Walking from Vancouver Lake to Frenchman's Bar in Vancouver, WA

Route: Vancouver Lake Park to Frenchman's Bar, Out & Back

Length of Walk: About 6.5 Miles

Difficulty: Easy

What to Pack:

  • Water
  • Sunscreen
  • Antihistamines
  • Erin's Kick-Ass Hiking Granola
  • Camera
bird watching at vancouver lake
    frenchman's bar

      Beautiful Paved Trail Along a Quiet Country Road

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      Just 2 miles west of downtown Vancouver is a quiet, long flat paved trailway along wetlands and grassy fields. The trail leads between two gorgeous parks, Vancouver Lake Park and Frenchman's Bar. The walk is quiet, even on a Saturday when the loudest noises we heard came from a family of Osprey flying overhead for most of our trek. This walk is a must for rollerbladers, dog walkers, or just anyone wanting a good stretch of the legs.

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      Frenchman's Bar

      Parking at Vancouver Lake Park

      This beautiful, shallow man-made lake has a maximum depth of 12-15 feet, and is popular with kayakers and swimmers alike. Just south of Turtle Island, the lake is filled by the north shore of the Columbia River via Lake River near Ridgefield. 

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      On the Eastern shoreline of the lake is Burnt Bridge Creek, which is definitely next on my list of Vancouver hiking trails to visit. 

      You'll follow Lower River Road leading westbound out of downtown Vancouver and park in a lot at Vancouver Lake Park that costs $3/day and has 147 parking spaces. We visited on a Saturday in April and only 1/3 of the lot was filled. 

      Vancouver Lake Park is a 190-acre regional park that stretches from the west shore of Vancouver Lake. From the parking lot there are ample places to launch your canoe or kayak, or take a swim from the sandy beach. The average depth of the lake is only 13 feet, so it's the perfect place to take small kids for fun in the water.

      The park is enormous, with more than 60 picnic tables, 24 bbq grills, volleyball courts, drinking fountains, and restrooms. The park is open 7am to dusk. It's the perfect place to park and start your walk on the paved trail to Frenchman's Bar.

      Wildflowers and Tractors

      Stroll along the paved pathway that stretches from Vancouver Lake Park and you'll see different species of birds, including Osprey that fly so low you feel like you could reach up and touch them. Yellow and purple wildflowers grow in abundance along the entire trail, and if you bring your camera, schedule extra time to stop and capture some of these beautiful flowers during your easy hike

      hikes with wildflowers

      The entire path from Vancouver Lake Park to Frenchman's bar is about 3.2 miles each way, and the path stays right alongside a beautiful, quiet country road. About halfway between the two parks there is a small, sandy beach on the Columbia River. A small trail leads down to the water where you can see large parked cargo ships across the river that look like gigantic buildings jutting out of the water. 

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      Next to this serene little beach is a swampy area of wetlands with a ton of birdlife and beautiful reeds and trees growing from the soggy ground.

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      Frenchman's BarFrenchman's Bar

      We spent about 10 minutes admiring the scenery in this little spot, then returned to the main paved trail to make our way to Frenchman's Bar.

      More wildflowers. And the more wildflowers. But also, wildflowers.

      The sight of these "weeds" growing in most of the farmlands and fields along this trail are the highlight of the walk. Brightly colored yellow and purple flowers stretch out along the fence line in large clumps that just beg to be photographed. Not even the barbed wire around some of the fields could take away from the beauty. It's an amazing walk!

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      On our walk during mid-April, the sky was blue and filled with white puffy clouds. Perfect weather for this walk. The only drawback is that those puffy clouds obscured our view of the mountain peaks which are typically in sight of this trail. We could see the base of Mt. St. Helens, but Mts. Hood, Adams, and Rainier were all hidden from us on that particular day hike.

      Bring your sunscreen

      This trail is in 100% open sun. If you're sensitive to bright sunlight, you'll want to bring a hat and/or sunscreen. Also, water is important. My husband and I literally brought nothing but our camera. Luckily, Erin and her husband were a little better prepared than we were. They shared their water with us and Crawford was able to hide under Mike's borrowed sweatshirt to keep the top of his head from burning to a crisp.

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      Also, it's a long walk so be prepared for tired feet and even blisters on your hike if you're not wearing the right shoes. Erin suffered a huge blister about halfway through our hike and had to don Mike's sweaty sock to protect her heel from rubbing for the rest of the day. Trading sweaty socks is always a joy. ;)

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      Earn Your Tacos

      This walk, although flat, is long. And in full sun, it'll wear you out. We advise heading back into Vancouver and hitting up Thai Orchid, Woody's Tacos or Jorge's Tequila Factory, all within walking distance of one anther. Big cups of water plus chips and salsa are the perfect post-hike replenishment system. 

      Frenchman's Bar

      The Perfect Morning or Afternoon Hike

      We had so much fun on this walk from Vancouver Lake to Frenchman's Bar. It wasn't crowded, it was an easy walk in the sunshine, we saw a ton of wildflowers and wildlife, and rewarded ourselves with Tacos afterwards. Really, a perfect day.

      Read More About Our Hiking Adventures!

      Want to learn more about our favorite hikes that are close to the Portland/Vancouver area? Check this one out in Camas, the perfect dog-friendly hike with beautiful scenery and a waterfall and footbridge. Or take this gorgeous lunchtime walk through downtown Vancouver and through the historic Fort Vancouver.

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