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News / Life / Clark County Life

Where the pavement goes: Keep your feet dry this winter on Clark County’s paved walking paths

By Scott Hewitt, Columbian staff writer
Published: November 25, 2023, 6:13am
8 Photos
Artist Wayne Chabre&rsquo;s &ldquo;Wailing Bell&rdquo; stands alongside the main walking trail at Washington State University Vancouver. Give it a solid bash as you walk along. That&rsquo;s what it&rsquo;s there for.
Artist Wayne Chabre’s “Wailing Bell” stands alongside the main walking trail at Washington State University Vancouver. Give it a solid bash as you walk along. That’s what it’s there for. (The Columbian files) Photo Gallery

The killjoy of winter walking is getting your feet wet. Pavement, ironically enough, may be what you need this season to enjoy the outdoors.

Here are five of Clark County’s best paved trails. Surprisingly diverse and unsurprisingly beautiful, they offer winter walkers a good chance of keeping your feet dry, so you can keep appreciating nature in winter.

Because chill has a way of sneaking inside even the best-bundled, we’ve supplemented each trail with a nearby eatery (or two) where you can cap off your walk with something toasty to eat or drink.

1. Salmon Creek Greenway Trail

Birders, joggers, dog walkers and parents with strollers love this immersive streamside journey, which begins at popular swimming-and-fishing park Klineline Pond, a former gravel quarry, and bypasses some softball fields before curving through a broad, scenic bottomland. Songbirds and waterfowl are plentiful here, with herons and the occasional eagle stealing the show. The busy turtle pond along the way hosts so much more than turtles. Pull up a bench and see what turns up in the water.

The 3.1-mile (one way) trail is almost entirely flat and easy. You’re only likely to run into mud if you succumb to the temptation of a side trail — of which there are many.

The Salmon Creek Greenway Trail is about 6 miles north of downtown Vancouver. Parking is available for $3 at the east end of the trail, Klineline Pond (aka Salmon Creek Regional Park), 1112 N.E. 117th St. Plentiful free parking is available at the softball fields at 800 N.E. 117th St. At the west end, limited free parking is available on the Felida bridge on Northwest 36th Avenue.

Restrooms are available at Klineline Pond and the softball complex. For a hot drink or snack, try Creed Coffee Company or Mahoney’s Public House, both in the nearby Shops at Erickson Farms, 10718 N.W. Lakeshore Ave.

2. Burnt Bridge Creek Greenway Trail

This 8-mile (one way) trail offers cyclists a sweeping crosstown tour of Vancouver. While you probably won’t cover that much ground on a walk, any stretch of Burnt Bridge Creek still provides a strong sense of mingled greenspace and cityscape — with forests, wetlands and meadows giving way to apartment-building backyards, soccer fields and even a disc golf course. The path occasionally stops at busy roadways where it’s best to push the crosswalk button and wait out the rush of traffic.

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There’s a little up-and-down to the Burnt Bridge Creek Trail, but the only truly steep slopes are on either side of St. Johns Road, just north of state Highway 500.

The westernmost trailhead is at Fruit Valley and Bernie Drive, where free on-street parking is available. You can also park and hop onto the trail at Leverich Park (4400 N.E. Leverich Park Way); Meadow Homes Park (corner of General Anderson Avenue and East 18th Street); Devine Road (south of 18th); or Northeast 19th Circle off 92nd Avenue (near Meadowbrook Park).

For a hot drink or snack, try (west end) Latte Da Cafe and Wine Bar, 205 E. 39th St.; or (east end) Seize the Bagel at 8086 E. Mill Plain Blvd.

3. Washougal River Greenway Trail

Two lines of giants compete for visitors’ attention at the start of this short but rewarding walk: straight, tall power towers and lush, shapely oak trees. The mile-long paved path leads alongside and in between several pretty ponds and eventually across a pedestrian bridge over the Washougal River. Then the path turns into a wooden walkway across a grassy, enclosed wetland where it’s oddly easy to forget how close you are to civilization. Then the path rises up to diminutive Baz Park, off Third Loop, and back in civilization is just where you are.

