One key thing all of these hikes near Randle have in common is that they are easy. So easy, we ran into families with small children on each one. And yet, all five hikes have something special to offer.
Layser Cave #290
Layser Cave is a short hike at only .25 miles downhill. The route includes a cave and a small loop. Interpretive signs tell the tale of Native Americans who hunted, sheltered and made tools here. The cave is neatly hidden inside a rock formation and wasn’t discovered until 1982. The relatively small entrance opens up into a decent size cave which features a fire pit at its center. It’s easy to let your imagination run wild trying to envision what it would be like to live there.
From the cave the trail loops around to a lookout with an impressive view of the ridgeline with Mount Adams as a focal point.
How to get there: From Highway 12 in Randle turn South on State Route 131 which features a sign for Mount Saint Helens. Turn left on Cispus Road (Forest Service Road 23). Start looking for the signs for Layser Cave around seven miles. Your turn will be onto Spur Road No. 083 on your left. This is a bumpy ride up to the trailhead which is now clearly marked. Northwest Forest Pass is required.
Camp Creek Falls #260
This there-and-back trail is only .6 miles and takes you through pleasant woodland before ascending a short hill that, once crested, reveals a 30-foot waterfall. The trail ends right next to the falls so you may experience the spray and wind generated by the cascading water. It’s advisable to keep children close as there’s a drop down to the creek and, if you venture down to the creek, the rocks are slippery. This hike was my kids’ favorite hike of the day: easy and breathtaking.
How to get there: If you visited Layser Cave, just get back on Cispus Road #23 another 1.4 miles. The trailhead is marked on your left and parking is available on the right. Northwest Forest Pass is required.
Covel Creek Falls #228A
Though this hike can be longer and more difficult, should you do the Angel Falls loop, it’s perfectly acceptable to hike the 1.25 miles to Covel Falls (or Curtain Falls) and back with kids. The trail to Covel Falls often skirts the babbling Covel Creek which keeps things interesting. We crossed the creek multiple times, sometimes without the benefit of a bridge. The waterfall is a worthy destination. The trail actually goes behind Covel Falls which is a unique and invigorating experience. I do recommend sturdy waterproof boots for this hike and obtaining a map from Cispus Camp.
How to get there: Continue down Cispus Road #23 until you get to Cispus Camp. I recommend going to the camp office, asking them where to park and obtaining a trail map there. Parking is free.
Woods Creek Trail #247
As the name implies, this hike is a woodland walk. To do the entire trail, which is a figure eight, you’ll travel 2.5 miles. There’s only one hill which is in the Old Growth section in the second loop of the figure eight. The Woods Creek Trail in spring is brilliantly verdant, a symphony of flora and fauna. I identified every kind of fern native to the Pacific Northwest there. The first loop meanders through a cottonwood forest and by wetland meadows. The second loop takes you deep into the old growth timber. This hike is a feast for the senses as it smells wonderfully woody and sweet.
How to get there: From Highway 12 in Randle, turn onto state route 131. Unlike the three previous hikes, turn right at the fork and follow Forest Service Road 25. The Woods Creek trail will be on your left. This trailhead also has a picnic area and an outhouse. Northwest Forest Pass Required.
Iron Creek Campground #187
This hike was my husband’s favorite of the day. I think it’s because of the festive smells of campfires, putting one in the mood for roasted meats and marshmallows. The 1.5-mile loop trail encompasses the perimeter of the entire campground. There are many trail heads all around the campground.
The camp host directed us to a parking area near the D loop. From there we walked toward the back of the campground and easily found the trail which we took clockwise. Here we followed the Cispus River which was a marvelous aqua green color and running very high. The trail looped away from the river into old growth forest. Wood sorrel, white anemones and ferns spotted the forest floor and gave us plenty to look at. We even found a trail gnome with a poem strapped to his back along the way. We redeposited him under some sorrel further up the trail for some other adventurer to find.
Except for spying the occasional tent-top and the smoky smells, it was easy to forget that we were in a campground. This hike is hands down an all-ages experience as it can be as short as you please and there’s no significant elevation gain.
Our visit to Iron Creek made us want to go back to our tent and relax. Too bad we had only come for the day. Next time we visit these five easy trails we may just start by camping at Iron Creek Campground.
How to get there: after visiting Woods Creek continue down Forest Service Road 25 to Iron Creek Campground. It’s about 11 miles from the aforementioned fork in the road. Northwest Forest Pass Required.