The idea for this hike, like many of the trails I visit, started with a photograph. Earlier this winter someone posted a photo online of a beautiful arched wooden bridge spanning a jade-colored river. The entire scene was draped with a blanket of snow. Such a stunning place, where was this? The location was identified as Moulton Falls Regional Park in SW Washington. Hey, I knew where that was! I'd driven by this place multiple times in the summer on the way to hike Silver Star Mountain. The place was always packed with people and it didn't look like much of a hike to see the sights. These two factors are why I'd never before stopped to visit.
|The hike started out on this nice paved path|
|Soon I was in this fantastic, mossy forest|
I planned to cover a loop hike suggested by the Oregon Hikers website. Parking at the Hantwick Road Trailhead, I was pleased to discover a nice paved parking lot. The place even had porta-potties! I started my saunter on a paved path leading to the main trail linking Moulton and Lucia Falls. But before I reached this path (which would be my return route) I detoured onto a rough, dirt mountain bike trail. Dubbed the "Bells Mountain North Slope trail" it would take me through the woods for about 3 miles before intersecting back with the main path near Moulton Falls.
|Hall of mosses|
|One of many moss-draped branches|
The mossy green forest was so beautiful it took some time to meander through this trail!
|Old road crossing|
Because the route of the Bells Mountain North Trail looked a little tricky to follow, I printed out directions from the Oregon Hikers website and kept the paper copy in my pocket to follow along. I'm glad I did - there were a couple of intersections with old logging roads that were confusing and a couple of places where user trails branched away. But the combination of the paper directions and my GPS kept me on track.
|Back into the forest|
|These trees looked hairy|
Although ominous, cloudy skies threatened rain the entire day, I only encountered short bursts of sprinkles. Just the same, I kept my rain jacket on 'cause I'm not fond of being wet.
|Wooden bridges for mountain bikers to cross the creeks|
|Lotsa green here!|
About a half mile from the intersection with the main Moulton-Lucia Falls trail I hit the intersection with the main Bells Mountain Trail. This trail climbed deeper into the Yacolt Burn area, eventually intersecting with the Tarbell Trail near Silver Star Mountain. But I was going the opposite direction today, and happily bounded downhill towards my next destination - Moulton Falls Regional Park and that beautiful wooden footbridge.
|Junction with the main trail|
|Moulton Falls and the East Fork of the Lewis River|
As I hustled down the wide path, I took in the sights. On the uphill side of the path was dense, mossy forest. The downhill side gave glimpses of the green, East Fork Lewis River through the trees. One small gap in the foliage offered a partially obstructed view of Moulton Falls and it's tiny 10-foot drop. It looked as through the best views of the falls were on the opposite shore.
|Beautiful jade-green water|
|The famous wooden footbridge|
Crossing to the opposite end of the footbridge, I took a user trail to one side and bushwhacked through the bushes to capture a view of the lovely wooden truss.
|A massive cedar tree on the riverbank|
|The money shot!|
There was the bridge, just as I'd seen in the photo. Spanning a rocky gap between the banks, it reflected perfectly in the green river's water. Although the sun was nowhere to be found that day, the cloudy skies and foggy forest gave a perfect mood to the shot.
|A moss-coated tree I couldn't pass up|
|A glimpse of the East Fork Lewis River|
I thought this flat 2.5 mile trail between Moulton and Lucia Falls Parks would be a boring trudge back to the car. Well, I couldn't have been more wrong! The forest was full of huge, mossy trees that I found most interesting. And the trees parted often to give nice views of the river below.
|Boiling river rapids|
|I loved this little red house|
Near the western end of the path I began to notice private homes on the opposite side of the river. It looked like a wonderful place to live. Imagine seeing this beautiful scenery every day! I especially loved one particular bright red house. It's bold color against the green forest made for some great images.
|Ferns growing from this tree trunk|
|A small pond near trail's end|
The path back to the Hantwick Road trailhead parking area split off before reaching Lucia Falls Park. I didn't feel like walking any further so Lucia Falls would have to wait for another day. But that just means I'll have to come back again and do more exploring of this surprisingly beautiful area!