Kids will love this hike because there’s so much to see: a rushing river, a lush old-growth forest dotted with wildflowers and, if you’re lucky, plenty of wildlife.
Almost immediately, you are greeted with the best view of the river you’ll have along the hike. Here there are rocks to sit on and water to splash in on a hot day. Of course, be aware if you’re with little ones—this is a river after all—but enjoy the water and the sun-warmed stones and then continue on.
Just after departing the trailhead, you’ll arrive at a fork. The right-hand trail heads steeply up to the rocky bluffs of Polallie Ridge, so unless you want a thigh burner, keep left and stay close to the river. While the river plays hide-and-seek along this stretch of trail, wildflowers keep you occupied. Look for arrowleaf balsamroot, trillium, calypso orchids, vanilla leaf, lupine, and Indian paintbrush, among many others.
When you tire of examining the forest floor, look up. The old-growth forest you’re walking through is populated by cedars, white pine, Douglas-fir, and vine maples, whose bright reds and oranges are stunning in autumn.
Two miles from the trailhead, pass another good riverside sitting spot and follow the trail as it flattens out in open forest. In late summer, you can stop for a trailside snack—berries grow here along with more wildflowers near the river.
You’re nearly to your destination of Cooper Lake at this point, and the undulating trail just keeps going – there is hardly any elevation gain at all.
WTA Pro Tip: Lunch spots along Cooper Lake are plentiful, but the best are a half mile along the Pete Lake Trail, which skirts the northeast side of Cooper Lake.
If the group feels up to it, press on to Owhi Campground, where you can lay out a picnic and enjoy views of Chimney Rock’s photogenic summit block.
- 7.8 miles, roundtrip
- Elevation Gain
- 400 feet
- Highest Point
- 2,800 feet
Hiking Cooper River
Map & Directions
Co-ordinates: 47.4093, -121.1067 Open in Google Maps