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An adventure awaits those who tackle all, or part, of the 56-mile-long Willapa Hills Trail in southwestern Washington. The former Northern Pacific Railway line rolls through remote farm and forestland as it links Chehalis in the east with South Bend on the coast.
The trail boasts inviting, smooth asphalt for 5.3 miles as it leaves Chehalis. Another paved section rolls for 5.2 miles through the coastal towns of Raymond and South Bend on the tidal Willapa River. Sandwiched in between are about 45 miles of trail surface—including packed and loose gravel, ballast, and grass—posing various degrees of difficulty. That middle section features many century-old trestles, two of which were washed out in the 2007 flood—at Spooner Road and Doty-Dryad Road—that were rebuilt and opened in January 2016.
The route starts in Chehalis near the tourist train headquarters at the Chehalis–Centralia Railroad & Museum. You'll pass through pastures and small woodlots, and cross two trestles, before reaching a short stretch of gravel to slow down cyclists at a dangerous crossing of State Route 6 in Adna. Beyond, you'll find a packed gravel trail and pass whitewater in the river and once-thriving lumber mill towns.
The trail deteriorates to mostly loose gravel en route to Pe Ell, a trailhead and old railway town said to be the mispronunciation of an early trapper named Pierre. Between Chehalis and Pe Ell, another major project is underway to re-deck a railroad bridge (known as Bridge #5) that is currently closed.
From Pe Ell, the next 12 miles feature a winding grade in the Willapa Hills through timber stands of Douglas fir, cedar, and alder. You might spy deer or other wildlife here as you climb and descend a ballast trail held together by grass.
It's back to rough gravel as you return to the valley and pass the small towns of Frances, Lebam (reversed spelling of Mabel, a settler's daughter), and Menlo. A missing trestle just west of Lebam requires a short detour on Robertson Road.
From there, it's nearly 14 more miles of gravel until the path is paved once again as it rolls along the Willapa River on the outskirts of Raymond. The city is known as the Town of Metal People for erecting more than 100 sculptures of animals and people. The route briefly leaves the railroad corridor to avoid a river crossing. It ends on US 101 at a mountain of oyster shells next to the Willapa estuary in South Bend, known as the Oyster Capital of the World.
Please use this form to notify us of any changes or updates that we need to make to the trail information on TrailLink for this trail. RTC staff will review your submission and contact you if there is any need for further clarification.