C-W residents can escape into nature by hiking trails in their backyard

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“Leave nothing but footprints. Take nothing but pictures. Kill nothing but time.”

This popular quote describes some of the unwritten rules of hiking. In the Camas and Washougal areas, with close access to the Columbia River Gorge, there are a multitude of beautiful areas one could wander on for hours.

Whether you are seeking a short, challenging hike with stunning views of the gorge, observing nature in a wildlife refuge, or traversing near local waterways, hiking spots in Camas and Washougal offer something to suit most interests and ability levels.Cape Horn TrailAt the Cape Horn Trail eight miles east of Washougal on Highway 14, hikers are greeted with an easy-to-moderate path that winds up through the Columbia River Gorge. During the spring, the wildflowers are dazzling and views are phenomenal on a sunny day. The trail is a complete, 7 mile loop with 1,200 feet of elevation gain. It continues to evolve with more routes and improvements.

The terrain is varied, with waterfalls and streams, conifer forests, high bluffs and cliffs and meadows. There are also several vistas overlooking the Columbia River Gorge, including a basalt overlook built in 2011 and dedicated to Nancy Russell, who founded the Friends of the Columbia Gorge.

It was completed in 2010 after five yeas of meetings and negotiations between numerous stakeholders and the United States Forest Service.

“This trail is truly an excellent example of what can be accomplished through intelligent and thoughtful collaboration of non-profit groups, government agencies and local citizens,” said Teressa Robbins, president of the Cape Horn Conservancy, a non-profit, all-volunteer organization.

The trail was funded through grants, federal dollars and The Friends of the Columbia Gorge. The Washington Trails Association and Cape Horn Conservancy have raised funds for tools and materials needed for trail maintenance and improvements.

Currently, the trail is “hiker only,” with some portions open to equestrian use.

“The overlook atop Cape Horn is definitely family friendly and will eventually provide more ease in access for physically challenged individuals,” Robbins said. “There are still a few reroutes and safety projects in the planning process to protect sensitive species and improve safety, however, the trail is basically complete.”

She added the conservancy’s ultimate vision is a system of trails connecting Washougal to the Stevenson-Carson area.

“The Cape Horn Trail is the foundational piece and the Cape Horn Conservancy’s mission is to steward and maintain the public lands within that trail corridor,” she said.

For more information on the trail or driving directions, visit www.capehorntrail.org.Beacon RockBeacon Rock State Park is a 5,100-acre year-round camping park with historic significance dating back hundreds of years. The park includes 9,500 feet of freshwater shoreline on the Columbia River.

A popular feature of the park is the Beacon Rock trail, a steep, scenic one mile hike up. At the top, hikers are rewarded with panoramic views of the Columbia River Gorge. Chipmunks scamper into rock holes and birds chirp nearby, reminding users that nature is all around them.

To get there, take Highway 14 for approximately 21 miles from Camas. The park requires a Discover Pass, which users can pay for on-site using a check or cash.

Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge

Located on the Columbia River in Washougal, Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge includes flood plain habitat, semi-permanent wetlands, cottonwood-dominated corridors, pastures, and Oregon white oak trees.

The refuge lies partly within the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, and has been designated as the location for a “Gateway to the Gorge” visitor center. This facility is currently in the planning stage with a portion of the construction funds already secured.

The Washington Department of Transportation has estimated that this facility may be used by as many as 100,000 visitors annually. The refuge also serves as the operational headquarters for the 329-acre Pierce Refuge.

It is a popular spot for school field trips, nature lovers, walkers, families and those just looking to commune with nature for awhile. There is no running allowed on the trail due to sensitive wildlife habitat.

In October, a fire burnt approximately 148 acres of the 1,049 acre wildlife refuge, damaging the boardwalk near the entrance of the Gibbons Creek Wildlife Art Trail. It has since been reopened to the public. The northern loop of the refuge is closed from Oct. 1 to April 30, to protect wintering waterfowl. Now, visitors can now experience an additional one-half mile of walking along the cottonwood-dominated riparian forest adjacent to Gibbons Creek, with the trees alive with migrant and resident birds.

The main entrance to the refuge, located at the Gibbons Creek Wildlife Art Trailhead, can be accessed from state Route 14 at mile post 16, just east of Washougal.

Lacamas Park and Lacamas Creek trails

Whether you are a walker, hiker, biker or runner, the Lacamas Creek Trail offers something for everyone. Located on Third Avenue, just before Crown Road, the main trail loops approximately six miles through Round Lake and includes steep hills, lakes, creeks, waterfalls, wildflowers, native plants, and wildlife. There are also a variety of smaller trails which lead to Potholes Falls, the Camas lily fields and wildlife habitat areas (walking only).

Other nearby trails include Heritage Trail, Grass Valley Trail, Mill Ditch Trail and the Washougal River Greenway Trail. For more information, visit www.ci.camas.wa.us/index.php/parksfacilities/parkstrails.