Sunday, October 30, 2022

Hike: Bells Mountain Trail Loop, Moulton, WA

Selfie from Bells Mountain Trail

Footpath app view

AllTrails view

Getting There

When I left the house, I was planning on hiking in the Gorge somewhere. My last hike was at Hamilton Mountain so I wanted to switch it up. I thought part of the Cape Horn trail is closed for peregrine nesting but looks like that's only from Feb 1 to July 15th.

Next on my list was either Table Mountain or Dog Mountain. The weather from Portland to Camas was pretty crummy but the skes looked lighter toward Hood River.

On a whim, I made the choice to head to Silver Star Mountain. I figured even if the hiking was a bust I could enjoy a little time driving the forest road to Yacolt.

From Portland, I drove over the Interstate bridge and hopped on WA-14 towards the Gorge. I stopped in Camas to fuel up (petrol, snacks). When I got Washougal, I took the roundabout to to N Washougal River Road. Then, took a left on NE Hughes Road (past Jamie's Dahlias) and followed that for a bit. It changes to NE 392nd, NE 28th, NE Miller, NE 39th. Keep an eye open for Skamania Mines Rd. Take a left on NE 412th and veer right onto Skamania Mines Rd. When the pavement ends, the road becomes L-1200.

When I reached the Grouse Vista and Tarbell Trailheads parking lot on L-1200, there were only a few cars and the weather seemed to get darker, more rainy. I just didn't like the vibe and aborted my hike here. At least I could enjoy some off-roading.

When L-1200 ends, you can go north on NE Dole Valley Road which overlaps NE 312th Ave. A bit farther, it becomes NE Sunset Falls Road.

I was planning to drive through Yacolt but took a left on NE Railroad Ave instead of a right. This took me past Moulton Falls. In the summer, I drove past here a couple of times and the parking lot was always pretty full. I figured it was a day park so just stopped to take some photos. (I was thinking I could head to Forest Park or Sauvie Island.)


The Hike

Length: 4.75 mi
Elevation gain: 1,314 ft
Moving time: 1:40:11
Avg. pace: 22:25
Calories: 1,007
Total time: 1:49:43

Because I was in the overflow parking lot, the trail goes along the road for a little. The area around Moulton Falls is well maintained and there is a lot of nice stonework.

From one spot I noticed the bridge so I continued further to see what was what. I crossed the bridge and started cruising down the East Fork Lewis River Trail. It looks like it parallels the river for awhile; a great place to exercise, wander.. no river access.

A little ways down, I saw the sign for Bells Mountain! Hooray. Looks like I could get some hiking in after all.

I started up the trail without knowing how far I'd go. The sign said Cold Creek Campground was like 8-10 miles; that wasn't in the cards given the time and not knowing the area.

In the end, I got over a 1000 ft of elevation gain and went about 2+ miles up to a nice spot to see the valley.

I was a great little trail but not sure I'd go back soon. There is definitely more to explore.

Bells Mountain Trail

East Fork Lewis River

Moulton Falls

Moulton Falls Bridge

Moulton Falls

Moulton Falls

Moulton Falls

Saturday, October 22, 2022

Hike: Hamilton Mountain, Hardy Creek, N Bonneville, WA


AllTrails map


After weeks of terrible air in the PacNW, the weather finally shifted to Fall bringing the rain and clearing the wildfire smoke.

At one point, Portland had the 3rd worst air in the world, behind Delhi and Seattle. At 4:30am on Thursday Oct 20, 2022, the AQI was 239 in my neighborhood.

Roughly 24 hrs later (Friday), it was in the low double digits. I was going to hike in the afternoon but the skies were really dark and it rained pretty hard. 

On Saturday, the weather was still rainy but I was determined to get back out there. I considered heading out to Dog Mountain and even a spin up to Wind Mountain. I thought about heading to Silver Star but wanted to be close to Hwy 14 and figured the views would be limited.


Getting There

Take WA-14 from Vancouver, WA east toward N Bonneville. 

After passing Cape Horn and the trailhead parking lot, the skies were so dark past Stevenson. I decided it was a Hamilton day.

Just after Doetsch Ranch you'll see the Ranger Station on the north side of the road just before the Beacon Rock parking lot, then another road across from the bathrooms. The road winds up the hill for a bit.


The Hike

Length: 7.11 mi
Elevation gain: 2,303 ft
Moving time: 2:41:13
Avg. pace: 22:40
Calories: 1,620
Total time: 3:08:05

Another one for the books. I'm still experimenting with nutrition and electrolytes. I made my way through the sections:

    from October 8, 2021 post
  8. Green: Top of bare rock to Summit
    - 14 turns (7 rights, 7 lefts)
  7. Indigo: Bare Rock 
  6. Aqua: To bottom of bare rock
  5. Pink: Little Ham. switchbacks
  4. Green: To bottom of Little Ham.
     - 3 sections
  3. Yellow: To Lookout
  2. Blue: To Rodney Falls
  1. Purple: To Power lines



I felt good the whole way. I took my time and wasn't fast but never need to take any breaks. As I neared the top, I considered my options: (a) return on the Hamilton Trail because of fog and encroaching afternoon darkness or (b) take the Saddle / Hardy Creek Loop.

At the top, there was a pair of hikers that were starting their descent plus a guy and his friendly black lab who greeted me and showed me her stick (cute). The guy said his dog was not very cautious so he doesn't take the same route down and does the Saddle/Hardy Creek Loop. I thought, "I'm in.." if someone is behind me, I feel better even though I've been out here a bazillion times.

At a narrow section, I passed a guy in colorful leggings going from the Saddle to the summit.

About 1/2 along the ridge, I ran across another pair of hikers. It was their first time out there and were asking directions. They followed my to the Saddle while I shared unsolicited facts about the geology and history of the park. I was glad to show off my knowledge. 

At the Saddle, it was totally socked in and you couldn't see Phlox, Bonneville or the river/Dog Mountain. But, for a moment a hole formed and we could see Dog & Wind Mountain. I wished the hikers well and went on my way.

I made it to the Hardy Creek cutoff, lost in my thoughts. I passed the guy in the colorful leggings again. Guessing he was heading back to the Equestrian Trail and trailhead, a figure 8 loop.

I encountered a few more folks near Rodney Falls who asked me about the area. I was glad to share more knowledge. 

I needed this hike. It affirmed my physical wellness and determination. Also, it represents achievements that cannot be erased.