. Pass carved mini-totems depicting local wildlife and then a pond. Veer right to walk along a feather-topped memorial to extinct North American avifauna, including the Labrador duck, Carolina parakeet, dusky seaside sparrow, and heath hen. Go left on a spur to an overlook on the creek. The main trail crosses the creek under cedars and hemlocks. Fifty salmon silhouettes glint in the alders.

Here begin the Cutthroat Climb, a 2/3 mile loop. Go up rough steps and then make a left at a junction. Drop and walk over five footbridges in a soggy creek bottomland. Note the large nurse stumps here. Head up more rough steps to an abandoned road bed and go right under alder, Sitka spruce, and western hemlock. At a crest, indulge in a walk around the labyrinth. The trail drops past a sapsucker, one of twelve colorful native bird sculptures that also point the way on the trails. Cross the creek on a footbridge, rise, and then drop into a gully. Sword fern cloaks the verdant hillside here. Rise again and traverse past huge stumps before navigating a stile over a fallen tree. The trail drops on log steps and then winds down to the loop junction, whence you will return to the parking area via the meandering boardwalk.


  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • Adventure Maps: NW Coast Trail Map & Guide

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • No pets allowed: National Wildlife Refuge
  • Restrooms in the visitor center; brochures available

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Best Hikes With Kids: Western Washington by Susan Elderkin

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.

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.