backpack: Lower Lewis River
The Lower Lewis River is a good early season option when there’s still snow at higher elevations. Highlights include old-growth forest, uncrowded trails, and of course, the Lewis River.
- distance & elevation gain to Bolt Camp: 2.4 miles, 175 ft. gain
- day hike options: continue on the Lewis River Trail for an additional 6-7 miles (one-way)
- best months: April – June
- location: Southwest Washington; nearest town: Cougar
- land management: Gifford Pinchot National Forest: Mount Adams Ranger Station
- trail conditions: Lewis River Trail #31
- hike description: OregonHikers.org: Lewis River Traverse Hike
- permits: none required
- trailhead pass: none required
2.4 miles, 175 ft. gain
After cancelling several earlier backpacking trips due to weather, I was happy to finally get out with a friend this past weekend for a three day trip. Taking it easy on the first trip is a great way to kick off backpacking season, especially for testing out new gear. And getting your body used to carrying a loaded pack.
We started at the Curly Creek trailhead, which is located about ten miles downriver from the popular Lower Lewis Falls waterfall area. The first several miles of trail had recently been cleared of blow down, but while day hiking on Saturday, we discovered where the trail crews hadn’t been to yet and had a lot of obstacles to get around. Even though it was cold overnight (36 degrees), going early in the season has a big benefit: we only saw ten people over the three days.
We setup camp at the Bolt Camp Shelter. We didn’t sleep in the shelter… there’s a lot of space for tents in this area, and there’s also a firewood rack that was fully stocked when we arrived. We were quite surprised to see that! All of the campsites in this area have easy river access for filtering water.
I’ve been trying new gear, including a tent, backpack, sleeping pad, and pillow. Learn more in my New Backpacking Gear for 2022 post.
5 miles, 350 ft. gain
We continued on the Lewis River Trail for a couple of miles until it headed uphill above the river. The old-growth forest through this section is amazing, with moss and lichens covering most surfaces. There were quite a few obstacles too since we were here before trail crews cleared all of the winter blow downs. We took a leisurely pace all day and enjoyed spending time in the forest next to the river, stopping for frequent breaks to soak it all in.
The last day was uneventful but beautiful as we hiked back to the trailhead.