If you’re looking for a flat, relatively short walking or bicycle trail in southwest Washington then the Willapa Hills Trail will be perfect for you. Part of the Rails to Trails System, the trail is built on the footprints of an old railroad. It actually runs 56 miles from Chehalis to South Bend but at the moment a couple of trestles are not usable and not scheduled to be replaced until 2014. However, this is where the relatively short part comes in. The trail is 5.2 miles from Chehalis to Adna so a round trip is just over 10 miles. Of course you don’t have to go that far if you don’t want to.
Beginning behind the Centralia-Chehalis Steam Train, there is plenty of parking as well as restroom facilities (better than a port-a-potty, less than running water). As soon as you get on the trail you immediately pass over the Newaukum River via an old railroad bridge. If you’re lucky you might see the otters that sometimes frequent the area.
Continue on the flat trail enjoying the country scenery, the flowering trees, and massive green fields of the farms. Pass over the Chehalis River on another old train trestle. Often you can see families down at the river swimming or rockhounding.
The trail crosses a couple of roads, but it’s easy to see what little traffic there is and cross safely. Careful though – if you decide to go as far as Adna, you will need to cross Highway 6. You want to be sure to get near the corner where you can easily see traffic in both directions before you cross. Or if you decide to turn around, you’ve had a nice walk or ride just going that far.
Once you cross over Hwy. 6 you pass through some nice wetlands where the birds welcome you with beautiful sounds. You’ll pass by a private man-made lake that is used for waterskiing competitions, then behind the Adna High School. Just past the school there is another parking lot for the trail and there are more restrooms at this spot. Cross over Bunker Creek Rd. to the last part of the trail which ends at the unusable trestle.
With such an easy trail, it’s great for taking the kids for a walk, teaching little ones how to ride a bike, going slow and enjoying the views, and admiring the great old houses. On weekends you might even get to see the steam train out for a run.
From I-5 take exit 77. Turn left at Riverside Drive, then a slight left on SE Newaukum Ave. Take a left on SW Sylvenus, then a right on SW Hillberger Rd. to the parking lot. You can also just follow the signs to the steam train, but instead of turning into the parking lot for the steam train, continue south on the road until you enter the parking lot for the tail. You will have passed the entrance to the trail as you enter the parking lot.