That’s a 1-mile journey, necessitating a 1-mile return trip — unless you’re interested in going farther (and daring some winter wetness after all). From the Baz Park trailhead, take the Third Avenue sidewalk one block west and cross the street to the Lacamas Creek Trailhead. While unpaved, this trail’s broad, packed-gravel surface offers good odds for dry feet for about three-quarters of a mile uphill to scenic Lower Falls. (After that, there’s likely to be mud aplenty— a warning sign even says so — as the trail network climbs toward Round Lake and LaCamas Lake Park.)

Best access for the Washougal River Greenway Trail is the handy parking area at Beaver Park, corner of Southeast Yale Street and Northeast Second Avenue. The only nearby restroom is south on Yale Street at Goot Park.

For a hot drink or snack, try Dev’s Coffee Bar at 1924 N.E. Third Ave., or the Hello Waffle Cart at 3151 N.E. Second Ave.

4. Vancouver Lake to Frenchman’s Bar

It only takes a minute or two, driving west along Lower River Road out of downtown Vancouver, for your surroundings to start feeling like an oasis of converging parks, wetlands, farm fields and beaches (both lakeside and riverside). So much to explore out here, but your ideal dry-footed winter walk is the smooth, scenic stroll between Vancouver Lake and Frenchman’s Bar.

Free parking is available along Lower River Road just where it veers west. Parking is also available inside Vancouver Lake Regional Park — cold and empty this time of year — for a $3 fee.

The 2.5-mile walking path heads west along a tree-lined corridor to the Columbia River, then turns sharply north to Frenchman’s Bar Regional Park. The path passes between vast open fields that are managed by Columbia Land Trust as dedicated bird sanctuary and nicknamed Crane’s Landing for good reason: fall through spring, sandhill cranes roost here.

Frenchman’s Bar is a great place to watch cargo ships making their slow, impressive way along the river. Restrooms are available there. Parking costs $3.

For a hot drink or snack, head back downtown and stop at Java House, 210 W. Evergreen Blvd., or Relevant Coffee, 1703 Main St.

5. Washington State University Vancouver’s ‘Cougar trails

“Go Cougs!” is the fitting cry for folks starting to explore the WSUV campus’ many walking opportunities. Check out the Cougar Trails map for an extensive look at many campus loops, many of which are not paved.

A favorite paved route on campus is the one that heads north from the center of campus, quickly turns east toward the mountains and then meanders downhill (less than a mile) toward Salmon Creek Avenue. From there you can turn and climb the hill again, accomplishing a moderate but short workout surrounded by pretty scenery, plus the bonus of an immense, interactive art piece at the halfway mark called “The Wailing Bell” by Wayne Chabre. Inscribed with poetic statements about species extinction and human responsibility, this isn’t a bell with a musical clang, more like a brash bang.

Give the bell’s clapper a hard shove as you go by, listen to the resulting crash and give some thought to the way this land used to be.

Hot drink or snack: Kitchen Table Cafe, 1319 N.E. 134th St., Unit 101, or Starbucks, 14300 N.E. 20th Ave.

Here are a few more paved walking trails worth a try:

  • Discovery Loop and Renaissance Trail, downtown and waterfront Vancouver. Packed with history.
  • Chelatchie Prairie Rail Trail, near Battle Ground Lake. A simple, leafy, mile-long straightaway that should go farther in the future.
  • Pacific Community Park, just off 162nd Avenue in east Vancouver. Long walking trail loops around a busy urban park beloved of dogs and their people.
  • Vancouver Mall. Not just paved, this walk is roofed, heated and even comes with restrooms and a food court. (Plus, everywhere you turn, bright lights and Gen-Z retail ’tude.) A complete circuit around each level totals half a mile, so walking both levels makes it a 1-mile workout. Did you know there’s a Mall Miles membership program that gives walkers two-hours-early access to the place? That’s 8 a.m. on Saturdays and 9 a.m. other days.