You’d be hard pressed to find a more scenic biking route than the Willapa Hills Trail. It’s picturesque. It’s stunning. And if you grew up living in Lewis County, it could be quite frequently overlooked.
“I think you end up being spoiled by it if you’re from here,” Larisssa Hyatt said about the view along the former Northern Pacific railway. “You end up seeing something so much, it’s easy to take it for granted.”
Hyatt has the perfect way to reconnect, and that’s with Ride the Willapa, an annual bike-riding event and festival that takes participants along a 22-mile stretch of the Willapa Hills Trail in a go-at-your-own-pace experience.
“It really is a unique type of biking event,” said Hyatt, Ride the Willapa’s Marketing Director. “I’m not sure there’s anything else like it.”
The two-day biking experience will be held June 24 and 25, beginning at the Chehalis Veterans Museum with registration check-in from 7:00 to 10:00 a.m. The event will conclude the following day at 3:00 p.m.
Registration is limited to 1,250 riders. Cost is $35 for adults if you pre-register and $40 for day-of. Children 18 and under are $12 for pre-registration and $15 day of. Kids who are riding attached to their parent’s bike, such as in an attached seat or trailer, ride free.
Ride the Willapa is considered an all-levels bike ride with a level-grade trail, consisting of paved asphalt for the first five to six miles before turning into compacted gravel the remainder of the trip.
“We’ve got kids as young as nine months old doing this ride with their parents to riders in their 70s. Ride the Willapa is an outdoor experience open to anyone and everyone, however, we do recommend that you practice riding for some longer distances before you participate in the event,” Hyatt said. “The biggest change from last year we are most excited about is the Rainbow Falls campout.”
Camping options following the first day’s ride include a campout at Rainbow Falls State Park for $4 (plus processing fees) or a free camping opportunity at the Pe Ell High School football field with a stargazing party taking place at 10:20 p.m.
Campout at Rainbow Falls State Park will feature an inexpensive barbeque dinner and pancake breakfast and a free yoga class the following morning.
“Ride the Willapa is a great first introduction to bike camping, which is an activity that is gaining popularity,” Hyatt said. “That is what makes the UPS sponsorship so great, because you don’t have to worry about your luggage and still get that camping experience.”
Highlighting the ride will be Ride the Willapa’s Tour de Farms, giving riders an opportunity to visit four Chehalis River Valley farms – Black Sheep Creamery, Rosecrest Farms, Newaukum Valley Farm and Wedin Farm – along the way.
“This isn’t a bike race. The goal isn’t to be first,” Hyatt said. “We want people to ride at their own pace and experience everything we have to offer here.”
The first day will end in Pe Ell at the second annual Village Festival.
Produced by the Pe Ell Active Citizens Committee, the Village Festival will feature music in the park, the Pe Ell Farmers Market (8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.), ice cream social, horseshoe tournament, quilt show, gold panning, self-guided historic tours and a town-wide garage sale, among other activities.
Road bikes with tires smaller than 700 x 32c are not recommended and all riders who participate are required to wear a helmet while riding.
“We want to see this continue to grow every year,” Hyatt said. “It really is a community-driven event that allows us to showcase just how incredible the area we live in is.”