Willapa Hills State Park Trail
One of five long-distance routes managed by Washington State Parks, the Willapa Hills State Park Trail is a key segment in the cross-state network spanning from the Idaho border to the shores of Willapa Bay.
This relatively flat, 56-mile-long route represents the western segment of the overall system. Originally acquired by State Parks from the Burlington Northern Railroad in 1993, it is aligned east/west between Chehalis and South Bend where it intersects US Highway 101.
Passible in most weather conditions and open year round, the trail offers recreational options for pedestrians, non-motorized wheeled uses and equestrians. It serves as a linear setting for visitors who come to enjoy scenic views of the Willapa Valley, its many farms, small towns and rivers. Family friendly and easy to access, it accommodates small and large groups with several developed trailheads available.
Trailheads in Lewis County include Chehalis, Adna, Rainbow Falls State Park and Pe Ell. Pacific County offers access points at Lebam, Menlo, Raymond and South Bend.
Surface condition varies between the cities of Chehalis and South Bend. Beginning in Chehalis, the trail is surfaced with asphalt through the town of Adna where it transitions to compacted gravel at mile 5 until reaching mile 27, west of Pe Ell.
In Pacific County, the trail remains unimproved west of mile 27 all the way to the Raymond city limits near mile 52. Here, the trail transitions into asphalt for 5 miles between Raymond and South Bend where it terminates at a small trailhead accessed by Highway 101.
There is much more work that remains to complete the trail in Pacific County. Half of the former railroad bridges require shoring up, decking and safety rails. Many miles of trail are rough or impassible for some because it is surfaced with railroad ballast. Ballast is the rock that was installed historically by the railroad to support the railroad tracks. As funding becomes available, improvements will be made to open the entire trail.
Willapa Hills State Park Trail spans 56 miles and 757 acres, running east and west between Chehalis in Lewis County and South Bend in Pacific County. The trail is most commonly accessed at Chehalis and used for westbound travel.
In the late 1800s, the Northern Pacific Railway used the line as a spur track for logging. Train tracks once crossed more than 2,000 miles from Willapa Bay to Lake Superior, but freight traffic declined in the late 1950s, and the Willapa Hills route was abandoned in 1990. State Parks acquired the railroad right-of-way for use as a trail in 1993.
The railroad brought rapid change to the land around Willapa Bay. Small communities, many with sawmills, rose up to process lumber. Newly cleared acreage was converted into farmland. Crops were loaded onto railroad cars and carried to markets throughout the American West. Railroad bridges and trestles were also added, spanning big and small waterways along the route.
With the rise of automobiles, passenger service along the route ended in 1954. Freight traffic declined during this period as well, and the route was abandoned in 1990. The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission acquired the railroad right-of-way for use as a trail in 1993.