Rainbow Falls State Park is an island remnant of exquisite old growth forest in the upper Chehalis Valley, with a small cascade as the centerpiece of the park. Surrounding a half-mile stretch of the Chehalis River, this fragile patch of stunning Douglas fir, western hemlock, and western redcedar is among the last, albeit diminished, stores of Washington heritage to pass onto the future forest of the region.
At the trailhead you will notice right away that this park is low key. There is no toilet. There is no sign board. For modernity you will have to go to the campground. The trail system is small and simple; the perimeter is a 1.5 mile loop with a few spokes connecting the center.
All the trails are reasonably-sized, maintain easy grades, and are fairly obvious, although a map wouldn't be a bad idea (see map section below for a printable map).
The northwestern half of the park contains the largest trees, so if you're here for neck-craning admiration try the Oxalis Loop or Woodpecker-Deer Trail Loop. But the entire network of trails is easily strolled with minimal effort. So why not see something you might not expect - a clearcut.
Starting at the trailhead, walk west along the grassy path within earshot of the highway. A sign may mark this as the Deer Trail. After a few curves in the trail you'll pass under the suspended canopy of enormous trees that draws your gaze upward and enforces a new posture while lulling your senses into slower motion. Just as the majesty is taking effect the appearance of an expansive clearcut suddenly reminds us that this is an isolated patch of ancient wisdom with a dubious fate.
At 0.5 miles the Deer Trail meets the Woodpecker Trail in a drainage. At 0.75 miles the Deer Trail meets the unnamed center trail, an old road, which exits the park to the right or heads downhill to the left to the trailhead. Follow it left, passing a relic structure, and turn right at the marked Hemlock Trail. This southeastern section is a young fringe forest which marks the boundaries of three generations of gene pools; old growth, which is biologically rich, but not very diverse, and clearcut, which represents the potential forest which may one day recover in this valley.
After an intersection with the Salal Trail at 1.0 miles, The Hemlock Trail drops down through the generations and once again enters old growth for the final half mile. A scenic cascade and the trailhead clearing mark the end of the loop. Leftover time is best spent by the river, which has its easiest approaches west of the large fir.
Rainbow Falls State Park
- 3.0 miles, roundtrip
- Elevation Gain
- 200 feet
- Highest Point
- 450 feet
Hiking Rainbow Falls State Park
Rainbow Falls State Park
Map & Directions
Co-ordinates: 46.6302, -123.2318 Open in Google Maps