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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.
To reach the Chehalis trailhead, take Interstate 5 to Exit 77. Turn west onto W. Main Street, and then immediately turn left onto SW Riverside Drive. In 0.5 mile, turn left onto SW Sylvenus Street, and then turn right onto SW Hillburger Road in 0.3 mile. At the end, in 0.4 mile, is a county parking lot for the trail; a left turn heads to a state parking lot with toilets and drinking water (Discover Pass required).
To reach the South Bend trailhead from I-5, take Exit 104. Continue on US 101 for 5.5 miles, and keep left to stay on SR 8. In 21 miles, continue straight on US 12. In another 10 miles, take the exit for SR 107/Montesano/Raymond. Turn left onto SR 107 S, and go 8 miles. Turn left onto US 101 S, and travel 21.3 miles. Turn right onto Summit Avenue, and park at the trailhead.
On Saturday 7/14 I rode from Pe Ell to South Bend. Then on Monday 7/16 my wife drove me from South Bend to Pe Ell and I rode from Pe Ell to Chehalis.
I love this trail! There are certain sections I would not recommend to the casual rider at this time.
Around Frances and through to Willapa there are several sections where the trail has mostly succumbed to blackberries. At times I picked my feet up on my crossbar and glided through. But other times I had to get out and walk, picking my way slowly and carefully through the thorns for a long, long time. There is at least 2,000 feet of trail like this (at least!).
In Lebam, at Robertson Road, it is incredibly easy to lose the trail. It picks up again right across the road but it is so overgrown that it is almost invisible. According to reports there is a bridge out and you have to take a detour (but alas the detour is not obvious at all). So, what you do is follow Robertson Road to the right of the trail for about 1/2 mile (guessing at the distance) and then take the first trail-like thing you see on your left into the woods. This should get you back on the trail. There are no signs! I biked around Lebam for about 5 miles before I found it. I also discovered later that if I zoomed wayyyy in on Google maps I could see the trail and the detour as well. I hope this saves other people some time and frustration.
Between Pe Ell and Frances there are several railroad trestles without decking. Don't try to ride across these as some of them have ties that are severely rotted and have mostly disintegrated. This bears repeating from the trail description. If I recall correctly the third or fourth trestle out of Pe Ell toward Frances was in the worst condition. The first couple of trestles out of Pe Ell were actually fine but very, very bumpy! The trestles are breathtaking for the natural beauty around them and for the fact that you are wayyy up above the ground on some of them.
I also rode through nettle patches and lots of long, long grass west of Frances.
In Raymond the trail closes and sent me off on a detour to the right. I went to the right then turned left crossing the street (Hwy 101). Once you cross Hwy 101, head back toward the trail you left off - but don't take the first trail to your right. It looks really nice but will lead you to a scenic dead end in a mile or two. Instead, bike along Hwy 101 and the trail will reappear before you.
With all that said, I can't express how beautiful this trail is. It was a great adventure and absolutely worth the effort. For a casual ride, I would recommend starting at Adna and heading west for about 10 miles. The trail is either paved or fairly smooth dirt & gravel for that part. As you get closer to Pe Ell in either direction the gravel gets deeper and wider tires are a big plus. On two-inch tires I found myself swimming around a bit on certain portions.
The first part of the trail was in great shape with well maintained bridges and nicely compacted gravel. Our gravel bikes handled the conditions nicely. Things changed dramatically once we passed Pe Ell, starting with the 1st of 3 ancient railroad bridges. There was no signage to warn cyclists that the bridges are not rideable & barely walkable, so I was on the first bridge before realizing its poor condition. I had no choice but to continue. It was terrifying! WALK your bike CAREFULLY across these bridges. Just west of Lebam, the trail suddenly appeared closed, with no signage to indicate a detour. Luckily a resident saw our puzzled faces and directed us to stay right on Robertson Rd and look for an unsigned path leading down to the left about a half a mile from the closure. After that, sections of the trail were so overgrown with grass and blackberries that it was difficult to see obstacles and we had to proceed slowly. Once we got past Frances, the conditions improved and we made it to Raymond, sore and tired.
