One of the hard things about living in the beautiful Pacific Northwest is trying to visit a popular hike on the weekend! Especially now in the time of COVID, it seems like everyone has the same idea to get outdoors. Even spots that weren’t as crowded pre-‘Rona are busy busy. We decided to stay close-ish to home for 4th of July this year. So we chanced it and tried a new hiking trail. I’ve had the Moulton Falls hike bookmarked for a while. So I thought it would be a fun short hike with a toddler in tow. With our kiddo, any hike that has access to water is a win. Even if we don’t get too far on foot, I’m game to sit by the water and play!
I thought our best bet for avoiding crowds would be the Friday of our 3 day weekend. We headed out of Portland around 10am (quite a bit later than I had hoped for). We got to the trailhead around 11am. The first, smaller loop through parking lot off of Lucia Falls Rd was completely full. I missed the turn in for the second larger parking lot (take a right just before Sunset Falls Road!), but I turned around and got a spot. It was about 11am at this point and the upper parking lot was about half full. Note: There was also some available parking on Lucia Falls Road at the intersection of Sunset Falls & Railroad Ave.
There are a few locations for Moulton Falls when you search on Google Maps. The beautiful bridge that reflects in the water is at Moulton Falls Regional Park. Moulton Falls itself is beyond the bridge further west downriver.
We brought our masks in case it was busy. First, I snapped a picture of the trailhead map and then we got walking. We took a right heading down toward toward the falls and to see the bridge from below first. Wow! I’ve seen pictures of this bridge before, but it’s pretty amazing in person. The light and sky reflecting in the water keeps it green and blue and ever-changing. We took some pictures, climbed on some logs and rocks, and then continued over the little foot path bridge.
There was a nice little spot where Big Tree Creek joins the Lewis river. We got off the trail and explored and played by the river for awhile. Toddler “hiking” life! This was the perfect little spot though, as foot traffic on the trail started picking up. But no one really ventured down to where we were! We threw rocks, played in the water and had some snacks. Finally we decided to go check out the bridge.
Moulton Falls Bridge
We backtracked toward the bridge, stopping to take a few more pictures from below and then winding our way back up the hill. By the time we got to the bridge there seemed to be packs of hikers and then a nice space of no one and then a big herd would come through again. It was now just after noon and we decided to call it after the bridge and head back to the trailhead parking spot. By the time we got back to the car, the upper lot was completely full and cars were circling waiting for spots to open up.
Next time we do the Moulton Falls hike, I look forward to doing the out and back section on the south side of the river toward Bells Mountain trail too. Here’s the trailhead map. It’s a pretty confusing map. There are a lot more trail-like paths when you’re actually there on the ground! There’s also hiking info about this on WTA site. The main trail is hiking parallel to the Lewis River. You can also connect to the Bells Mountain trail which goes out into the forest, instead of alongside the river. Oregon Hikers also outlines a 6 mile hike from Hantwick Road Trailhead out to Yacolt Falls along the south side of the East Fork Lewis River and back.
Lucia Falls Regional Park
Lucia Falls is less than a mile from Moulton Falls and worth a stop if the parking lot isn’t busy. If you’re coming from Portland, you’ll pass Lucia Falls first.
Moulton Falls Hike from Portland
From Portland: drive north on I-5, then head east on 502 and 503 through Battle Ground. There are a few different routes, and then the road follows the East Fork Lewis River the rest of the way.
Parking & Fees: Free! This hike is part of Clark county, so no forest passes needed.
Toddler Rating: I’d give this hike a great rating for toddlers just because the hiking reward (water fall! bridge! river!) is right at the beginning. So if you don’t end up hiking very far, you still get to see the beauty. My kind of summer hike with a toddler. Note: we carried him or held his hand near the bridge area.
Nice To Know: Check out the “Popular Times” feature on Google Maps to see how busy it usually is for the time you’re wanting to go. For example: Sundays between 1-3pm are as busy as it gets, versus Monday – Thursday are usually not too busy.