You are here: Home Find a Hike Hiking Guide Lewis River Trail

Lewis River Trail

Step into the moss-cloaked forest of the Lewis River, where giant cedars, nurse logs, ancient stumps and rushing water abound.

To hike the lower section of the Lewis River is to step into a different world, populated by fantastic patches of old-growth fir and cedar in a shadowy section of the Gifford Pinchot. Its easily accessible location and fairly flat riverside route make it a perfect early-spring hike. Throw in a few waterfalls, wildflowers and a variety of ancient forest pecularities — including pinesap, coralroot and gnome plant—and you have an outdoor discovery destination suitable for the whole family, even Fido.

From the trailhead parking area, first head downstream a few hundred yards to viewpoints of cascading Curly Creek and Miller Creek Falls, which will whet your appetite for what's yet to come. Heading upstream, old-growth Douglas-fir and western redcedar, draped with angel hair, reach skyward, while mossy nurse logs occupy the forest floor with their fledgling new growth standing in line. Look for carpets of vanilla-leaf here and there, and the bright white blooms of early season trillium swaying to and fro. Notice the gigantic stumps where giants once stood, the almost spongy wood a brilliant reddish color against the greens of the forest.

At 2.5 miles find the Bolt Camp Shelter, a neat place to spend a little time pondering the history of this now quiet area. Continuing upstream, the forest becomes sprinkled with a smaller mix of trees. At 4.4 miles, a good turnaround point, spy Big Creek Falls pouring into the rift across the river. When ready, return the way you came.
Driving Directions:

From Cougar, on SR 503, drive east for 3 miles then veer right at the fork onto FR 90. Continue 5.2 miles, then turn left on Curly Creek Road/FR 9039. Find parking and the trailhead just across the bridge.

Improve or add to this guidebook entry

Recent Trip Reports

Hiked here recently? Submit a trip report!
There are 33 trip reports for this hike. See all trip reports for this hike.
Lewis River Trail — Jun 22, 2013 — mrs.zupke
Day hike
Issues: Mud/Rockslide | Mudholes | Water on trail
Expand report text Hide report text
This hike was great! There are a few parts of the trail that have water running over them and other...
This hike was great! There are a few parts of the trail that have water running over them and others that are definite HH (holding hands) stretches if you're with kids.

We went from Lower Falls Campground down trail on Saturday and did Lower Falls to Middle and Upper Falls on Sunday. Both were done with 4 adults and 3 kids (under 3). Super fun!

Want tips for camping with babies? Mine's 10 months old and we also had a 5 month old and 2 1/2 year old along. Check out my blog post: http://reprezent98201.wordpress.com/[…]/.

Happy hiking!
Read full report with photos
Lewis River Trail — Apr 13, 2013 — cera
Day hike
Issues: Blowdowns | Snow on trail
Expand report text Hide report text
We started the hike just after the first Lewis River Bridge. The weather was pretty cold and it sno...
We started the hike just after the first Lewis River Bridge. The weather was pretty cold and it snowed on us for most of the hike. We hiked from the Lewis River Bridge to the Quartz Creek Trailhead, about 4 1/2 miles one way. There was a significant amount of snow on the trail between upper falls and the Quartz Creek Bridge/Trailhead (about 1/4 of a mile) up to 10 inches deep in spots. The trail between the upper, middle and lower falls was pretty clear and not too muddy. There were perhaps 5 downed trees across the trail, all fairly easy to get around. There was a large volume of water going over the falls right now, it's pretty impressive. We didn't see any other people on the trail all day.
Read full report with photos
Lewis River Trail — Jul 07, 2012 — Bob and Barb
Day hike
Features: Wildflowers blooming
Issues: Mud/Rockslide | Washouts
Expand report text Hide report text
We ended our 10 day camping and hiking trip as we did last year by hiking the Lewis River Falls Trai...
We ended our 10 day camping and hiking trip as we did last year by hiking the Lewis River Falls Trail starting at the Lower Falls Recreation Area where we were camped. The trail is in good condition most of the way and the river and falls are running almost full with the winter snow melt. At the first switchback above Middle Falls tread work is needed where the trail has washed away to a narrow and unstable area. After viewing the Upper Falls, we recommend continuing on The Lewis River Trail by hiking a fairly steep 1/8 mile section of trail to a viewpoint above the Upper Falls. This is where we always have lunch. We then continue another 1/8th mile to Taitnapum Falls before returning to the TH. Twin flower, wild ginger, penstemon, yellow monkey-flower, pink pyrola, starflower, bunchberry, foam flower, and spring beauty were some of the flowers blooming.
Read full report with photos
Lewis River Trail — Aug 07, 2011 — HalfCenturyHiker
Day hike
Expand report text Hide report text
ABSOLUTELY AWESOME!!! Three magnificent waterfalls within three miles, 6 miles round trip. Earlier i...
ABSOLUTELY AWESOME!!! Three magnificent waterfalls within three miles, 6 miles round trip. Earlier in the year the waterfalls are fuller, later in the year less water so hike this twice a year! The trail is fantastic, sometimes along the river, other times 100 feet above the river, hiking along steep cliffs. I can't describe how impressed I was this hike. I've lived in western Washington all my life and this is the first time I've been to the Lewis river. For a summer weekend I was surprised how few people were on the trail. The campground was only have full too. I plan to photograph the waterfalls in the fall color, should be gorgeous!
See BobandBarb's trail report, great pictures and great review.
If you're into photography, try to go on an overcast day or go early or late on a bright sunny day because the waterfalls will be very contrasty. If so, it's HDR time!
Read full report with photos
Curly Creek, Lewis River Trail — Jul 28, 2011 — LEG PWR
Day hike
Issues: Blowdowns
Expand report text Hide report text
This hike was along the Lewis River, starting at the Curly Creek Falls Trailhead. Access the trailh...
This hike was along the Lewis River, starting at the Curly Creek Falls Trailhead. Access the trailhead by driving Forest Road 90 4 or 5 miles east of the junction with FR 25. Turn left at the sign and drive less than a mile, to a bridge over the Lewis River. Cross the bridge, then 0.3 mile later, turn left into the parking lot. There is a vault toilet and a signboard featuring a map of the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument: South Side (which does not even include this area). Parking is free.

