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Aug. 15, 2022

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Walk in woodland wonders on Lacamas Heritage Trail’s northern half

Trail offers forested splendor to lift your spirit

By , Columbian staff writer
11 Photos
When you see the lakeshore neighborhood's private boat launch and docks, you're about halfway between the trail's north and south ends.
When you see the lakeshore neighborhood's private boat launch and docks, you're about halfway between the trail's north and south ends. (Monika Spykerman/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

CAMAS — As a resident of this city for 10 years, I thought I was relatively familiar with the Lacamas Heritage Trail in Camas, which begins at Heritage Park on the south end of Lacamas Lake and heads northwest along the lake’s edge. A little less than 2 miles north of the Heritage Park trailhead, there’s a private boat launch and two docks for residents of the tony Lacamas Shores neighborhood. It seems like that’s the end of the trail, so that’s where our family always turned around and began the trek back to Heritage Park.

If we’d ever consulted a map, we’d have seen that if we crossed a small parking lot, the trail continues north and follows the shoreline to the wetlands on the lake’s northern edge and then keeps going along Lacamas Creek all the way to Northeast Goodwin Road. (A note to novice hikers: This illustrates why maps are extremely useful.) The whole trail is about 31/2 miles, or 7 miles if you walk out and back from either end of the trail.

We’d driven by the northern trailhead on Goodwin Road for years, thinking it was the entrance to the 2 Creeks Camas gated housing development. However, during the past couple of years, we did more walking for entertainment and free nature therapy and were therefore always on the lookout for new trails. My husband said he’d heard there was a trail behind 2 Creeks Camas and suggested we try it out. We still failed, in our mental geography, to connect this trail with our favorite lakeside walking path. If we had looked more closely, we would have seen a sign on Goodwin Road and again at the trail entrance clearly indicating the name of the trail. (An addendum to the previous note: Reading signs can be marvelously illuminating.)

We parked in the small lot off Northwest Alexandra Lane. The trail didn’t look all that promising, given that it’s bordered one on side by a chain-link fence and on the other by Camas Meadows Golf Course and the houses of 2 Creeks. We were hoping for a bit more wild beauty but decided to give it a shot anyway.

I’m so glad we did, because the northern part of Lacamas Heritage Trail has become a new favorite. We’ve now enjoyed its pleasures over several seasons. From the trail entrance off Northwest Alexandra Lane, it skirts the edge of Camp Lacamas Christian Retreat and Conference Center (that’s the property marked by the chain-link fence) and heads south past the golf course and duplexes of 2 Creeks. The trail then plunges into the woods, where tall trees and plentiful undergrowth pleasantly muffle sounds, except for a panoply of bird calls. The level, well-maintained trail (considered “easy” by online trail guides) is wide enough to comfortably fit two or three walkers or even two cyclists side by side. There are no steep inclines or hairpin turns or downhill jogs; the trail stays at water-level the whole way from Goodwin Road to Heritage Park. The trail wasn’t what I’d call crowded, but we did see a few runners, bikers and happy dogs walking their owners.

The first time our family hiked the trail from the Goodwin Road trailhead, we were surprised to discover that, the farther south we walked, the more familiar things looked. When the trees thinned out and the creek widened into a blue lake, we glanced up the hill to our right and saw, to our mild astonishment, that we were walking below the lakeview houses of Lacamas Shores. We were on our beloved Heritage Trail and had been the whole time.

Although the northern part of Heritage Trail runs more or less parallel to Lacamas Creek, the creek isn’t visible at first because it’s obscured by dense woods. It’s evident, however, that water is nearby because the trail crosses a series of bridges over marshy wetlands where riparian wildlife abounds. During a family walk along the trail last month, we stopped on a bridge and looked through the clear ripples of tiny Dwyer Creek, where we spotted a salamander creeping along the sandy bottom. While traversing the trail a week ago, I heard the distinctive, throaty call of an American bittern among the reeds. (Bitterns are very shy and their striped feathers make them hard to spot in the tall grasses where they like to hide, but you can’t miss the deep honking sound, more froglike than birdlike.)

As the trail continues south, Lacamas Creek becomes occasionally visible on the left. It’s wide and slow here, flowing ever so gently into the north end of Lacamas Lake. During one walk, we saw kayakers paddling placidly in the stream and I longed to join them. I imagine this short, calm stretch of Lacamas Creek would make for excellent bird-watching from a boater’s vantage point — a spot to see kingfishers that sometimes swoop low over the water or red-winged blackbirds that perch on rushes and trill their soulful songs.

Our family walked the northern Heritage Trail in the fall and again in the early spring, although it was a bit muddy in parts and its well-shaded aspect can make it seem cold on cloudy days. In the summer, the path is dry and delightfully cool, with filtered sunlight reaching through the fir canopy and casting diamond-bright patterns on the duff-covered trail.

During the sunny months, woodland wildflowers line the path, such as tiny blue forget-me-nots and shiny yellow buttercups. Last week, I saw ripening salmonberries, pale pink wild roses (also called, less elegantly, swamp roses) and what looked like sweet william but may have been meadow phlox. I’m pretty sure I spied a bright orange jewelweed blossom, but I couldn’t get close enough to say for sure.


What: Northern half of Lacamas Heritage Trail

Where: Trailhead off Northeast Goodwin Road with parking on Northwest Alexandra Lane

Length: 31/2 miles to Heritage Park at the southern end of Lacamas Lake, 7 miles out and back

Difficulty: Easy

If walking the northern portion of the Heritage Trail isn’t enough for you, just keep walking. In fact, a determined hiker could walk from Northwest Goodwin Road to Heritage Park, cross Northeast Everett Street using the new roundabout at Northwest Lake Road and get on the Round Lake Loop Trail, then veer off at the dam to follow Lacamas Creek past Pothole Falls and McEnry Bridge all the way to the southern trailhead on Northeast Third Avenue.

Better yet, exit the Lacamas Creek trail at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church and take Northeast Fourth Avenue straight to the boutiques, eateries and galleries of downtown Camas.

Not a bad day’s work, if you’ve got a few hours and very strong legs. Even if you’ve only got an hour and fair-to-average legs, a stroll along the northern half of the Lacamas Heritage Trail will lift your spirits.

The trail’s ease and forested splendor will make you grateful to live in this green corner of America, where freedom can sometimes translate to a simple walk in the woods.

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