If you want to clear your head of distractions, get into nature.
Within 50 miles of Camas and Washougal are trails as plentiful and varied as those who hike them.
Whether you’re a seasoned hiker training to climb Mount St. Helens or a beginner, there’s a spot in the back country you’ll likely be able to access.
If the trail is located at a state park, hikers will need to purchase a pass for the day, but other than that, hiking is a free, fun, healthy activity.
Maegan Jossy, outreach manager for Friends of the Columbia Gorge, recommends that hikers plan their route ahead of time, go when there are fewer crowds and immerse themselves in nature.
“Read the trail description and study a map,” she said. “Even though the Gorge is very accessible, you are still in the back-country. Go during the week, take the day off work or leave at noon to enjoy a quieter experience.”
It is also recommended that hikers carry the 10 essentials with them, which are appropriate footwear, a map or GPS unit, extra water, extra food, rain gear, flashlight, first aid kit, whistle, knife, sunscreen, sunglasses and a daypack.
Ryan Ojerio, the Southwest Regional Manager for the Washington Trails Association, also recommends hiking poles for steeper trails.
“The advanced ones tend to get steep,” he said.
Other hiking tips include being quiet, taking all garbage or dog waste home, and not blasting loud music from a phone.
“Pack it in, pack it out,” Jossy said. “Don’t talk on the phone. Immerse yourself in nature so you can hear the birds singing and catch wildlife in the moment.”
Recommended beginner hikes include Sams Walker, Steigerwald National Wildlife Refuge, Catherine Creek Barrier Free Trail and Trail to the Arch.
Intermediate hikes include Hamilton Mountain Trail, River to Rock Trail and Beacon Rock Trail (combine the two) and Labyrinth at Coyote Wall.
Advanced hike recommendations include Cape Horn loop. Dog Mountain, Table Mountain and Lyle Cherry Orchard.
Hikers who do not want to pay fees or deal with traffic and parking can take the West End Transit or Columbia Gorge Express. The WET Bus is in its third year of operation. and it’s the first year for the Columbia Gorge Express.
“These bus services support our Gorge Towns to Trails project because it encourages sustainable recreation through alternative transportation options,” Jossy said.
Gorge Towns to Trails is a project vision to link communities with recreation to benefit tourism while highlighting the Gorge.
If motivation begins to lag, Ojerio recommends planning hikes around a treat such as ice cream or a trip to a local brew pub.
He also advises staying on the trail and not creating “shortcuts,” to avoid tough switchbacks.
“Do treat Mother Nature’s ‘garden,’ as you would as a polite guest anywhere else,” Ojerio said. “Stay on trail, don’t walk in the ‘flower beds’ by short cutting switchbacks. Don’t pick flowers or leave dog poop in bags.
He continued, “Be friendly to other trail users, know and follow the land manager’s rules. For example there is a seasonal dog leash requirement at the Coyote Wall area for the protection of ground nesting birds. You can’t trail run at Steigerwald so that the trail can be for slow, quiet wildlife viewing.”
No matter what trail is selected, Ojerio recommends doing a little research on the area for a better overall experience.
“Gorge history, both geology and cultural, are fascinating,” Ojerio said. “Knowing even just a little makes the experience much better.”