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Friday, March 7, 2014

Trail Guide: Moulton Falls

We got to this hike just in time, the weekend right before the snow (four laughable inches) shut down Portland. It was a good thing, too. For months we'd been itching to get outdoors and out of the city.

Moulton Falls is a great hike for doing just that. It's appropriate for basically any ability level as it's a very moderate 2.6 mile loop around the falls with the option to hop on some longer and more challenging adjoining trails. Also, it's only about an hour drive form Portland, and it's very easy to locate.

Before you pull into the lot for Moulton Falls Park you must be forewarned: beware the traffic spikes! I haven't done extensive park visiting in Clark County so I can't say for sure, but I hear that these aren't uncommon at parks in the area. Apparently they are to deter traffic from entering the lot the wrong way. I guess a sign saying "Do Not Enter" or "Exit Only" would be too subtle or obscure. In fact, I think the actual signage can be somewhat cryptic for those unfamiliar with these things as it just reads: "Traffic Spikes." So again, I beseech you, enter the parking lot the proper way or face the most dire and immediate of consequences! Yep, it's shoot on sight.

From the parking lot there is the option to walk down a little path to the right and get up close to the falls themselves. We opted not to as we could see the falls from where we parked, and our time was limited. The actual hike starts up the road. We walked East beside the road and it led to more trails along the river (the signs with directions to the trail were actually helpful). There is a gorgeous looking swimming hole here with a view of an old arch bridge.

We continued up the main trail (maintained a mostly right hand course) and came to the bridge that was visible from below. From the bridge we were afforded another nice view of that perfect looking swimming hole. Past the bridge the trail starts to look more like the old logging road it once was; it widens up a bit and is very hard packed.

A little way down the logging road you'll notice a sign for Bells Mountain Trail on the left hand side of the road. This is where you can try something a little more vertical. I would call these trails intermediate in difficulty. It's fairly steep and somewhat difficult, in particular at the beginning, especially for my recently inflamed lung tissue (pneumonia).

The trail passes or crosses a few mountain streams, part of the watershed of the Lewis River, that are very picturesque, rolling down hillsides through the undergrowth with the sunlight shining in bars through the breaks in the tree cover. We were also afforded some excellent views of the valley below, and the hills on the other side of it, from some clear cut areas.

Eventually, we made it to a stand of newer plantings and decided it was a good spot to stop and eat lunch. We also decided it was a good time to turn around, so we didn't get any farther. This trail was definitely a nice little fix for our hiking habit, and worth a revisit as we left lots of trail unexplored.

Directions: A ways past Lewisville Park, heading North on State Route 503, take a right onto NE Rock Creek Road, continue onto NE 152nd Avenue, and then a slight left onto NE Lucia Falls Road along the East Fork of the Lewis River. When you see the parking area for Lucia Falls, you're pretty close. So keep your eyes peeled (remember the spikes!).