After a great night's sleep in the Pitchwood Inn, we rode back to Chehalis, opting to bypass the middle section of the trail by taking Mill Creek Rd/Elk Creek Rd before rejoining the trail in Doty. Be forewarned, Mill Creek Rd turns into a gravel logging road with a much steeper grade than the trail.
Better signage, bridge improvements and overall maintenance on the middle section would make for a more enjoyable ride on the Willapa Trail, but all in all, it was a great adventure!
I rode the trail on Saturday, April 21st from east to west, using a Jamis Renegade with 700x40 tires. Some sections were slow going because the surface was not well compacted, but rideable.
Just to the west of Lebam, I detoured to the road, but was able to quickly jump back on the trail via what appeared to be a driveway, though ‘no trespassing’ signs don’t appear until you reach the trail and the private drive begins on the opposite side of the trail.
Around mile 44, I encountered lots of mud that was not rideable. This muddy section continued for a few miles.
A very small section is blocked off by concrete blocks around mile 48.75 because the river is eroding the hillside. I tip toed through on the trail, but you really have no idea if this is solid ground. Be smart and go around it.
All in all, it was a great ride but challenging in some areas. Well marked until you get to 101. Just remember to go left at that point. I missed that turn.
We love this trail and do it often. The new rail bridges are beautiful.
Rode the entire trail from east to west on June 4th,2016. Temperature was in the 90's. All the bridges are now open to Pe Ell. Great work done on the bridges! New crushed gravel being installed approaching Pe Ell. Needs some compacting in places, but it appears that is happening based on the equipment by the trail. Past Pe Ell the trail becomes rougher and tends to disappear into the weeds in sections. Beautiful ride through a forest, however. then the trail tends to parallel the highway.
There is a short detour on the main highway just past Leban, I think. Tough ride due to the temperature and some rough parts, but very enjoyable. Congratulations on the trail restoration!
This trail is now completely open between Chehalis and Pe Ell for a total of about 22 or 23 miles one way. Very beautiful, several wooded areas passing next to the river. Did a ride on Sunday from Adna to Pe Ell and the trail was in great condition, with brand new compacted gravel between Doty and Mauerman Road west of Pe Ell. A glorious trail, bring your mountain bike and prepare to enjoy!
The bridges look like they are all finished with an inspection slated from Tuesday. The trail is being spiffed up for The Willapa Hills Fat Tire Ride at the end of June. Level with some areas of chunky gravel. It was a beautiful trail to ride.
Rode the trail today 7 miles from Chehalis. Crossed both new Bridges. Absolutely fabulous.
Twenty-two miles between Chehalis and Pe Ell are about to be fully connected. Two bridges replacing trestles that were washed out in the 2007 floods have linked some major gaps in the Lewis County portion of the trail, and a third near Adna is about to be done within a matter of days.
The first 5.5 miles from Chehalis to Adna's Bunker Creek area are paved, and then will cross a 900-or-so foot trestle, continuing on as very fine ballast. Finely crushed gravel in spots as well to Pe Ell, but the ride is really picturesque between Clinton Road and Meskill Road especially, about a 4- or 5-mile stretch.
There's a big event coming up June 25-26 for anyone interested in being among the first to ride the newly opened stretch. The Willapa Hills Trail Fat Tire Ride & Festival will bring riders from Chehalis to Pe Ell and back with a festival and overnight campout at Pe Ell. Visit www.ridethewillapa.com for more details.
This trail is beautiful, but just know that if you start at the Chehalis trailhead, you can only go four and a half miles. After that, the trail is closed for construction. Hopefully, this will end soon.
We chose a very wet weekend to tackle a ride on the trail, so we really didn't go very far. I will follow up later with a more detailed account of our ride through the hills. For now, it is totally doable, even for a hybrid. Not much in the way of loose ballast - mostly compacted/hard surface with a variety of materials - some bumpy sections, but not bad. Earth, grass, gravel, crushed asphalt/other fines. Not much mud or soft surface, in spite of some minor flooding. Very rideable, and all trestles but one (near 27 mile, currently under replacement) between Pe Ell and Lebam were passable, although primitive and probably technically unsafe. Only once saw Trail Closed signs besides at the washout, and that only after crossing a trestle. Very nice trail that shows signs of ongoing upgrades and maintenance. Posted some pictures. More later - really enjoyed the short ride in spite of some inclement weather . . .
