La Center sits on the East Fork Lewis River. The wide bottom lands of the river runs several miles and large areas of the land along the river are in public ownership. This allows for many miles of trails to explore, though it is not all connected.
At La Center, the trail along the East Fork Lewis River that starts at Sternwheeler Park takes you just short of a mile up river. Side trails allow you to explore Brazee Creek and to walk along the north side of the bottom lands.
On the south side of the river, you can explore trails in the west La Center bottom lands. During the right season, this is a good area to observe more waterfowl, including a large flock of swans who winter there. While the trail to the west is clear for less than half a mile, it does open interesting areas to explore.
The area on the south side of Vancouver Lake, essentially everything along Laframbois Road, is public land with many trails. Land on the west side of Laframbois Road, and on the east side closest to Vancouver Lake, is owned by the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife, and is managed for deer and bird hunting. Land to the east of Laframbois Road is mostly owned by the City of Vancouver and Clark County. A portion of City land appears to be leased for agricultural production.
There are many trails in this area that can be explored, just be aware that much of the land is managed for hunting. As I wandered the trails, I saw many birds. Sparrows, swallows, swans, geese, ducks, great blue herons, hawks, harriers, and a pheasant that was staying near the entry gate, as if greeting new arrivals.
This is one of my favorite places to go for a good walk. Several trails loop around the park, allowing you to not only make a loop hike, but to loop around the Lake three times without walking the same trails twice.
Most of the outermost trails are open to horses and mountain bikes, and are also easy trails for walking. The trails closest to the lake are closed to horses and bikes, but can also be difficult to maneuver if you have any trouble with rough terrain.
The State Park charges a day use fee or Discover Pass.
The smallest loop around the lake will take you about a mile and a quarter (including the walk from where you park), and the largest loop is about 2-1/2 miles. The park trails are pretty well mapped in Google Maps.
In addition to trails around the lake, there is the Chelatchie Rail Trail, a 1 mile paved path following the railroad to the east of the park.
Fairgrounds Community Park has a paved loop path of about a half mile, but there is also a dirt trail that exits the park on the north side to connect with the Clark County Event Center. The trail runs alongside the fields used for parking at the Event Center, then turns back toward the south to meander south and west through the woods emerging at a field which can be crossed to reach 11th Ave to connect with the trail to Whipple Creek Regional Park. The trail through the forest (just shy of a half mile) is a nice walk on it’s own. The path across the field (just over a quarter mile) is not cleared, which might not be a problem if you are on horseback, but when walking it can take some searching, or some walking through tall grass to find your way. Late summer or early fall, the field was cut, so paths across the field are easier to find.
There is an inconspicuous dirt trail connecting through the woods at the south end of the field. From the park side, go to the western-most curve of the paved path. To the west you will find a trail entering the trees. This path meanders through the wooded area to the field, and then a trail can be followed along the edge of the field up to the northern trail that wanders back through the forest. A complete circuit of these trails is about 1 mile.
Chelatchie Prairie Rail With Trail is an out and back 1 mile paved level path that starts at Battle Ground Lake State Park. Note that inside the entrance to Battle Ground Lake State Park Clark County provides three parking spaces marked for the Chelatchie Prairie Trail where you can park without paying the State Park fee or having a Discover Pass. Total round-trip walking distance from the parking spaces, to the end of the trail and back is approximately 2.5 miles.
The roughest part of this trail, is the stretch from the parking area to the trail itself. After rains, this section can be muddy, but you do have the option of just walking out onto the park entrance road to reach the paved trail.
The long term plan is to complete a multi-use trail along the full 33 miles of the Chelatchie Prarie Rail line. This plan is held up by the cost of constructing sections where it passes through some areas of slope that would require costly engineering to complete.
There are options to continue further, or to loop back to the park.
Where the paved trail crosses 174th Ct and then crosses the railroad tracks, you could instead turn north on 174th Ct and follow it back up to Palmer Rd, where you can turn left and walk on the road with no shoulders about 450ft to a gated access road to enter the park. This connects you to the trails within the park to walk back to your vehicle.
At the end of the paved path, turn right, and follow the wide dirt trail which parallels the railroad tracks to a meadow. The trail crosses the meadow along the right edge and connects through to 167th Ave. Here you can turn right and follow 167th Ave north to Palmer Rd. Cross Palmer Rd to the horse trailer parking area. Walk up the trail through the meadow into the trails of Battle Ground Lake State Park to return to your vehicle.
At the end of the paved path, turn left to follow a wide dirt trail that extends to a field next to 229th St. This would be a good spot to turn around and return. The field is wet, so good to ride a horse through but not walking or biking. There is a driveway that connects to 229th St, but it is a private driveway, and would require stepping around the gate that says No Trespassing.
The final option available, is to continue along the railroad. I followed the trail (#2 above) to 167th Ave, then turned left and at the corner of 167th and 230th followed a trail straight ahead connecting to the railroad. This stretch of railroad to Battle Ground is a nice walk, but be warned, 1) it is not a trail, so watch your step, 2) it is still a functional railroad line so be alert in case a train approaches. If you walk this route, it would be best to return the same way. Walking the roads to Battle Ground State Park is a difficult task, since many sections have no shoulder, and vehicles passing at 50+MPH.
This is a great area to hike or ride a horse or a bike. Numerous trails allow for new experiences when revisiting multiple times. Be ready though for muddy conditions unless visiting in the summer after a period of no rain and no dew in the mornings.
These trails are frequently used by horse riders, and the land was donated for it to be an equestrian park, so if you are biking or hiking, be ready and courteous. I will add that I have hiked on some trails frequented by horse riders that were so destroyed that I never wanted to hike them again, but the trails in this park are in very good shape, and the manure is easy to avoid as long as you watch your step. At the entrance on 21st from 179th there is a nice explanatory statement about how to be considerate of horse riders to minimize any chance of spooking the horses by accident.
There is a large growth of English Ivy in areas of the park, and miles of trails to maintain, so the volunteers who maintain the park would be glad to have more helping hands. Visit: https://www.facebook.com/WhippleCreekPark/
There are four entrances that can be used to access the park. The main entrance, with the most parking, is reached from 179th Street by turning south onto 21st. The other three locations have very limited parking available. Click the objects in the map below for details.
Note that the trail that exits the park to the east to 11th Ave, crosses the field on the east side of 11th Ave and connects with a trail to the Clark County Fairgrounds and Fairgrounds Community Park. Crossing the field though, does not have a clear trail. You often just need to find your way through the tall grass to the forest where there is a clear trail.
This is also one area where I have seen and heard coyotes.