Mileage: 4.5 miles RT
Elevation Gain/Highest: 810ft/2100ft
Map: Green Trails McCoy Peak No. 333, my GAIA
Favorite Eats After Hike: Pack A Cooler but the IGA in Randle had Green Trails maps, fresh produce and kombucha!
This was part of our annual camping trip to the Cowlitz River and every year I try out some new trails. Last year I hiked Juniper Ridge and Tongue Mountain along with High Rock Lookout, I imagine they have a lot more snow this year. We had the kids (10 years old) with us so we picked a few more tame trails. I had hiked the Covel Creek Trail back in 2013 when training for my PCT hike, loaded with a 30lb pack. I’m sure people wondered where I thought I was going!
This trail is part of the Covel Creek Trail System and is a series of loops and junctions across from the Cispus Learning Center outside Randle, WA. For our hike, we came in from the Cispus Braille Trail and went out on the Covel Creek Trail 228A. The trailhead started by letting us know that the 2 main creek crossings had no bridge and that the Burley Mountain TH was the way to access Angel Falls. Since we were already parked we decided to see what “Bridges Removed” meant and if we couldn’t make it we would go check out the other trailhead.
A quarter mile in we hit the Covel Creek Trail and turned left at the bend in the river and viewing area and continued past where the trail leaves the Braille Trail and stays right.
Just past here was yet another junction and we took a right over a nice wooden bridge that was bottom part of a loop.
On the other side of the bridge the trail went to the left and there was a barrier on the trail to the right that looked like it just petered out. We kept left and headed along the creek on the right. We came to a dry creek bed where we had to drop down a sandy bank to logs that took us across. Was this our first “Bridge Out”?
In about 10 minutes from the beginning of this loop, we came to another junction that was the top of the first loop we would do today. We looked left where it said we could head back to the TH and saw the first missing bridge that must be what was indicated on the map and the picnic shelter on the other side of the creek. I guess if we had stayed left on that first loop we would now be crossing this to continue to the falls.
From here on the trail it wasn’t even but 5 minutes before we arrived at what must be the second missing bridge. The trail was blocked off and there was another bank to drop down. We could see the bridge in the water below, cut into pieces and haphazardly crossing the creek. Since all 4 of us were comfortable with fording creeks like this, we carefully made it across to the other side. I will say, if I had know it was going to be one of these hikes I would have worn my hiking sandals!
From here, we climbed a short distance past the cascading water to yet another junction with the Angel Falls Loop Trail 228B.
We could see Covel Falls just to the right so we took the loop counterclockwise.
This was what I remembered from my hike 4 years ago, walking down and behind the refreshing spray of the falls similar to Silver Falls State Park. Not sure which was the better option, we continued on the loop from here. Nothing here but a steep slog up a set of wooded switchbacks and I was wondering if the other side would have been the better option.
In about 15 minutes we were at the top of the loop and the junction with the Burley Mountain Trail. Even after checking the map on the trail marker, we accidentally turned right and continued up the Burley trail until we realized we were not coming to a switchback toward the sound of water but only moving further and further way. Oops; back down the trail and the junction and then down to Angel Falls about 5 minutes away.
There was just one other family when we got there and I imagine most folks we would see now would be coming in from the Burley Mountain TH. We climbed up a bit closer to the base of the falls and snapped a few pictures before heading back down, opting to finish the loop to the right on the Burley trail.
The trail here was first wide and relatively flat with one broad creek crossing on a collection of logs until it came to the junction signed for Trail 228-A to the left. From here, we now dropped down along a massive basalt cliff wall that rose to our left. This pretty cool, the kids had fun exploring a few of the “caves”, even when one produced bats that had them running shortly back out. Much more interesting that the beginning of this loop!
We were back to the junction with Covel Falls and completing the 1.25 mile Angel Falls Loop in about 1.25 hours and then it was back down the Covel Creek Trail. At the second of the missing bridge crossings we began to see more people who just like us had gone past the Bridge Out signs to see how far they could get. This included large families with kids ranging in age from babes in arms to Grandma, all out for a Memorial Day hike. You could see most who had braved the first missing bridge now had second thoughts about continuing further.
When we got to the junction with the first missing bridge by the picnic shelter, we opted to cross here because it was a bit shorter than taking the loop back the way we had come. There were several places folks were going across and we took the simple log walk just up from the actual trail junction and where the old bridge must have been. From here we were soon on our way back to the car.
The rest of the Covel Creek Trail took us out long the gurgling water lined with ferns and wood sorrel, the sunlight highlighting this year’s new growth. The different variations of ferns were in the final stages of unfurling for summer. I didn’t remember this being such a pretty trail but I’m pretty sure the last time I was here it was raining and we were only thinking about getting some exercise and then heading back to camp to sit around the campfire. By the time we were back out on the road, it was lined with 40 more cars than when we head up. It was a beautiful day for a hike!
On a side note, you pass the TH for Layser Cave on the way to the this hike, another fun place to take the family.
Directions: Take the exit off I-5 for SR 12 signed for Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Rainier (White Pass). Drive about 47 miles to the small town of Randle and turn right on SR 131 signed for Mt. St. Helens. In one mile the road splits but you keep left on FR 23. In 8 more miles you will turn right onto FR 28 (Cispus Road) and then right again to stay on Cispus Road (FR 76), all signed for the Cispus Learning Center. Once on 76, you will cross over the Cispus River and then Yellowjacket Creek and then see the sign for the learning center on your right in about 1/2 mile. There is a small FR to park in at the End School Zone sign or park along the entrance to the school or road. No permit required. You can also access the Angel Falls Loop from FR 28 and the Burley Mountain TH.