"Even better would be to make the entire trail ridable by fixing the bridges."
There are construction crews currently working on new bridges near Chandler Road in Dryad and near Spooner Road west of Adna. The remains of the old railway bridges have already been taken out. Last I looked the trail and banks were being modified in preparation for the bridge foundations. We will have new bridge there soon! Both will be identical 300 foot long single span (no supports in the water) steel truss bridges with a 10 ft wide path on a 12 ft wide structure.
First and last six miles are paved and ridable on road bike. The rest of the trail is only ridable on a mountain bike.
My big gripe with this trail is that you cannot ride all the way through and the closed sections are not evident until you get to the break.
Specifically there are two bridges out near the east end of the trail. The trail closed signs are at the breaks, which means you have to backtrack several miles to get onto highway 6 so you can get around the breaks.
Proper placement of trail closed signs where the trail intersects with the road would make this much less frustrating. Even better would be to make the entire trail ridable by fixing the bridges.
The Willapa Hills Trail is becoming worth the drive. It offers over fifty miles of rail-trail from South Bend on Willapa Bay to Chehalis on the I-5 freeway, with the Willapa Hills in the middle. Take a weekend and explore.
The TrailBear did, coming up the coastal route from surveys in Astoria and Ft. Stevens (“Ft. Skeeter”) and he was surprised at the improvements. The WHT is becoming a destination trail. He spent two days looking at and riding various portions of the trail.
The WHT has an image of a ribbon of brush-choked ballast in remote, fog-shrouded hills. If anyone has made the full traverse, the account is not readily available. That would make a nice mountain bike adventure. The reality is that the trail is being developed at both ends (paved), in the middle (slurry seal) and between Doty and Adna (excellent “soft” surface). The traverse over the hills remains for An Adventure.
@@@ THE WILLAPA HILLS TRAIL COMES IN FIVE SEGMENTS…
You need to pick your ride and portage between the segments. Trail surfaces and bridges missing from the 2007 Flood divide the trail into five segments. It is not yet possible to make a seamless ride from South Bend to Chehalis. A few million dollars for new bridges and who knows? Pe El perhaps. Stay tuned on this one.
The rides are…
South Bend to Raymond. Blacktop. Family and road bike friendly. Scenic.
Raymond over the hills to Pe El. Gravel and brushed. Some bridges out. Mountain bike adventure.
Around Pe El. Slurry seal. Family friendly for a ways.
Doty to the Chehalis crossing. Excellent “soft” surface, wide and open. The RR bridge to Adna lies in the Chehalis River below the crossing site. From Rainbow Falls State Park it is an 18 mile Out N Back. Scenic.
Adna to Chehalis. New trailheads at both ends and blacktop between. An enjoyable bucolic ride. Family and road bike friendly. Scenic.
@@@ SOUTH BEND TO RAYMOND – BLACKTOP, O.K. FOR ROADIES…
There is a scenic blacktop trail starting in South Bend and running up the Willapa River to the Raymond Riverfront Pier. The TrailLink map has been updated to show this segment. There are basically no facilities here. Bring water. The only restrooms at the Raymond pier are in two attractions – a carriage museum and a maritime museum. There is a portapotty in a small roadside rest above the trail on the bend in the highway, but there is no trail to it from the trail. You can thrash up the bank to reach it.
The best place to trailhead is at the Everybody’s Market complex. Find the McDonalds and turn in here. The trail runs past McDonalds, does a bit of street, ducks behind a church, then over the bridge to the Riverfront Pier complex. Heading toward South Bend it does a few blocks through an industrial area (with no industry), then back on the bike trail and off to South Bend.
