Do you smell the petrichor? Can you hear the sweet sound of fresh pines and lichens? That is the Trail of the Deer calling! Check out this gem of a trail nestled just inside the 616 acres of Lewis County’s Lewis and Clark State Park. This is a day trip you don’t want to miss, no matter the weather or season. The luscious and mossy old-growth forest is a beautiful place to hike and explore with your family and pets. Visitors consider this loop an easy route with a 157 ft elevation gain, taking an average of one hour to complete the 1.7-mile loop.
Parking at Trail of the Deer
During the winter, the park’s gate stays closed, but you can still access the trail year-round. There are two options for parking when the gate is locked — you may park at the gate if you do not block it. Rangers must be able to enter and exit the park. Parking here lends a shorter walk to the trailhead but can fill up with other vehicles. Or you can drive 500 feet to pass the gated entrance and park in the gravel area on the right side of the road at the cyclone fence. More parking is also available directly across the street from the gravel area.
Don’t forget a Discover Pass is needed to park at all three spots. The park is open to vehicles during the spring, summer, and fall, and you will find many marked parking spots located throughout the park.
Take a Beautiful Detour
Be vigilant as you walk back up the road toward the gated entrance, or you will miss a clearing hidden in the bushes, taking you on a breathtaking detour you don’t want to miss. A short eighth-of-a-mile stroll under the thriving pine canopy and through the dark green periwinkle forest floor will lead you straight into the park. Take a minute here to relish in the scents and viridescent vegetation. At the end of this brisk trail, walk toward the main entrance around the corner off to the right, follow the road around the ranger station, and you will spot a big wooden sign that says Trail of the Deer.
Traverse the Trail of the Deer in Lewis and Clark State Park
A wood-carved map is located at the start of the trail. Take a picture to help you navigate through the forest. Start on the winding path leading to a short wooden footbridge over a small crystal-clear creek. Follow the leafy trail up and around but don’t rush through this section. Take the time to look at the immense size and age of the trees as you pass through them. Take a seat on one of the benches along the way and take in the beauty of the serene old growth to forget you are only a few miles from town.
Some trails may have occasional muddy spots or down trees during the rainy season, so make sure you have your hiking boots on. Most of these obstacles are easy and fun to navigate, but if you need to turn back, don’t be discouraged, as there are many trails within the park to explore. You can access them via Trail of the Deer, marked by wooden posts. These other loops can be great if you want to extend your hike but stay on the trail.
During the warmer months, this is a glorious shady oasis perfect for dipping your toes in the water. Don’t forget, dogs are welcome at this park, so pack up that leash and your four-legged friend before you head out! If you are lucky enough to encounter some wildlife on your journeys, such as deer or squirrels, don’t be tempted into feeding any of the wild animals you come across, and remember to pack out anything you pack in. Bathrooms and trash receptacles are found throughout the park. Water is located at the bathrooms and keep an eye out for the occasional water fountain or spigots throughout the park.
There are many more things to do at Lewis and Clark State Park, but Trail of the Deer will be why you return year after year. The rolling hills of coniferous trees, ferns, and fungi change with the seasons and will hopefully be a place families can enjoy for generations to come. You can find more information on the park’s website.
How to Get to Trail of the Deer
From I-5, take exit 68 toward Morton/Yakima and turn onto US-12 E. Drive for 2.7 miles, and turn right at the intersection on Jackson Highway (Mary’s Corner). The entrance to the park is 1.8 miles down Jackson Highway on the right and is marked with a sign. Cell service in this area isn’t very good, so make sure to save your directions before heading out.
Lewis and Clark State Park
4583 Jackson Hwy, Toledo