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Oct. 7, 2022

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Siouxon Trail the jewel of the forest

Canopy, waterfalls make Siouxon Creek in Gifford Pinchot one of state’s most scenic rivers

3 Photos
A downed tree provides a crossing of Calamity Creek in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.
A downed tree provides a crossing of Calamity Creek in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. (Allen Thomas) Photo Gallery

It’s well known that forest wildfires burn in a patchwork, scorching some spots yet sparing others.

Fortunately, most of popular Siouxon Trail No. 130 in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest avoided the worst of the huge Big Hollow Fire of two years ago.

Big Hollow Fire involved 25,000 acres, basically from Trapper Creek Wilderness north and west to the Siouxon Creek drainage. It burned more intensely on the east end, yet the fire perimeter reached to just west of the Siouxon Creek trailhead at the end of Gifford Pinchot Forest Service Road No. 5701.

Here, in three sentences, is what a hike of Siouxon No. 130 reveals:

  • The trail appears mostly as it did before the fire, especially the eastern end.
  • The lower 6 feet of some of the trees are blackened.
  • The bridge across Siouxon Creek, leading to Chinook Creek Falls, is gone.

Siouxon Trail No. 130 is one of the jewels of the Gifford Pinchot.

The U.S. Forest Service, not an agency given to hype, described Siouxon Creek this way in its 1990 land-use plan: “Its subtle beauty below the forest canopy and a wide variety of water features from pools and riffles to spectacular waterfalls make it one of the most scenic rivers in the state of Washington.’’

The clarity of the creek is amazing, due in no small amount to the paucity of roads and logging in the upper watershed.

Siouxon Creek trail really is three trails in one — little-used western and eastern ends, plus a very popular 5-mile middle stretch.

The far western end of Trail No. 130 starts at a trailhead on a hairpin corner of Forest Service Road No. 5701. There’s parking for about a dozen cars and several Forest Service signs warning about the potential risks of hiking in a burned area.

The western portion is 3.78 miles of uneventful hiking through the trees. There’s little elevation change and a half-dozen or so small creek crossings.

The middle trailhead remains the popular access point to Siouxon Trail No. 130. There’s parking for about 15 vehicles at the end of Forest Service Road No. 5701. The road is sufficient for most cars, but has lots of slumps, potholes and broken-pavement patches requiring a slow driving speed.

Signs of the fire begin just west of the middle trailhead. While the effects of the Big Hollow burn are noticeable on many stretches of the trail, they are not overwhelming.

It’s still a great hike, at a low elevation (1,500 feet), with a long use season.

Patches of standing dead trees are visible on the upper ridges towering above the trail but are literally miles away.

The typical Siouxon Creek hike is the 5.17 miles (one way) from the middle trailhead at the end of Forest Service Road No. 5701 to the junction with Chinook Creek Trail No. 130A, then a short walk on No. 130A to Chinook Creek Falls.

With the bridge across Siouxon Creek gone, to see Chinook Creek Falls requires getting across the creek on a combination of downed trees. It’s recommended only for those with an excess of derring-do.


Western trailhead: From Chelatchie Store on state Highway 503, go east past the Gifford Pinchot National Forest Service Road No. 54 sign (2.3 miles) to the junction with road No. 57 (9.1 miles). Go left (uphill) for 1.2 miles and turn left on road No. 5701. The western trailhead is another 0.7 miles. Continue to the end of the road to reach the middle trailhead.

Eastern trailhead: Use the Gifford Pinchot National Forest map to find the junction of Wind River road No. 30 and Dry Creek road No. 64. The junction is a couple of miles north of Carson National Fish Hatchery. From the junction, follow road No. 64 for 6.1 miles to the junction with road No. 58, then proceed on road No. 58 another 4.5 miles to the unmarked trailhead. There is roadside parking for about half a dozen cars.

Kyung Koh Willis, Gifford Pinchot National Forest recreation manager, said the forest is getting disaster relief money in the 2023 federal fiscal year to replace the Chinook trail bridge across Siouxon Creek.

“The goal is to get the design and such in 2023, with actual construction/installation of the trail bridge in 2024,’’ she said.

The very-little-used eastern portion of Siouxon Creek Trail No. 130 is the 5.4 miles from the junction with Chinook Creek Trail No. 130A to the eastern trailhead on Forest Service Road No. 58.

The eastern 5 miles are relatively steep. The elevation at Chinook Creek Trail junction is 1,675 feet and Siouxon Trail No. 130 ends on Forest Service Road No. 58 at 3,525 feet elevation.

There is a wide — but fairly shallow — ford at the crossing of Calamity Creek, 2.5 miles upstream of Chinook Creek Trail junction. Fortuitously, a wide-enough downed tree spans Calamity Creek just upstream from the ford spot.

A campsite along Siouxon Creek can be found a half-mile upstream of the Calamity Creek crossing. At this point, Siouxon Trail leaves the creek and climbs steadily for 1,500 feet elevation through the forest to road No. 58 in 2.84 miles.

The fire missed the entire upper end of Siouxon Trail except for about 100 yards at the eastern trailhead.

There is no sign identifying the trailhead on Forest Service Road No. 58, although the post to which the sign once was attached remains.

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