What do you see? A nice ride along the river: marshes, tide flats and ruins, many ruins. All those rotted pilings once held up something – a pier, a cannery, booming ground stakes. Each piling stub marks an economic loss. There are a lot of them.
A century ago Raymond and South Bend were booming. Ships filled the river, waiting to load lumber. There were canneries. There was commerce. There were jobs. The exhibits at the pier explain how it was in the Good Old Days. Now things are rather slow and sleepy over here in the hills.
@@@ OVER THE HILLS – A MOUNTAIN BIKE TRAVERSE
The trail follows Highway 6 much of the way through the hills to Pe El. There are about eight miles up the valley, then into the hills. Here TrailBear did a series of soundings where road and trail were together. The photos are on the trail page and on the trail map. It’s not a complete picture of conditions, but better than what was available.
The surface is in gravel. It was ¾ minus at the points inspected. No 2-4” RR ballast was seen at these points. All were brushed and rideable. There are no facilities here. This is the Mountain Bike Adventure portion of the trail. Can you make it from Raymond to Pe El and live to write about it? (TB suggests a team of riders, radios and good sag wagon support.)
There are some bridges out. This is usually No Biggie. They are not big bridges. Just backtrack to the highway and make a small detour around the outage. There are numerous roads and drives which cross the trail to reach properties on the far side.
The interesting thing was the number of bridges up the valley that had been refurbished for bike/ped use, complete with guard rails and such. The smart move in developing this trail would be to work from the towns out into the boonies as funds permitted, and that appears to be what they are doing.
@@@ PE EL – FULL SERVICE TRAILHEAD AND PAVEMENT OF SORTS…
The first full service trailhead on the WHT is at Pe El. It has parking, water, flush toilets, an info kiosk and pavement of sorts on the trail there. How far it extends is ??? (unless you ride and tell), but there is something like a slurry seal on this portion of the trail.
@@@ DOWN IN THE VALLEY – DOTY TO CHEHALIS CROSSING – EXCELLENT SURFACE
The wonderment of this survey was the section from Doty along the valley to the displaced bridge by Adna. Put yourself at the junction of WA 6 and Stevens Rd. in the hamlet of Doty. On the left, coming down from Pe El is a section that is brushed but rough looking. Turn your head.
Across Stevens Rd. there is a wide track, fully brushed. The 12-15’ trail is topped with a 3/8” gravel and compacted. It is an excellent soft surface trail. TB has seen none better on any Western trail visited. It answers the question about Parks hardening the trail from Adna up to Rainbow Falls State Park. They have – and further – into Doty. Will they go on up to Pe El? Hope so. A seamless ride from Chehalis to Pe El would attract riders.
This soft surface trail extends from Doty down to the Chehalis crossing. The bridge is missing there. It can be found downstream a few hundred meters at 46.625798° -123.103017°. One assumes the Flood of 2007 swept it away. Getting something back will be an expensive exercise. You can walk out on the remains of the trestle and look around. Imagine the waters here over your head and hundreds of tons of steel bridge being swept downstream.
Rainbow Falls State Park is the place to trailhead for this section of trail. It’s a good place to camp if you are spending a few days exploring the whole trail. There is a spur trail from the park over to the WHT. The day use area features a modern restroom with water, flushies and showers.
From the park to the river and back is an 18 mile ride. Rather rural and scenic and remote. WA 6 is just over there – across the river. You can hear it. You can occasionally see it. You just can’t reach it. Beyond the park there are no facilities on the trail other than a gravel parking area at the Ceres Hill Crossing. Bring what you need. Cell phone coverage is spotty here.
@@@ ADNA TO CHEHALIS – NEW AND IMPROVED AND PAVED
The trail is now paved from Chehalis out to Adna. Good black top and rural scenery, including three old RR bridges. Check out the flood debris piled up against them. In December 2007 much of the valley was under water. A local rider pointed out the flood level on the local fire station – half way up the garage door windows. There was talk of cows found in trees. I-5 was submerged. Rainbow Falls State Park was a sheet of flowing water. The bridge there is still gone, as are a number of others.
