Discover seven hidden gems not far from the Superplatte | HeraldNet.com – The Daily Herald | Gmx Pharm

I was on a return trip from Seattle, flying down I-5 at 70 miles an hour, when one of those brown State Park signs reached out and grabbed me.

Nothing bothers me more than missing out on the opportunity for a little outdoor discovery. And I had no particular reason to rush home. So I turned off the freeway and went on an unexpectedly beautiful hike through a glittering forest, accompanied by the chirping of birds.

“Oh wow!” I kept thinking. “Who knew?”

Southwest Washington’s I-5 corridor is home to numerous state parks that most of us rush by at freeway speed. I recently decided to slow down and explore.

If you’re hungry for a little outdoor discovery that doesn’t require more than a day trip, here’s a selection of six cute state parks and one fabulous national wildlife sanctuary just up the road.

An easy 1 mile loop near the Visitor Center at Seaquest State Park explores the rim of Silver Lake. (Scott Hewitt/The Colombian)

sea ​​quest

The gateway to Mount St. Helens is a wonderland all of its own. Seaquest State Park, which straddles State Highway 504 just east of Castle Rock, is a 1,200-acre camping and hiking park with miles of forest trails and an easy, flat loop trail at the base of Silver Lake.

According to an interpretative panel, Silver Lake was formed after a massive volcanic eruption and mudslides that dammed streams that burst their banks. This may sound familiar, but the explosion in question happened 2,500 years ago. Silver Lake is historical evidence of the volcanic cycle.

To learn more about the volcano, visit the impressive Mount St. Helens Visitor Center on the south side of the road, which has a museum exhibit ($5 adult admission, $15 for a family) and friendly park rangers willing to help local people to give tips.

A pedestrian tunnel connects the visitor center to the rest of Seaquest and features picnic tables and shelters, a primitive playground, and horseshoe pits in the central day area. But if you’re here for hiking, head northeast, park by the yurt village, and head north. A network of 7 miles of hiking trails takes you up and down through undulating seas of ferns and regrowing forest.

The Seaquest name is not about the pioneering voyage in the Pacific. The park is named after Swedish emigrant Charles John Seaquest, who settled here in 1870.

The 1848 Jackson House near Lewis and Clark State Park is the oldest pioneer home north of the Columbia River.  (Scott Hewitt/The Colombian)

The 1848 Jackson House near Lewis and Clark State Park is the oldest pioneer home north of the Columbia River. (Scott Hewitt/The Colombian)

Jackson house

Your GPS may suggest a southbound approach through Toledo, but the quickest route to this reconstructed pioneer cabin is directly east off I-5 on Highway 12. Turn right onto Jackson Highway where you will find the gated stone wall and the weather-beaten cottage beyond cannot overlook it. Parking is just behind.

The John R. Jackson House is the first American pioneer home north of the Columbia River. According to Washington State Parks, it was built in 1848 and quickly became a major regional meeting place and hotel. Ulysses S. Grant and Territorial Governor Isaac Stevens were among the lodgers. The US District Court sat in Jackson House in 1850.

The hut is worth a quick look or a guided tour by appointment. Call 360-864-2643.

Lewis and Clark

A stone’s throw south of the Jackson House is the 1,500-acre Lewis and Clark State Park. According to a three-part kiosk in the central day area, it is a great example of public works for the public good that have stood the test of time. The area was reserved in 1922 to preserve old growth forest, but its cabins, toilets, shelters, roads and trails were built in the 1930s by young men who needed work during the Great Depression. They lived locally in a Civilian Conservation Corps camp.

“The park’s daytime area still looks as it did after the CCC’s work was completed, with several rustic picnic shelters and restrooms constructed from native logs and stone,” according to the park’s website.

Two information stations near the entrance aim to educate visitors about local indigenous history and forest practices.

Ready to hike? Turn right to reach a park loop and a forest information kiosk packed with photos and data to help you identify the flora and fauna in the ancient forests beyond. (Take a photo to keep this information handy.)

