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Rainbow Falls State Park

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Hike through some of the last standing old-growth trees in the Chehalis Valley. Admire trails, bridges, and structures built by the Depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). Once finished hiking, sit by a small cascade and let it lull you to rest.

This little state park on the upper reaches of the Chehalis River has been attracting visitors since the early twentieth century when it was a community park. Once surrounded by thousands of acres of old-growth forest, the only ancient trees left standing in this region are within the 139 acres of the park. While it's the small cascade, Rainbow Falls, that lures people here, it's the remnant old growth that's the real big attraction.

About 3 miles of interconnecting trail wind through the lush tract of big cedars, hemlock, Douglas-fir, and the occasional Sitka spruce. Beneath the lofty canopy, alders are draped in moss and the forest floor is carpeted in oxalis. It's a fairy-tale forest where chickadees frolic and flit like gregarious elves in a magical kingdom.

From the trailhead you can set out in several directions and blaze your own course. Trails are signed and you really can't get lost; all trails loop back to the trailhead. The Oxalis Loop passes by some of the larger trees in the park, while the Woodpecker Trail descends into a small lush ravine complete with a bubbling brook. Hike these trails as a journey-not toward a destination-and enjoy this special tract of remnant wild country.
Driving Directions:

From Chehalis (exit 77 on I-5) follow State Route 6 west for 16 miles to Rainbow Falls State Park. Park on south side of the highway or in the day-use area 0.3 mile from the park entrance.

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Note: the description and driving directions for this Mountaineers Books entry are copyrighted and can't be changed.

Recent Trip Reports

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There are 3 trip reports for this hike.
Rainbow Falls State Park — Jun 07, 2013 — aunt e g
Day hike
Features: Wildflowers blooming
Issues: Overgrown | Bugs
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Afternoon hike. Hot,bugs, high humidity. Park is nice w/ flush toilets,decent camp spots, trail alon...
Afternoon hike. Hot,bugs, high humidity. Park is nice w/ flush toilets,decent camp spots, trail along river w steep drops to access river. Bridge over falls long gone w unknown reconstruction time. Makes hiking disappointing. You have to leave the park and park on the pullout of the highway. Can tell the park is a victim of budget cuts. Small walkover bridge missing planks. Trail very overgrown and poor signage. But, it was pretty and cooler on this side of the highway. Trail is slow gentle elevation w bleeding hearts and other flowers. Decent out wide old overgrown road.
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Rainbow Falls State Park — May 19, 2011 — Alaskan Eagle
Day hike
Features: Wildflowers blooming
Issues: Blowdowns | Bridge out | Mudholes
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The day was a planned the night before. Weather was going to be good, where could we go to take the...
The day was a planned the night before. Weather was going to be good, where could we go to take the dog out and get away from Puyallup for a couple hours?

We arrived at the park around 9:00 a.m. (Had camped there as a kid about 35 years ago but this was the first time I had been back). Drove over the new bridge and visited the 'main' area of the park with a bathroom facility and campsites. No notification of user fees was posted anywhere for day use of the trails so we drove back over the river bridge to the south side of the park.

There is a nice wide spot on the North side of the road where we parked the truck. The place we parked was just south of the falls. Apparently there were bridges over the 'Rainbow Falls' area but were removed in December 2007 [storm damages?]. The map showed areas to park south of highway 6 but the gate was closed and by the looks of it, it had been shut for some time.

We packed our snacks, water and bags for the dogs business and headed across the highway. Immediately we entered the forest and it was everything we had hoped for. Huge Douglas-firs, many western red cedars and some hemlock dominated the area through which we walked. There were several large maple trees on the lower portion of the park. The trails were mostly cleared and we took off to the western side to navigate the Deer Trail. Many tracks from deer were seen in the soft soil on the trail and with the exception of two blown-down trees, the trail was in great shape. Deer trail eventually joined the Hemlock trail and this was obviously a road in a prior time as it was wide (by comparison to the Deer trail) and relatively flat we worked our way to the east side of the park and worked our way back downhill towards the trailhead and the river. Lots of birds around in the morning. The shaded region was covered with a lush green coating of Oxalis. Several Trillium poked their pink and white flowers above the Oxalis and the overall effect was one of a calm, peaceful contentment.

Once back down to the trailhead, we ate a snack and decided to go around the Oxalis Loop. This time we went clock-wise and backtracked a portion of the trail we already covered. The stations of the interpretive trail were marked and though we did not have a guide, we could guess at what each post what was being pointed out. The trail was slightly disappointing as there was a water crossing footbridge that has fallen and is not safe to use. My best guess is that it has been down for at least 2-3 years. Maybe some group will designate some time and supplies to repair that broken section because the way it sits now, it is not safe to use.

We came out again at the trailhead and crossed the street back to the truck. We were excited to be out in the sunshine, the dog was exhausted from sniffing everything and as we packed our stuff in the truck we wondered when we might be back again. Hope it is not another 35 years before our return.
TOTAL TIME HIKING- one hour & 30 minutes.

A few last thoughts:
-Nice trails, not too long & easy to get around for the most part.
-Little chance to get lost as the area is relatively small.
-Magnificent trees to just wonder at the beauty around us.
-Good for kids, pets and to just get away.
-Little mud on trails still, recommend bring shoes with good soles and not afraid to get a little wet or muddy.
- - - - Overall, great time, good weather and yes, we will go again!
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Rainbow Falls State Park — Apr 26, 2009 — Hikingqueen
Day hike
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Rainbow Falls State Park 4-26-09 Spur of the moment I decided to join Annie in a hike today. She wa...
Rainbow Falls State Park 4-26-09
Spur of the moment I decided to join Annie in a hike today. She was originally going to do Nisqually Wildlife area and I talked her into this state park instead. We followed the signs and heard there was a bridge out from the lady at the local store. We drove into the park by following the brown signs, over the one lane bridge. We got out and walked over to the falls and saw the remains of suspension bridge and road. Wonder if they will rebuild? We weren’t really sure were the trails were so continued along the edge of the river back into camp ground and then decided we needed to drive to the other side my state parks book said more trails were on that side.

 Trillium were blooming everywhere, so many colors and sizes, bleeding hearts, and many other flowers. I need to get a wildflower book and carry with me! I don’t know all my flowers yet. We didn’t get many miles in today but it was more about exploring the area and seeing the flowers today. Great day to be out. Now tomorrow I head to Kauai for some more hiking.

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Rainbow falls by hiking queen.jpg
Rainbow Falls State Park by Hikingqueen
Olympics -- SW Washington
Rainbow Falls State Park
Roundtrip 3.0 miles
Elevation Gain 200 ft
Highest Point 450 ft
Old growth
User info
Dogs allowed on leash
Discover Pass required
Guidebooks & Maps
Day Hiking: Olympic Peninsula (Romano - Mountaineers Books)
USGS Rainbow Falls

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Note: the description and driving directions for this Mountaineers Books entry are copyrighted and can't be changed.

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