The new Chehalis trailhead at the end of SW Hillburger Rd. (N46.64826 W122.97197) is not yet finished (6/2011). It still needs the blacktop. This is not in the best part of town. You might do better to stage out of Adna.
The trailhead at Adna, behind the high school (N46.63250 W123.06140), is finished but not yet open, according to a local rider. Restroom and gate are locked. There is a large gravel parking lot across the street that will serve. It’s next to the fire station. Remember – water half way up those windows.
There is a patch of gravel at the trail crossing at Stearns Rd. This one is giving them design problems as it is on a curve with reduced sight lines. They want you to slow down and cross with caution. Wonder if they will put in a bike/ped stop light – as seen on the Snohomish Centennial Trail.
The section beyond the Adna trailhead is done in that 3/8” gravel surface. The trestle missing the decking is slated to be done by the end of the year. That leaves the missing bridge at the river. This will take longer.
The Willapa Hills Trail is not there yet, but it certainly is in the process of Becoming. Take a ride on the wild side. Head for the hills and see what secrets they hold.
Wondering where the bridge went.
At the junction of US 101 and WA 6 by way of the pier, the rest of the trail starts heading up the valley and over the hills. It is paved out to Case Pond and follows Ellis Slough. Beyond that, for an unknown distance, it is topped with black ¾” gravel. A bit bouncy but you can ride it on a mountain bike.
Best to bring the mountain bike. There are three paved sections and one with an excellent “soft” surface and there is the rest.
It may be years before we can pedal from Chehalis to South Bend, but the ends are paved and here is some update and background information from the Lewis County Trails org...
"Trail: Chehalis to Adna section of the Willapa Hills Rail to Trail
Lenght: 5 Miles
Directions to Chehalis trailhead: From I-5 take exit 77. Left at light on Riverside Dr. Slight right on SE Newaukum Ave for .5 mile. Left on SW Sylvenus St. Right on SW Hillberger Rd. for .5 mi. to parking area.
Directions to Adna trailhead: From I-5 take exit 77. West on Hwy 6 for about 5 miles. Right on Bunker Creek Road exit. Contuinue past the expresso stand. Right on Dieckman Rd. through Adna to the parking area on the left. Crossing the Chehalis River
The abandoned rail line is a 56 mile Rail-to-Trail route that follows the Chehalis River to Pe Ell and beyond to South Bend on the Pacific coast. This section of the Willapa Hills State Park Rails-to-Trails starts in Chehalis at the Hillberger Road trailhead. The trail is a beautiful break from city life that starts just minutes from downtown Chehalis. On the way to Adna it crosses two century old trestles that cross the Newaukum and Chehalis Rivers. As it crosses Tune Rd, Shorey Rd and Hwy 603 it provides beautiful country scenes of farm land, dairy cows and a glimpse of Mt. Rainier away from the busy highways nearby. It parallels Hwy 6 for a short section before it crosses the highway at Stearns Road. The trail then goes past a private manmade lake that was used for barefoot waterskiing competitiions, then behind Adna High School to the Adna trailhead. The trail continues past the parking area for another 3/4 mile across Bunker Creek Road, past a sheep farm and ends at a 800' trestle for now until the trestle is redecked and rails added in the future. See trail photos:
Future plans include a grant application to RCO (Recreation and Conservation Office) next year that would provide for this trestle (bridge #5) to be decked and rails added. If this grant is approved it will open up a long stretch of trail beyond this point. Money has already been approved from this year’s RCO grant to harden the trail with compacted gravel for another 10 miles past the trestle which would extend to Rainbow Falls State Park. This is to be completed by June of 2011. The bridges taken our during the 2007 catastrophic flood in this area at Spooner and Dryad are scheduled to be replaced with FEMA funds in the next few years. They are now in the design phase.
A major hitch in the completion and official opening of this trail has been the Littell crossing at Hwy 6. There is poor sight distance where the trail crosses this major Highway. For the time being the paving will end a short distance in both directions of the trail and change to gravel to ensure slowing down at the crossing. The Parks Dept. will be asking the state at the next legislative session to provide assistance in designing and constructing a safe crossing.
