Lewis and Clark State Park─Discover beautiful Old Growth Forest along the old highway ninety-nine

Towering Douglas-fir and western red cedar line the trails of Lewis and Clark State Park.

Towering Douglas-fir and western red cedar line the trails of Lewis and Clark State Park.

Quick Facts:

Location: Chehalis River Valley

Land Agency: Washington State Parks

Roundtrip: 2.0 miles

Elevation Gain: 125 feet

Note: Discover Pass required; dogs permitted on leash.

Access: From Exit 68 on I-5, proceed 2.5 miles east on US 12 to Mary’s Corner. Turn right onto Jackson Highway entering state park in .7 mile. Continue another mile passing main campground entrance to parking area on left.

Contact: Lewis and Clark State Park

Good to know: kid-friendly, dog-friendly, CCC Legacy, exceptional old-growth, historic, Snow-free Winter Hike, Practice Leave No Trace Principles 

One of my favorite Washington state parks, Lewis and Clark State Park is also one of the least known. But it wasn’t always this way. Established back in 1922 first as a public car camp on the old highway 99, more than 10,000 people a year visited the park during that decade. During the Great Depression, the Civilian Conservation Corp developed the trails, campground and structures within the 621-acre state park. Many of their works still stand.

And while this park is full of fascinating history, it is its trees that are the real attraction. The park contains some of last large stands of old-growth forest remaining in the Puget Sound Lowlands—and the last stand of old growth remaining along the old highway 99. Two miles of excellent loop trails travel beneath the primeval giants while an additional six miles of trails traverse the rest of the park. You can easily spend all day hiking here—or better yet, spend the night (May through October) too in its quiet campground.

Here’s a nice loop to get you started. Carefully cross the Jackson Highway and walk up the main park roadway a couple hundred yards to the Trail of the Deer trailhead. Cross a small creek and immediately come to a junction. The trail left heads to the campground and interpretive kiosks. Continue right under towering cedars and Douglas-fir and through an exuberant undergrowth of vine maple, ferns and rhododendron. Then come to a junction with Loop “A.” Hike in either direction—return on the path not taken.

Gently ascending, continue on the Trail of the Deer paralleling a small creek and passing by one monster tree after another. Come to Loop “B” and bear right. A short distance farther, come to Loop “C”. Take it counter-clockwise passing a spur to the Park Boundary Trail (an option for extended hiking) before returning to Loop “B.” Bear right and come to a junction leading to the short Old Growth Forest Loop Trail. Take it enjoying a level half mile through a grove of breathtaking giants. Return to the junction and head right following the main trail back to your start.

And just for the record—Lewis and Clark never ventured this far north from the Columbia River in their explorations.

The Lewis and Clark State Park is featured in my and Aaron Theisen’s Day Hiking Mount St. Helens, which includes a chapter on hikes in the Chehalis River Valley

Check it out for some other great suggestions to snow-free hiking destinations.Get your copy today!

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