Visitors who will park in the Lewis River Recreation Area will need a permit starting June 15 to September 15. This includes the Lower, Middle and Upper Lewis River trailheads. Make your reservation on recreation.gov starting May 20.
Step into the moss-cloaked forest of the Lewis River, where giant cedars, nurse logs, ancient stumps and rushing water abound.
To hike the lower section of the Lewis River is to step into a different world, populated by fantastic patches of old-growth fir and cedar in a shadowy section of the Gifford Pinchot. Its easily accessible location and fairly flat riverside route make it a perfect early-spring hike. Throw in a few waterfalls, wildflowers and a variety of ancient forest pecularities — including pinesap, coralroot and gnome plant—and you have an outdoor discovery destination suitable for the whole family, even Fido.
The Lower Lewis River Falls are spectacular. At 43 feet high and 200 feet across, they are larger in person than photos may lead you to believe. On the left side is a churning trough which gathers most of the water flow, and there are several viewpoints to capture the scene from.
Look for carpets of vanilla-leaf here and there, and the bright white blooms of early season trillium swaying to and fro. Notice the gigantic stumps where giants once stood, the almost spongy wood a brilliant reddish color against the greens of the forest.
Another mile and a half upstream lie the Middle Lewis River Falls, a river-width combination of a waterfall and a cascade sheeting along bedrock. The viewpoints are limited here, but even the riverbed is pretty, the clarity of the water revealing its ragged volcanic nature. A short side trail up to Lower Copper Creek Falls brings hikers to a small trickle of water that drops 32 feet in a classic formation.
Continuing upstream, the forest becomes sprinkled with a smaller mix of trees. You will shortly arrive at the very impressive Upper Lewis River Falls. Again, photographs do not do this area justice. The falls are 58 feet high and 175 feet across. Have lunch at the river's edge below the falls and enjoy the view, as well as the cool breeze drifting off of the moving water.
Taitnapum Falls lies a short distance further up the trail, so curious hikers can continue on. But a surprise waits for you before reaching Taitnapum; about a quarter mile beyond the lower viewpoint is another viewpoint of the Upper Lewis River Falls. It requires a steep uphill climb, but is worth the effort.
Taitnapum Falls drops only 16 feet across the 60 foot width of the river. Its most noteworthy feature is the raggedness of its lip. Most waterfalls course over a well-rounded lip, but not Taitnapum. Its lip has resisted wearing evenly, leaving a bizarre ragged undercut edge for the water to spill over.
Turn around here, or continue the remaining one third of a mile to the Quartz Creek Trailhead, where you can embark on another adventure, or turn around and head back to your starting point at the Lower Falls Recreation Area.
WTA Pro Tip: There are multiple access points to the 14-mile long Lewis River Trail. To hike the full length, begin at the lower trailhead for Curly Creek Falls and hike north, or the Quartz Creek Trailhead and hike south.