Lewis River and Curly Creek Falls

After our vacation in Gold Beach, OR we began our next hike 300 miles away along the Lewis River in Washington’s Gifford-Pinchot National Forest. The Lewis River Trail is one of those very popular trails that we had not yet been to. We hoped an early start would help avoid the bulk of the Memorial Day Weekend crowds. We parked at the Lower Falls Recreation Area just a short distance from the first of the days waterfalls.
Trail sign at the Lower Falls Recreation Area

We walked down to a platform overlooking the Lower Falls. This was another waterfall that was much larger in person than it had looked in pictures.
Lower Falls viewing platform

Lower Lewis River Falls

We then headed down to river level to see what the falls looked like from that angle.
Lower Lewis River Falls

Lower Lewis River Falls

After getting the view from below we climbed back past the first platform and headed NE along the Lewis River Trail. A second viewpoint looked down from above the falls.
Lower Lewis River Falls

A couple of wooden staircases led down to little beaches along the river.
Stairs to the bank of the Lewis River

Lewis River

We followed the trail between the river and the Lewis River Campground then deeper into the forest toward the Middle and Upper Falls.
Trail sign along the Lewis River Trail

As we were crossing a footbridge Heather noticed something along the side creek. She said she almost mistook it for a statue because of how still it was standing but then the doe began heading back up the creek.
Deer along a small creek

Doe

As she retreated we noticed more movement in the underbrush. A pair of wobbly young fawns had been with the doe.
Fawns

After snapping a couple of quick pictures we continued on so mom could get back to her fawns.

A section of trail was closed near Middle Falls but a detour was in place using the Middle Falls Parking Area.
Trail reroute due to slides

We had been planning on taking this route anyway since it passed another waterfall along Copper Creek.
Copper Creek Falls
Copper Creek Falls

When we were back on the Lewis River Trail we followed a sign for Middle Falls.
Lewis River Trail

Middle Lewis River Falls

Middle Lewis River Falls

Middle Lewis River Falls

In addition to the waterfalls the Lewis River had some beautiful colored water due to the presence of rock shelves which created some deep green pools.
Lewis River

Lewis River

Before continuing on to Upper Falls we headed for the bridge over Copper Creek. The trail closure was posted at the bridge but below the bridge was a scenic water slide.
Slide on Copper Creek

Continuing on the Lewis River Trail we passed some large cliffs covered in green lichen.
Lichen covered rocks along the Lewis River Trail

Lewis River Trail

Another section of cliffs were of particular interest. Several trees were perched along the cliff edge with exposed roots high in the air. The rock showed clear signs of having been worn by the river which seemed to indicate that the roots of these trees had once been under the river bank, but as the river eroded the banks and deepened it’s canyon, the roots were left exposed. Given how far above the current river these trees were, we wondered how old they were.
Tree roots showing where the Lewis River once was.

Tree roots showing where the Lewis River once was.

The Upper Falls was another impressive, thundering waterfall.
Upper Lewis River Falls

Upper Lewis River Falls

Upper Lewis River Falls

We made our way out onto a gravel bar for a better view and found a few flowers as well as some elk sign.
Tall bluebells

Upper Lewis River Falls

The trail then climbed up to an upper viewpoint via a wide arc around some rock outcroppings.
Upper Lewis River Falls

Upper Lewis River Falls

Upper Lewis River Falls

Continuing on we passed a spectacular green pool before reaching Taitnapum Falls.
Lewis River

Taitnapum Falls

Taitnapum Falls

We turned around after reaching the end of the Lewis River Trail and NF Road 90. The Quartz Creek Trail continued on the far side but for us it was time to head back and get to our second hike.

We had seen a handful of people on our way out along the trail and wound up having each of the falls to ourselves, but on the way back it was a steady stream of people. The Recreation Area parking lot was packed as we left making us glad we had started with this hike. We drove back towards Cougar, WA on forest road 90 turning right on road 9039 at a sign for the Curly Creek Trailhead. We parked in a gravel lot just before reaching a bridge across the Lewis River. The trail was on the far side of the bridge so we crossed on foot and headed downstream to the West. A platform along the trail offered views across the Lewis River to the unique Curly Creek Falls with its pair of rock arches.
Curly Creek Falls

Curly Creek Falls

Curly Creek Falls

Just a short distance further was another viewpoint. This time for Miller Falls.
Miller Falls

Miller Falls

One of the reasons we had not done these hikes before was due to the length of the drive vs. the amount of  hike time. At 3 hours one way the 9-10 miles would cause us to spend more time in the car than on the trail. Our solution was to visit the Bolt Camp Shelter after Curly Creek and Miller Falls. To do this we returned along the trail to the road 9039 bridge, crossing the road and continuing on the Lewis River Trail.

Lewis River Trail

Lewis River Trail

This portion of the Lewis River Trail was along a calmer section of the river offering plenty of access to the river.
Lewis River

Lewis River

We stopped for a short rest along the river at the Bolt Camp Shelter before returning to the trailhead.
Bolt Camp sign

Bolt Camp Shelter along the Lewis River

When it was all said and done we’d spent 6 hours and 42 minutes on the trail which meant we hadn’t violated our rule of not spending more time driving than hiking. It was easy to see why this area is so popular, but even with all the people we had still found some solitude along the trails and at every waterfall we’d visited. We couldn’t have asked for more. Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157668708267141

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2 thoughts on “Lewis River and Curly Creek Falls”

  1. I was just talking to my brother about camping near the Bolt Camp shelter here back in the 90’s with our boy scout troop. Was nice to see some recent pictures since I haven’t seen the place in two decades; used to be one of our favorite locations. Back then the shelter was rotated 90 degrees and faced the river. I believe it was restored and relocated after some flooding.

    Thanks for sharing this.

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