The trail parallels the Columbia River, linking together several parks, public spaces and historic sites, and passing shops and restaurants at the Vancouver Waterfront and Columbia Shores. It offers sweeping views of the Columbia River and Mount Hood in the distance and a sandy public beach at the east end. You can spend all day walking this combination of sidewalks and paved trails round trip, or there are numerous access points that allow shorter hikes.
The trail is anchored on the east end by Wintler Community Park, a 12.5-acre park with a sandy beach, picnic tables and restrooms open April-October. A $5 parking fee is collected between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Start your hike at the beach or find the trail at the west end of the parking area.
From Wintler Park, walk along the edge of a riparian cottonwood forest and in .3 mile, reach the large Tidewater Cove development that includes offices, condominiums and a marina. A short side trip on the marina breakwater leads to views of Mount Hood rising above the Glenn Jackson (I-205) Bridge. In winter, this is a prime birding spot.
Beyond Tidewater Cove, the trail goes inland to bypass a wetland. At 1.2 miles, pass the Water Resources Education Center across the street, which has restrooms, drinking fountains and educational exhibits that are good for kids. Check their website for opening hours and events.
The trail then enters 58-acre Marine Park, with picnic tables, playground, flush restrooms open April-October, and drinking fountains. There is no parking fee. Reach 1.5 miles at the park entrance sign.
Another side trip is to walk .5 mile down Marine Park Way to the boat launch ($5 parking fee year round) and the Kaiser Viewing Tower. Interpretive exhibits highlight the role of the Kaiser Shipyards during WW II. Return to Marine Park.
From Marine Park, the trail continues 1.2 miles on a sidewalk along SE Columbia Way past the industrial Columbia Business Park, former home of the Kaiser Shipyards. Turn south for .2 mile along SE Columbia Shores Blvd. and resume the waterfront trail. Turn left to admire the Wendy Rose statue which commemorates the women who worked at the Kaiser Shipyards during WW II. Then turn around to continue west past several restaurants. Pass the Princess Ilchee statue next to a residential area.
In .4 mile (3.5 miles from start), the trail becomes a long boulevard lined with cottonwoods. This is one of the most heavily used segments of trail so stay alert for cyclists, skaters, skateboarders, and other conveyances. In .75 mile, enter 5-acre Fort Vancouver Waterfront Park with benches, picnic tables and viewing platforms. This is a good spot to view the I-5 Bridge. Free parking.
Pass a couple of restaurants slated for redevelopment and walk under the I-5 Bridge to the Captain George Vancouver Monument Plaza which features Jay Rood's 1992 sculpture “Boat of Discovery” and interpretive panels about the European “discovery” of the northwest coast of North America.
At the next intersection, turn left on Columbia Way to visit the new Vancouver Waterfront Park, part of a 35-acre mixed use urban development on a former mill site. The park includes the iconic cable-stayed Grant Street Pier, which juts 90 feet out over the river, benches, a picnic area, flush toilet restrooms, drinking fountain, a water feature, and a play area with salmon sculptures, sandy upland beach and netclimber. The west end of the trail terminates at Columbia Way. On-street, metered parking and private pay parking lots are available.
Alternative Route: From the Captain George Vancouver Monument Plaza, continue walking north along Columbia Street for .25 mile to Esther Short Park established in 1853, the oldest public park in Washington. Check out the Salmon Run Bell Tower with a glockenspiel depicting a Chinook tale and salmon leaping up the side. The park has benches, a water feature, playground with swings, and flush toilet restrooms. Parking spaces around the park are metered with various time limits. This was the original western terminus of the trail prior to development of the Vancouver Waterfront.
WTA Pro Tip: The east end of the trail is much less crowded than the west end, especially on summer weekends.