Lewis County Community Trails, has been active in partnering with the Washington State Parks Department in helping to secure grants and has acted as a liaison between State and Congressman’s Baird’s office in helping to secure funding. LCCT has also given advice on the needs of the local area and useful improvements including signage along the trail. LCCT will aid the State with trail maintenance on the Chehalis to Adna portion once it is completed."
THIS TRAIL IS IN A DEVELOPMENTAL STAGE AND ONLY PARTS OF IT ARE PASSABLE BY BICYCLE.
I see that it is now mapped as a red trail and not green here. That is good because only portions are passable. I spoke with someone here in Washington State who is involved with the project and we all can expect ACCURATE and detailed information on the trail soon. There is far too much misinformation out there on the WEB that implies the trail is a completed and improved ride. It is not and the State of Washington is not responsible for the misleading information. Be well informed and be safe.
There was a bad flood in 2007 and one of the bridges was washed out. You can view it lying in the river west of Anda WA with the Google satellite imagery. I was planning to ride this trail this year and had camped at the beautiful Rainbow Falls State Park in the late summer of 2007 before the flood. Knowing the area made me look deeper into the details because I was all gun-ho to ride this trail. What were the conditions the full length? Had anyone ever rode the 56 miles?
Perhaps soon we can view a map that indicates the paved areas, the improved graveled area(s) and the not improved rail rock areas soon. I hope to provide a link to this information in the future (it is being compiled) so anyone making plans to ride on the trail this year will know what will be fun and what will be not. The paved areas at both ends are good to go and a smooth ride.
I urge all to support the further development of this trail. In the early 70’s I rode the Wisconsin Sparta-Elroy trail as a Boy Scout. It was the first converted rail grade trail in the USA (1967). One of the dads had connections at Schwinn and he provided the men with the rare and fast Schwinn Quintuplet for them to ride. What a sight that was and I wish I had taken a picture to preserve the memory to share. I have ridden many converted rail trails and look forward to the Willapa Hills Trail as it develops into the full and planned 56 mile route.
It will be a real Emerald some day.
The TrailBear is checking his roster of trails and getting ready for the 2011 Survey Season. There are updates to do and new trails for surveying.
Last season (2010) the Chehalis end of the Willapa Hills Trail was very much a work in progress. The map sucked (still does), there was no trail head at the Chehalis end and there were rumors of paving in Anda. What TB found was about 3 miles of nice asphalt, some lovely RR bridges and a lot of dairy cows.
It looks like this season things will be better. The Lewis County trails org map now had directions to trailheads in Chehalis and Anda and there is said to be 5 miles of pavement between the two.
ANDA TRAILHEAD, GE: 46.632652 -123.062555
Punch the above coordinated into Google Earth and you will see a nice new trailhead where Dieckman Rd. crosses the trail in Anda. Can't do that in Chehalis (old pix) but there should be a new trailhead by the time TB arrives.
Next question is: How far does the paving run? Chehalis to Anda and then ...?
They have been working on the East end (Chehalis area) trail head for the last couple of weeks (1/3/11).
TRAILBEAR MEETS A COW - The Willapa Hills Trail – East
If you like cows, dairy farms, fresh asphalt trail “far, far from the madding crowd” and flood plains, you might enjoy this end of the Willapa Hills Trail. It is green and bucolic. Dairy farms and cows left and right. Lovely mature shade trees, lush grass, streams, RR bridges, bogs, etc.
As for flood plain – this land is low and lush. The last flood cut I-5 for days and left only the roof of the Wal Mart showing. We noticed some new construction activity – homes were being jacked up and foundations raised for the next flood. Those who can are perched on the ridges with superb views over the valley.
TrailBear stopped off here to have a look on his annual migration to the boat. It looked like he could fit it in between rain storms. Step One was a van survey – trying to find the trail and a trail head. We settled on parking at the Rt. 603 crossing. From there, a ride of the full length (3 miles) of the blacktop Chehalis portion. There are no trail signs and there are no trail heads, so give it 5* for the nice blacktop, 4* for scenery, 5* for two very nice bridges and no stars for facilities. They are yet to come.
