Looking for a great hike but don’t want to travel too far from the Portland/Vancouver area? Want to get out of the city and be back in time for your afternoon nap? Look no further than Moulton Falls and Lucia Falls, a day hike that's only a 45 minute drive from Vancouver. We recently took the scenic route to these beautiful spots and enjoyed not only the hike but the drive as well.
In this post you’ll find everything you need to know for a successful half-day trip to a spot that is away from it all. Let’s get started!
Where to park at Moulton Falls:
No-fee parking lot accommodates about 30 cars. We hiked in February and the lot was almost full. In summer, we’d advise that you get there early.
What to wear for your hike at Moulton Falls:
In February, definitely wear warm layers and water resistant shoes. In Summer, this leisurely trail requires no more than a pair of flip flops and your favorite shorts. Bring the bug spray and sunscreen!
What we packed:
- Cliff Bars
- Small towel
- For Summer season hiking, bring a large blanket to sit on or to use as a tablecloth on one of the many picnic tables. There is one BBQ pit. These areas are first come, first served.
Moulton Falls is located in Yacolt, Washington, a 45 minute drive from downtown Vancouver. You can easily drive North on I-205 and head east from Ridgefield, but I encourage you to take the scenic route through Brush Prairie. It’s a beautiful drive with rolling hills and farmland, and doesn’t take much longer than the freeway route.
When you arrive at Moulton Falls, you’ll find a parking lot that accommodates about 30 cars. There is no fee to park or to hike the trail. YAY, FREE!
The hike itself is out-and-back, approximately 4 miles roundtrip. Aside from an initial 90-foot steady incline to the footbridge over the Lewis River, the trail itself is flat and a perfect hike for families.
The bridge overlooking Moulton Falls (for which we cannot seem to find a name) was built in 1976. The view from the bridge is beautiful, with light rapids to the east and a deep, green pool to the west. We visited the falls in February when the volcanic rock surrounding the river was covered in snow. I’ve read that people swim in this area in summer, and a few have been seriously injured jumping from the bridge. Daredevils, keep this in mind.
Before crossing the bridge, you’ll encounter a trail that points east along the north side of the river. The views from this trail are spectacular, and a great place to get snapshots of the bridge itself.
Across the bridge, a wide open trail leads to the right. Several picnic tables are situated in an ideal spot for viewing the river below. Though you’re only a stone’s throw from the main road, you can’t hear any cars over the sound of the falls. It’s really peaceful and a great spot for a picnic.
Head west along the trail about a ½ mile and you’ll come to the turn that leads you up the mountainside to Bells Mountain. It’s a 1 ½ mile very steep grade -- you’ll gain about 1000 feet of elevation if you decide to go there.
Or you can continue along the flat trail for about a mile, ending up at an additional picnic area with tables and yet another beautiful view of the river below. The trail ends just beyond this area (where there is a public restroom).
As we visited this trail in February, it was cold with almost 4 inches of melting snow on the ground, so the trail was very slushy. The sun would occasionally peek out from the clouds and allow us to capture amazing photos of the light coming through the trees. You definitely want to take your camera on this hike!
Downriver from Moulton Falls is a trail that leads all the way to Lucia Falls. Since our shoes were completely soaked from the slushy snow, we chose to drive there instead.
Lucia Falls in SW Washington
At Lucia Falls, a large parking lot offers easy access to the falls (about 100 feet from the lot). Surrounded by volcanic rock and tall cedar trees, the falls are dramatic and beautiful. It’s not to be missed! There are no parking or entry fees in this area.
Both parks are open from 7am to dusk.
All in all, driving included, this little half-day trip took us only about four hours, and we were back in time for our afternoon nap. It’s the perfect ½ day trip, with a hike that’s easy enough for small kids.
So there you have it! You’re prepared for a successful day of hiking or lounging at Moulton Falls. Remember to bring water-resistant shoes and warm layers in winter, and bug spray and sunscreen in summer. Bring the kids and your dogs. They’ll love this easy, flat hike with beautiful views of the Lewis River, Moulton Falls, and Lucia Falls.