Upper Lewis River
Season: All Year
DirectionsFrom Cougar, Washington, drive east on Highway 503 (which becomes Forest Road 90) for approximately 30 miles. The road will cross to the north side of the Lewis River, where several small pullouts provide parking for the trail. If these are filled, parking can be found another couple miles up the road at the Upper Lewis River Campground.
The upper portion of the Lewis River has some spectacular waterfalls, but unlike the lower section, it is followed for much of its length by Forest Service Road 90, which compromises some of the wild character. However, the scenery does make this a worthwhile trip, and because of its low elevation, it may be a good winter option.
The path leads from the trailhead and you soon find yourself right alongside the wide, shallow river. Several portions of the trail near the western trailhead travels through some open meadows with large alder and maple trees. Care should be taken through these portions of the trail to avoid contact with Stinging Nettles that love the moist meadow areas that often times crowd the trail. The road is within site for much of this portion of the trail, so don’t expect to have a total wilderness experience.
Soon, the trail rises to Lower Lewis River Falls, a very impressive, wide cascade. There is a campground located near the falls, so expect plenty of people competing for views. Another half mile past the falls, the trail climbs high above the river. Keep an eye out for an old bridge that only has its middle section still standing. The trail continues to Middle Falls. This waterfall is less impressive, yet still shows the enormous power of this river as it slides over a 30-foot drop in the riverbed.
Continuing on, the trail switchbacks up the canyon wall, and travels another mile before reaching the upper falls, arguably the most impressive waterfall on the trail. The best view is from the bottom, but the path switchbacks above the falls for an aerial view, before continuing on for another mile to intersect with Forest Service Road 90.