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Willard Springs Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Mt. Adams from the Willard Springs Loop (bobcat)
Salt lick on the Willard Springs Loop (bobcat)
Aspen grove in the fall, Willard Springs Loop (bobcat)
Conboy Lake from the Willard Springs Loop in the spring (bobcat)
The Willard Springs Loop (bobcat)
  • Start point: Willard Springs TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Willard Springs
  • Hike type: Loop
  • Distance: 2.3 miles
  • Elevation gain: 55 feet
  • High point: 1865 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Seasons: All year
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: No


Hike Description

The Conboy Lake National Wildlife Refuge, near Glenwood, Washington, has one hiking trail: the short loop out along the marshes to Willard Springs and then back through aspen and ponderosa pines. Bring binoculars to watch for woodland and wetland birds and always be prepared to see elk in the early mornings and evenings. While the best times to visit are fall and spring, the loop can be done at all times of the year, weather permitting. This is an interpretive trail and brochures may be available at the trailhead. Note that there is no lake at Conboy Lake because the land was drained by early settlers; all that remains is a seasonal wetland.

The Willard Springs Foot Trail begins across the road from the parking area. A weathered signpost gives the outline of the interpretive loop. The trail was a cow path and logging road which was remodeled by the Youth Conservation Corps. Go right behind the sign under ponderosa and lodgepole pines. Pass a salt lick that attracts mule deer and elk. Keep walking through bracken and bitter brush, and round the corner of a fence, noting the aspen grove and horse pasture. With a meadow on the left, hike along the fence. Keep left at the next corner (The refuge headquarters is to the right). Cross a meadow, ignoring a shortcut to the left. Get views of fields with harvest bales in the fall. Reenter pine forest at Stop #4. Head along an alley of grand fir and down some steps. Note a few oaks to the left before you pass Stops #5 and #6. A pondweed-covered canal (Cold Springs Ditch) is to your right. Dragonflies hover busily on a sunny day, there will be fresh sign of elk, and farm fields and wetlands stretch across the waterway. Bluebells bloom in the woods here in the summer. Take a spur right to an observation deck. From here there is a great view of Mount Adams above the rushes and pines. Continue on trail to pass #7, an old growth ponderosa pine left after logging operations. At a junction, go right for Willard Springs.

Walk under lodgepole pines with a grassy understory. At another junction, go right for Willard Springs. Pass through a pine-dotted meadow to Stop #10 at the trail end. Willard Springs issues from lava rocks and spills into a rush-filled wetland shaded by pines and a few aspen. Elk trails lace the area. The meadow here is the site of an old homestead.

Return and go right at the junction. The trail bends bends left at an aspen grove and continues on an old logging road as you follow blue arrows. Deer and elk tracks intersect with the foot path. At #11, pass a shortcut trail to the left. Enter a ponderosa pine plantation, with bracken, bitterbrush, and bright red skyrocket in the summer; Brown's peonies bloom here in May. At a junction with a wide trail, go right. Pass #13 in woods carpeted with quack grass. Keep right at a junction with the Meadow Cutoff Trail and walk through ponderosa pine forest to the trailhead.

At the end of the Willard Springs Loop, walk 0.2 miles up the road and come to a parking area, restrooms, and picnic table on a low, ponderosa-shaded rise overlooking the refuge bottomlands with their farm fields dotted with cattle. The refuge headquarters is to the left and to the right, on another low rise, is the Whitcomb-Cole Cabin, built by John Cole around 1890 on land he purchased from Stephen Whitcomb; the cabin was moved here from the original location and is one of the oldest remaining structures in this part of Washington.

Here are the stops on the interpretive route:

1. Salt lick for deer; 2. Aspen grove (good beaver food); 3. Bitterbrush clumps (deer food); 4. Porcupine tree; 5. Wood duck box; 6. Valley floor (drained by settlers, canals constructed); 7. Ponderosa succession + honey bee hive in tree; 8. Hollow log (habitat); 9. Lodgepole pine; 10. Willard Springs (old homestead was here); 11. Logging in 1975; 12. Wildlife habitat; 13. Timber thinning.


Regulations or Restrictions, etc.

  • No pets allowed
  • Open sunrise to sunset
  • $3.50 toll each way at Hood River Bridge

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Day Hiking: Columbia River Gorge by Craig Romano

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.