There may be some trail construction up behind the high school in Adna. There is to be a trailhead in Beck Park. TB did not see any construction down by Rt. 12 in Adna.
You can download the local map for some guidance – but watch out for subtle shade distinctions – red for trail and orange for trail to be. The map does not scale (non pdf) so you are peering at this little mosaic of color, hoping for the best.
You would be advised to drop these GPS coordinates onto Google Earth and make yourself a set of trail maps. There is another rail line in the same area and it is active. We saw a number of small goods trains. They blow every crossing (usually no crossing barriers), so you can hear them coming.
WHERE THE TRAIL STARTS IN TOWN: SW HILLBURGER RD., GE: N46.64750 W122.97419
Good luck finding Hillburger Rd. without detailed maps or a good GPS. There is to be a trailhead with parking and a toilet at the Hillburger (Chehalis) end of the trail. Currently there is a locked gate beyond the road. You may be able to park in the waste land at the end of the road. This is not clear. Start riding from here and the first attraction is the…
NEWAUKUM RIVER BRIDGE, GE: N46.64701 W122.97644
It is a nice old RR bridge, repurposed to a bike/ped bridge. If it could hold locomotives weighing in around 100,00 #, a couple of bikers is not an issue. The delight of this portion of the Willapa Hills Trail are the bridges. Once across the bridge and the trestle across the low ground, you will come to the …
SHOREY RD. CROSSING, GE: N46.64701 W122.97644
The local traffic seems to move quite rapidly on Shorey Rd., so stop, look, listen then scamper across. Once over, you enter the Bucolic Zone. The farms line the trail on both sides. The cows regard you with curious stares. The crossing at Tune Rd. is not so busy, but right ahead is…
THE CURTIS MILBURN & EASTERN RAILROAD CROSSING, GE: N46.64245 W122.99682
It would be great to be there for photos when a goods train rumbled through. TrailBear was out of luck on that. He could hear the horns down the valley, but it was empty when he crossed. On to the next crossing, the…
ROUTE 603 CROSSING, GE: N46.63887 W123.01316
If you thought the locals moved on Shorey Rd., then try the Rt. 603 crossing. The local gas station and store is just up the road at the junction of Rt. 12 and 603, so there is some traffic. Once across, you can pedal a mile down to the …
CHEHALIS RIVER BRIDGE, GE: N46.63855 W123.01857
TB loved this bridge. Nice approach. Good lines. Interesting river. Flood debris stacked against the trestle on the far side. Smell of creosote in the air. None of that sissy Trex decking. TB rode off the bridge, off the causeway and all too soon found himself at the …
END OF THE PAVED LINE, GE: N46.63782 W123.02659
That nice pavement ends 0.4 mile west of the bridge, just west of Gabe Rd., alongside Rt. 12. There is a gate and the right of way turns to gravel. There is enough room on the ROW between the gate and the next driveway to park a car (hint).
The stuff here is not ballast, so you can ride it with a mountain bike. The brushing of the trail is another issue. Give it a try and write us a review. Love to know if they are paving over in Adna. Will the whole section be done by November 2010, as hoped? Stay tuned.
Out in dairy county, meeting with cows.
TRAILBEAR RESEARCHES THE WILLAPA HILLS TRAIL ...
Trying to figure out if the WHT is a good ride or not, based on two photos and three reviews?
The Survey Season is about to open and TB is furiously downloading information on assorted trails from California to Idaho. If he swings over to the coast, he will look in on the WHT and probably take WA 6 thru the hills, sampling the trail here and there over to I-5. He plans to survey on the Chehalis & Western, Yelm & Tenino and Woodard Trails in the Olympia area. There have been a number of upgrades to these. Besides, they are all paved. If it comes on to rain, he will be east of the Cascades so fast... (He has another set of trails there to check out.)
WE HAVE PAVEMENT...
The map is not up to date. (When you see a TL map with two endpoints and a line between, it needs a survey. There must be a restroom somewhere down the line. You can find it and chart it.)