There are 5 miles of tight, narrow trails here that connect via the Jackson Highway with another 5 miles of shared bridleways. Towering Douglas firs and red cedars dominate a dense and deeply rugged landscape of wetlands, streams and wildflowers.

Ike Kinsw

State park completists can venture about 20 miles further east along Highway 12 and Silver Creek Road to Ike Kinswa State Park, a small, scenic camping and boating park on Mayfield Lake.

There isn’t much hiking here, but there is a picnic area and playground, and separate swimming zones in the lake. The name Ike Kinswa commemorates an influential Cowlitz tribesman who lived here in the 1880s.

Cute little waterfalls in Rainbow Falls State Park.  (Scott Hewitt/The Colombian)

Cute little waterfalls in Rainbow Falls State Park. (Scott Hewitt/The Colombian)

rainbow falls

To reach the 129-acre Rainbow Falls State Park, you can drive about 16 miles west of Chehalis on Highway 6. Or bring a bike, park at one of the convenient access points to the Willapa Hills State Park Trail, and ride the rest of the way. The trail begins in Chehalis, just south of exit 77 off I-5.

The beautiful, flat, fun trail is a former railroad track that is partly paved and partly filled with gravel. On her way to Rainbow Falls (and beyond) she traverses agricultural fields, lush forests, tiny villages and a couple of impressive footbridges over the Chehalis River.

This summer, half a mile of bike path east of Adna village will be closed during flyover construction. State parks spokeswoman Meryl Lassen recommends parking at Adna and heading west from there. Intrepid cyclists who don’t mind detouring onto the road itself can still do it all.

Cyclists resting at Rainbow Falls will enjoy hanging out in the limited day-use area and meandering down to the small falls. But if you’re going here to hike, skip this area. Stay on Highway 6 and look for an old wooden signpost. Park across the street and head uphill on criss-cross loop trails.

Miles of varied hiking trails in Millersylvania State Park near Olympia begin and end with this manicured walkway.

Miles of varied hiking trails in Millersylvania State Park near Olympia begin and end with this manicured walkway.

Millersylvania

Millersylvania State Park was the temptation I couldn’t resist returning from Seattle. I’m so glad I gave in because this 903-acre park just south of Olympia turned out to be huge, lush, and historic.

Millersylvania is another Civilian Conservation Corps park built by unemployed young men in the 1930s. Current interpretive plaques note that the legacy of the Civilian Conservation Corps includes not only rugged, attractive workmanship, but also racism and segregation.

Still, Millersylvania offers plenty to enjoy, including float and watercraft rentals at Deep Lake and a boardwalk that takes hikers across a rich, swampy area into a 7-mile network of loop trails. But perhaps the best reason to party (and the best place to be) is the Lakeside Taphouse, a summer-only shop in the park where you can enjoy beer, wine, and finger food while soaking up the scene.

But damn it, the Lakeside Taphouse wasn’t open for the season when I stopped by in May!

This mile-long boardwalk crosses a rich, fascinating tidal estuary in the Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge.  (Scott Hewitt/The Colombian)

This mile-long boardwalk crosses a rich, fascinating tidal estuary in the Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge. (Scott Hewitt/The Colombian)

Nisqually

This isn’t a state park and is further up the I-5 corridor just past Olympia, but it’s a real gem worth the long stop.

The Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge at the southern tip of Puget Sound covers 4,529 hectares of estuary—that is, a shoreline where freshwater currents meet salty seawater, creating an extremely rich zone of bird, fish, and plant life.

The walking here is totally flat and the sky is big. Just past the Norm Dicks Visitor Center is a short birdwatching walk through wooded wetlands, but the main attraction in Nisqually is the scenic promenade that stretches 1 mile across the mud flats towards the sea. Stay a while and you’ll be treated to the tide rolling in and out beneath you, endlessly hiding and revealing mysteries of western Washington’s natural beauty.

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