The selection of this weekend’s ride was yet again entirely due to the weather forecast: west/central WA looked like it would be snow/rain free, so off I went to explore the Willapa Hills trail that starts in Chehalis, WA. The trail is 56 miles long and goes to South Bend, via Pe Ell and Raymond. The trail surface is paved for the firest 5 miles, then gravel, then railroad balast and overgrown starting around mile 20. I was happy on my mountain bike with 2.3″ tires at 25 psi.
The trail has 2 bridges that are completely out: one at mile 6.5 and another at 16.5. They are both being worked on and should be ready in 2014 according to the Lewis County website. The first missing bridge requires a 3 mile reroute on Highway 6, which I didn’t feel like doing, so I turned around.
After a stop at Subway, I drove to the next trailhead at mile 10. Highway 6 actually has a pretty wide shoulder going west (and its downhill), so this would have been easy to ride. In the other direction, however, there is no shoulder and it’s uphill – and would have been a bit unpleasant to ride.
This second portion of the Willapa Hills trail was very nice – the weather calmed down and occasional sun made it really pleasant. The second bridge to reroute around near Rainbow Falls statepark is an easy detour. It’s also being worked on and should be ready soon.
After some more riding, the little town of Pe Ell came and went (as did a couple dogs chasing me), and then the trail seriously climbed: at 1.3 percent grade Along this section, it’s a really nice backcountry rail-trail with a few bridges to walk across.
Elevation gain was minimal: 1000 feet over the first 30 miles up to the Pluvious Hill “pass” at 850 feet. This trail would make for a good dirty century when the backcountry is still snowed in and one is feeling frisky.