We officially kicked off our hiking season this past week, a week earlier than we had originally planned. We got things started by attending a slide presentation by Adam Sawyer author of “Hiking Waterfalls in Oregon”. He covered several waterfalls some we’d been to and others that we have yet to visit. We wound up adding one of the falls to this years schedule after realizing one of our planned hikes would have us driving right past the short path to Panther Creek Falls. The presentation got us excited about getting back out on the trails, and when we saw that the weekend forecast was for sunny skies and 70 degree temperatures coupled with reports of the camas blooms hitting their peak we decided to move our Lacamas Park hike up a week.
Lacamas Park is located in Camas, WA and is a much more urban setting than we are used to on our hikes, but it offers plenty of trails with very minimal elevation gain which we were looking for due to Heather having just run a half-marathon the previous week. In addition, a series of lily fields bloom in the park in April and early May (most years) and there are several visitable waterfalls. We began our hike at the Lacamas Heritage Trail located at the north end of Lacamas Lake.
This 3.5 mile path squeezes between Lacamas Creek then Lake and a golf club and private homes. The gravel path also passed several benches and interpretive signs listing some of the plants and animals that might be spotted in the area.
The lake began to widen as we traveled along and would have offered a pretty nice view of Mt. Hood but the sky was oddly hazy so we could only make out the mountains silhouette beyond the far end of the water.
It turns out the haze was likely caused by massive fires in Siberia and possibly a dust storm in China when the jet stream picked up the smoke and dust particles and delivered them across the ocean to the Pacific North West.
The Lacamas Heritage Trail ends at Camas Hertiage Park at the southern end of the lake but just across Highway 500 lay Round Lake and Lacamas Park. We crossed the road at a stoplight and entered the park.
We crossed over the Round Lake dam and immediately realized that this was going to be a more confusing hike than what the maps had shown. There were several different trails heading off in various directions, all looking fairly well used. This wound up being the case throughout the park and even though there were a good number of signs the profusion of trails sometimes made it difficult to tell which trails the signs were referring to. We knew that we wanted to follow Lacamas Creek down to The Potholes so we picked the trail which seemed to be heading in the right direction and followed the creek. We found The Potholes easily enough and the water was really flowing.
At Lower Falls a footbridge crosses the creek, another possible starting point lays beyond, but to complete the loop we needed to stay on the east side of the creek. We did cross the bridge hopping for a better view of the falls but couldn’t find one.
It appears we may have found one if we had stayed on the east side and explored further downstream, but when we returned to that side we just continued the loop which now lead away from the creek. We managed to find the correct trails and passed through a forested section of the park on a .4 mile path to an old gravel road. We turned left on the road and quickly spotted a sign announcing the lily field loop on the right.
We passed through a couple of these small meadows and I was beginning to think I had been mislead about the flowers when the path entered a larger field. Camas lilies carpeted the hillsides on either side of the path.
After the final field the trail dropped back down to the Round Lake Loop Trail just a short distance from Round Lake. We completed the loop and recrossed the highway to get back to the Lacamas Heritage Trail for the final 3.5 miles of our hike. It was a little before 11am when we started back on the Heritage Trail and the day had warmed up nicely. We had given ourselves a mission on the final leg – to keep a lookout for turtles. We had yet to see a turtle on any of our hikes, or at any point in the wild for that matter, and had just read an article about their presence in the park we often take our runs in. The interpretive signs along the lake mentioned turtles so we knew we had a chance of seeing one so we set off watching for anyplace that looked like a good spot for a turtle. We were keyed in on the logs in the water which were playing host to some animals at least.
Seeing the animals is one of the things we like about hiking and the first time you see one is extra special, especially when it’s one you’ve been looking for for awhile. We pulled ourselves away from the turtle bonanza and continued on the trail. Before we were finished we saw one more animal for the first time. A greater yellowlegs searching for food in the water.
We probably saw more people on this hike than any of the others we’ve done save maybe at Multnomah Falls but we didn’t mind as it had a lot to offer. We managed to get 12.4 miles of hiking in, saw 3 waterfalls, some great wildflowers, and lots of wildlife. With all the options and access points Lacamas Park is a handy place for anyone to get outside and enjoy some scenery. Happy Trails!