The Willapa Hills


On July 25th, we rode away from the Columbia river and headed north on 401 to Naselle, WA where we found a quiet, deep woods campsite on state land. As the day wore on it actually started to cloud up. Light drizzles of rain were sporadic. This part of Washington was devoid of heavy traffic and we slept well without interruption. We woke to a clouds and misty rain that seemed to be just floating through the air. It was not enough to don rain gear but enough to cloud your glasses.

Camping among the ancients

By mid-morning we were riding up along the Willapa Bay passing an oyster farm on the Palix river. The miles came easily even if there wasn’t much of a view due to the low lying clouds. As we rounded Range Point we began a short southerly jaunt into South Bend,  WA, elev. 80 feet. Here we picked up the Willapa Hills Trail. During our research earlier in the trip we planned on this being a 56 mile off-road route up to Chehalis, WA. The first 6 miles were paved but poorly marked. We wound up winging it through Raymond, WA and eventually made it through. As we left Raymond the trail was turning into a roughly ballasted and  overgrown trail. At first, the trail was passable and then the long tendrils of the Blackberry bushes slowed our progress to a crawl. At times,  it was Bryan in the lead wielding a Leatherman, cutting barbed branches to gain us another 50 feet or so of progress. Guess the trail doesn’t get much use in these parts. The trail parallels Rt 6 and it is generally easy to ditch out onto the road to avoid the really overgrown areas.

Coffee Shop in South Bend, WA

Debi riding out of Raymond, WA on the Willapa Hills Trail

Along the Willapa river

A still passable Willapa Hills Trail

Mother nature sequestering a little more carbon back into her soil

Making our way toward Rainbow Falls State Park in Dryad, we met Marlene and talked about Blackberries and her memories of the trains that passed through here back in the day. We also had a nice experience in Pe Ell, WA where we chatted briefly with Bonnie about her town of 600 people. That night we went to bed early and took advantage of the hiker-biker campsites. The park was quiet and subdued. We met and saw no one until the morning when we chatted with a ranger at the bathroom. We headed out on the road and then eventually, got back on the trail only to be foiled by a non-existent trestle over the Chehalis River near the Spooner road in Adna, WA. The flooding of 2007 took its toll on the area.

Quiet camping in Rainbow Falls State Park

Bridge over the Chehalis river = OUT

Old work train near Chehalis

Once in Chehalis it was a short six mile ride into Centralia, WA where we found some groceries at Fuller’s Market. At the nearby farmers market we bought some pees and apricots. We decided it would be a good time to do some laundry and call our friends Barbara and Jamie who we originally met in Mexico and arrange our paths to meet again. They have just come back from an epic trip to the Artic Circle in their 1984 VW bus! They just got off the ferry from Alaska a day earlier!

See you in Tenino, WA!



2 Responses to “The Willapa Hills”

  1. I live in Chehalis. I can’t wait to visit the South Bend end of the trail once there are no longer crucial bridges missing and the ballast is topped by finer gravel or pavement that is more easily biked on! Just a couple more years, if I understand correctly. The Willapa Hills Trail is already one of the my favorite bicycle routes, even with its current drawbacks.

    Currently, the washed out bridge at Dryad can be detoured around without much trouble. But the missing bridge near Spooner Road, between Adna and Rainbow Falls Park, requires a significant and not-so-bicycle-friendly detour to get around.

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