What better time to hike in one of our region’s coastal rainforests than during the rainy season?! Don rain gear and an adventurous spirit and check out these three hikes ranging from kid-friendly strolls to wilderness wanderings. And during the rainy season you can expect quieter trails, more frequent wildlife sightings, and a whole better appreciation for our wet and wild environment. Pack dry socks for the drive home. Have fun!
Coastal Forest Trail
Cape Disappointment State Park
Roundtrip: 1.4 miles
Elevation Gain: 260 feet
Fees/Restrictions: Discover Pass required; dogs must be leashed
This delightful trail in the 1880-acre Cape Disappointment State Park consists of two loops offering a short jaunt or longer wandering. Both however will grant you an intimate journey through an old growth Sitka spruce and western hemlock forest at the mouth of the Columbia River. The longer loop also provides a couple of excellent view points along Baker Bay; a relatively calm cove close to the treacherous mouth of the Columbia. Take in sweeping views of the fishing village of Ilwaco perched along Baker Bay’s shoreline against a backdrop of the rolling often cloud-enshrouded Bear River Range.
Both loops make for nice easy hikes suitable for all ages and abilities. But if you’re still itching for more terrain to explore, several other trails can be found in the sprawling state park; which protects coastal headlands, maritime forests, and sandy beaches at the southern tip of the Long Beach Peninsula. The park offers plenty of historic sites too including the Lewis and Clark Commemorative Center.
More than two hundred years ago during a very wet and dreary November, the intrepid duo and their Corps of Discovery traipsed around Cape Disappointment admiring its natural splendor. Retrace their steps and make a few discoveries of your own!
Horse Creek Trail
Drift Creek Wilderness, Siuslaw National Forest
Roundtrip: 8.0 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,400 feet
The tranquil Drift Creek Wilderness lies just a few miles away from the crashing Pacific Ocean protecting a 5,800-acres rare tract of coastal Oregon old growth forest. The saturated coastal forests up and down US 101 in the Beaver State have been heavily logged since settlers spilled into the Willamette Valley in the 1840s. Drift Creek stands as a testimony to what most of this region’s forests once looked like.
The Horse Creek Trail will take you into the heart of this sanctuary harboring spotted owls, bald eagles, Roosevelt elk and black bears. From a high ridge, climb a couple of hundred feet before dropping over 1,000 feet to pristine Drift Creek with its spawning populations of Chinook and Coho salmon. The good trail snakes around towering firs, spruce and hemlock, some with diameters exceeding seven feet. You may hear the sound of the distant surf over chattering wrens and thrushes. But more than likely you’ll hear rain drops pitter-pattering as this area receives over 120 inches of annual rainfall.
If Drift Creek is low enough that you can ford it, you’ll find two trails leading up ridges in the southern half of the wilderness. But whether you continue to explore, or just while away the day under a giant tree alongside the creek, make sure you save some energy for the climb back to the trailhead.
Quinault Recreation Trail
Olympic National Forest
Roundtrip Loop: 3.9 miles
Elevation Gain: 500 feet
Fees/Restrictions: Northwest Forest Pass or Interagency Pass required; dogs should be leashed.
The Quinault National Recreation Trail system offers more than 10 miles of family friendly wandering through primeval forest that were mere saplings when Europeans began colonizing the Americas. Trails lead from several trailheads, campgrounds, and the historic Quinault Lodge to waterfalls, crystal clear creeks, scenic lakeshore, and through groves of towering Sitka spruce, western red cedar, and western hemlock. You can spend days here exploring. This loop makes for a great introduction.
From the trailhead pass a colossal Douglas-fir before reaching a junction on a high bank above Willaby Creek. Look down for salmon and up for eagles. Turn right to begin your loop. Bear left at the Nature Trail (lest you want a much shorter trip) and soon cross Willaby Creek. Continue on the loop avoiding a 1.3 mile side trail to the Willaby Creek giant cedar (a worthy side trip involving a difficult ford).
Via a boardwalk cross a cedar bog that in spring bursts with pungent patches of skunk cabbage. Soon afterwards come to another junction. The trail left heads .6 mile to the Quinault Lodge; proceed right. After crossing Falls Creek, gently climb and cross Cascade Creek at lovely Cascade Falls. Then slowly descend bearing left to cross Falls Creek and climb again before reaching the South Shore Road.
Cross the road and admire Falls Creek Falls; then skirt a campground before coming to Lake Quinault, one of the largest bodies of water on the Olympic Peninsula. Close the loop by following the lakeshore for one mile, passing quiet coves, humble cabins, and the majestic 1926 Lake Quinault Lodge. This section of trail is prone to winter flooding. If that’s the case, return via the South Shore Road, or head up the Lodge Trail and retrace some of your route. The forest may be ancient, but this hike never gets old.
Find lots of great rainforest hikes in my best selling Day Hiking Olympic Peninsula, the best-selling and most trusted hiking book on the Olympic Peninsula!