Note: As of this writing, the WTA Hiking Guide lists the one-mile "Speed Trail" #31E as the Lewis River Trail #31. Most of our hike was along the lower part of the real Lewis River Trail #31. The Hiking Guide is wrong.

From the parking lot, we walked west a quarter mile to the viewpoints for Curly Creek Falls and Miller Creek Falls. Both featured brand new signs affixed to trees. Unfortunately, the first sign is misspelled "Curley Creek Falls". The falls is largely in shade, but features a two-tiered drop below a natural rock bridge. Very pretty. Miller Creek Falls is farther away from the viewpoint and also mostly in shade. It is a classic single drop waterfall.

From this spur trail (#31A) we backtracked then bypassed the access trail to the parking lot, walking straight along #31A to the bridge, where we picked up Lewis River trail #31 on the other side. This is a fine, well shaded trail along the Lewis River through old growth forest, usually within sight of the river. There are few ups and downs. There was however, one blowdown about a half mile north of the bridge, which required ducking under. Bicyclists would be able to dismount and drag their bikes under the large log.

There are three nice camps along the river at about 1.75 miles from the bridge, one with a rope swing hanging over the sunlit water. Nice.

We stopped briefly at Bolt Camp, 2.5 miles from the bridge. We explored the shelter, then continued on another 2.5 miles, looking for the junction with the Speed Trail, #31E. (This is the one called "Lewis River Trail" in the WTA Hiking Guide.) I was curious how deep the river was running at the ford location. At the right mileage, we saw a tent and its owner on the opposite side of the river, and just past there on our side was a nice camp site. But we saw no indication of any path that might lead to a ford of the river, or a connecting path on the opposite side - just the person camped there. In fact, the water was running high and swift, so high that it appeared to be chest deep at its deepest.

We turned around after eating lunch and had a pleasantly shaded walk back to the parking lot. Total mileage: about 11.
Read full report with photos
Lewis River Don Paulson.jpg
Hiker on the Lewis River trail. Photo by Don Paulson.
WTA worked here!
2011
Location
Lewis River (#31)
South Cascades -- Lewis River Region
Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument
Statistics
Roundtrip 8.8 miles
Elevation Gain 450 ft
Highest Point 1300 ft
Features
Rivers
User info
Good for kids
Dogs allowed on leash
Northwest Forest Pass required
Guidebooks & Maps
Green Trails No. 365 Lone Butte

Improve or add to this guidebook entry

Map it
Red MarkerLewis River Trail
46.10215 -121.906483333
  • BCRT 2011
(46.1022, -121.9065) Open in new window
Document Actions
  • Print this
  • Share
Get the Guidebooks

Mountaineers three booksSelect content from The Mountaineers Books' guidebooks is featured in this Hiking Guide. Sales of the books from this website help protect and maintain trails.

> Shop Now

More hikes » Hike of the Week
Lewis River Trail (Apr 10)

Lewis River Trail

South Cascades

We're at the cusp of waterfall season! With five waterfalls in a 7-mile roundtrip, this Lewis River hike is one to keep on your April-June to-do list. If you're hiking with creaky knees or kiddos, take in the magnificent, close-in Lower Lewis River Falls. If you want a longer hike with some ups and downs, venture all the way to Taidnapum Falls, 3.5 miles in.

Get Trail News

Subscribe to our free email newsletter for hiking news, events, gear reviews and more.

What's Happening
Trails and Ales - Spokane 2014 Apr 22, 2014 Meet fellow hikers and raise a glass for trails!
Hiker Potluck in Vancouver May 28, 2014 Come out for an evening of great food, meet other hikers and learn what is happening on trails near you.
More »