The trail is paved from South Bend to the Riverfront Park in Raymond, about 5 miles. The Riverfront Park would be the full service trailhead. Check out the city website:
Meanwhile, over on the Chehalis end of things, pavement is happening ...
LEWIS COUNTY COMMUNITY TRAILS - A NEWS BLIP...
"Willapa Hills Trail - Gates opened and bollards installed
Riding or walking the Willapa Hills Trail is now easier and safer after a work party of State Park workers and LCCT volunteers made significant improvements to the trail. During February the gates along the trail were opened and bollards installed at road crossings making them much safer and ADA accessible. Stop signs and rumble strips were also installed on the 2 mile section from Hillberger Road to near the Hwy 6 crossing.
The paving for the 5 mile rail-to-trail section from Chehalis to Adna is scheduled to be completed by Nov of 2010 at the latest and possibly as early as July. Presently only about 2 miles have been paved from the Chehalis end and less than 1 mile from the Adna end. A gravel parking area and bunker style toilet will be installed at the Hillberger trail head. There is already a parking area and toilet facility at the Adna end across from Beck Park.
The crossing of Hwy 6 at Littell Corner is still in question. The DOT may require crossing at a different point or possibly even an underpass or overpass to safely cross the highway.
There are future plans to extend the trail well past Adna towards it's end in Raymond 56 miles to the west. A 5 mile section has been paved in Raymond heading east - only 46 miles to go. For more information see Willapa Hill Project"
From their website...
SUMMING IT UP...
There is pavement for about five miles on either end of the trail. Existing from South Bend to Raymond and under construction from Chehalis to Ada. The latter may be open for two miles this summer of 2010 Depends.
The status of the trail in between, in those remote and tight little hills, is uncertain. If anyone has made the WHT Traverse, they did not post a review here. There was a humongous flood thru that drainage in 12/2007. I-5 was under water for days and days, so expect damage and washouts in the hills.
Downloading data and making maps.
I have walked the eastern end of this trail that is paved. From it eastern end, out to where it first nears Highway 6. This section includes two great bridges over the Newaukum and Chehalis rivers.
I have also walked the section on either side of the Ceres Hill Road just west of Ruth. From Ceres Hill road heading west, you can't walk very far as a bridge there is out.
My most favorite section so far is across from River Road where you are along the river for several miles.
We are property owners along the Chehalis River across from the Willapa Hills Trail. The river bank is quite steep, so does not allow for easy access to the river. In the last three years (2006-2009) there have been extreme flooding and erosion of the trail and bank. The trail is used primarily by quads in our area. Unfortunately, there are people who use the trail to go shooting. There have been eagles in the area and we can't tell where the shots are going--it is a rural, wooded area. Please take care and make yourself known if you hear others in the area.
We attempted to ride this trail from Chehalis to South Bend on our mountain bikes but after seven miles we had to bail due to the condition of the trail. The trail is just not ready for prime time yet, but when its complete it will be awesome. The first 1/4 mile is paved but after that its all loose gravel. Thes biggest problem is that the gravel is so soft. Our tires sank into the gravel like riding in sand. The bridge trestles for the first 4 miles are all refurbished and awesome but after that we had to walk our bikes across all the bridges. After 4 miles the trail gets more overgrown and less maintained. We finally bailed from the trail and took to the roads..
I have actually ridden the whole trail from Chehalis to South Bend on my mountain bike. There was a storm recently that may have damaged the trail a bit, but before the storm you could walk the whole trail a total of approximately 55 miles, 50 being gravel. In some cases it was virtually impossible to ride on a bike because they had maintained the trail with large river rock gravel, but most of the trail had been used enough by quads that the gravel had been broken down to a reasonable size. If you walk or ride the full length of the trail you will see a wide variety of scenery and many interesting railroad trestles.
"Another ride that's far too short, even though it's beautiful. At Raymond you can cut across Highway 101 & ride another 2 or 3 miles on a trail which will extend 70 or so miles into Chehalis. Too bad it's only rideable in a few spots at this time."
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