Each year as the days grow shorter and the air becomes crisper, the majority of Clark County residents put away their backpacks and hiking boots. For many, the end of the outdoor recreation seasons starts with the first rains of the season. However, those who pack their hiking gear up for the year are doing so prematurely, as some of the best hiking is found during the autumn months.

Instead of being resigned to the indoors until late spring, make the most of your fall months and explore some of the incredible and beautiful hiking trails of Clark County. Erupting in color, these five family-friendly trails will entice you to take your weekends back from the gloom and will give you a dazzling dose of fantastic foliage. For more trails in Clark County, make sure you visit the Clark County Public Works website for maps and outdoor adventures.

Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge

Along the Columbia River, the Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge has been a fall destination for families since it was established in 1965. Cost is just $3 for entry. The refuge is great for hiking, birding or just relaxing in the wilderness of the region. Your best bet for finding fall colors, amazing migratory birds and family-friendly hiking is along the Oaks to Wetlands Trail. Open year-round, the trail weaves through colorful, old growth Oregon White oaks and numerous other species of plants that emanate beauty during the fall months. There are also a few naturalist-guided hikes that take place during the fall along this trail, so make sure you check the Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge’s website for times and dates.

Fall Clark County Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge
Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge offers great glimpses of fall colors and fantastic wildlife watching. Photo credit: Sarah McDevitt

Vancouver Lake and Frenchman’s Bar

Northwest of Vancouver, two trails near the beautiful waterways of our region make for fun fall hiking destinations. Your best bet for the dual trails into autumn foliage start with Vancouver Lake’s North Trail. At 2.5 miles round-trip with a wide, flat trail easy enough for all ages, this trail will lead you through cottonwoods turning brilliant colors in the fall months.

Completed in 2016, the relatively new trail is the perfect one to hike after work or on a crisp, sunny weekend. Once you have walked this trail and taken in the autumn splendor, hit up the easy and flat trail nearby that leads to Frenchman’s Bar. This is double the distance of the Vancouver Lake Trail, coming in at five miles round-trip, but it is well maintained and flat, perfect for families hoping for a longer walk in the autumn bliss.

Leading to the Columbia River, this trail has plenty of fall foliage, incredible birding opportunities and views from the sandy beach of the region’s mountains. Make sure you hike this trail during the next sunny, fall day, as you’ll have breathtaking views of Mount Hood, Mount Adams and Mount St. Helens. There is a $3 per car fee to park at these trailheads, but the price is well worth the beauty you will see.

Moulton Falls and Lucia Falls

Separated by a gorgeous 2.5-mile trail, Moulton and Lucia Falls are home to some beautiful fall foliage displays in Clark County. Open from 7:00 a.m. until dusk, these two parks will leave you in awe of the breathtaking beauty found in our backyards. We recommend starting at Moulton Falls and exploring the park’s two waterfalls, a gorgeous arch bridge and a smattering of fall colors in the region’s forests. Well-signed and full of historic and geologic highlights, this park should be visited in every season.

Fall Clark County Moulton Falls
In the autumn months, Moulton Falls makes for a stunning hiking destination. Photo credit: Rachel Sandwick

After walking the trails in Moulton Falls Park, drive or hike to nearby Lucia Falls. Smaller than Moulton, Lucia Falls Park gives stunning views of the East Fork of the Lewis River, which is also spawning ground for steelhead. Free for all, these two parks between Battleground and Yacolt make for a great weekend adventure close to home.

Lacamas Lake

With 9.5 miles of trails, Lacamas Lake is a hiking gem that is largely overlooked for the majority of the year. Open from 7:00 a.m. until dusk every day, this 312-acre park gives great autumn experiences, incredible wildlife watching and numerous spots for the photographer in your family to enjoy. Families looking for a shorter walk will enjoy the Round Lake Loop Trail, which has the Vine Maples showing off beautiful colors in the fall months. At just 1.2 miles long and easy for children and adults of all abilities, this trail is a fun way to spend the few remaining daylight hours after work. Those hoping for a longer hike should take the Round Lake Loop Trail, then walk along the 3.5-mile Lacamas Heritage Trail. While it will be an 8.2-mile round-trip trek to do the lake loop and the Heritage Trail, the experience will have you seeing the signs of fall as well as taking in the beauty of this often-overlooked region.

Fall Clark County Silver Star
Silver Star, in the northeast corner of Clark County, is a high alpine wonderland for fall colors. Photo credit: Evan Lovely

Silver Star via Grouse Vista

Finally, serious hikers will be rewarded with fall colors along the Silver Star Mountain Trail via Grouse Vista. At six miles round-trip, this out-and-back hike is one of the region’s best local hikes for fall foliage displays. Offering a 360-degree panorama after climbing up 2,000 feet, this moderate trail will wow you with the foliage of huckleberries and other deciduous plants and trees in the region. If you love huge views and challenging, yet fun, fall hiking, this trail is for you.

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