Mileage: 3.8 miles RT
Elevation Gain/Highest: 140ft/922ft
Map: USGS Coyote Mountain, WA, my GAIA
Favorite Eats After Hike: Pack A Cooler
5/27/2017 I spend every Memorial Day car camping down on the Cowlitz River between Ethel and Mossyrock, WA. And every year I try and find some new trails to explore while I am there. I had an old White Pass Byway brochure that had this hike listed so I thought I would check it out as it was just a quick drive down from our campground.
We drove through the small town of Mossyrock and out to Swofford Pond. We passed gallant horses standing in their pastures, homes with wrap around porches, and Christmas tree farms. It was a very pretty drive and soon we came to a sign that said Swofford Pond with the large body of water beyond it. There was a pullout but no trail so we continued on. The roadside was lined with a multitude of people sitting with their fishing poles sticking into the water. There were almost as many folks out bobbing in boats under the midday sun. The road wrapped around the lake and went over a waterway between the pond and Riffe Lake and we finally saw the trailhead on the right hand side of the road. There wasn’t a parking lot so we parked on the shoulder with a few other trucks.
We weren’t sure what to expect but the sign for the trail said 1.25 miles one way so it wasn’t going to be a big commitment, just a nice stretch before plopping myself down at the river back at our campground. The trail was flat and ran along the pond with grasses and ferns growing up as we walked past. It wasn’t close to the water and I imagine it is because the trail would be too prone to mud; there were several good sections that were bogged down as it was in a addition to a small stream to hop across. Several overgrown roads branched off the trail towards the pond, possible evidence of previous boat launches.
At about a quarter mile in the trail moved more into the forest and off the marshy side of things. We had to be careful as we gazed up at the old growth cedars and moss covered cottonwoods as the path was a traffic jam of snails and millipedes.
Some wildflowers were out in bloom and the trail had elk prints embedded in the now dry tread. We followed the trail as it came out onto an abandoned road taking a right and then a left hand turn and continued over a nice bridge over Sulphur Creek. There were a few downed trees to maneuver but nothing significant.
After the bridge, we were soon back on a more standard width trail as we grew closer to the pond again. My favorite part was the sun beaming down onto the wood sorrel through the trees on the slope to our right.
The boys had a fun time climbing into one of them which actually looked like 4 smaller trees growing out of one trunk. Spider webs lit up and reminded us it was that time of year again although we didn’t notice any mosquitos.
The trail was slowly becoming overgrown in places and it became obvious that we would be dealing with nettles. Lots of nettles. But we were undeterred. At about 2/3 mile in, we passed our first trail marker and it gave us hope.
We took this as a good sign that we were on the right path. There were a few smaller trails heading off in different directions and it wasn’t clear if these were boot paths or game trails. With the evidence of elk so far, I guessed game trails. About 10 minutes from here and .9 miles in we had our first real glimpse of the pond from the trail and we pressed on.
The markers for the trail were appearing about every few hundred yards at this point and soon became somewhat of a joke. I guess they didn’t want you to forget you were hiking. There was even one in an old cedar stump up the slope behind yet another trail marker.
What was even funnier was that the further we walked and the more signs we saw, the more overgrown the trail became. In fact, when we reached the 1.25 mile point like the sign at the trailhead had indicated, the marker signs continued in abundance but the trail was even harder to see in places with all the brush. It wasn’t consistent, however, and there was enough maintained trail to keep us going.
The signs continued until the 2 mile mark and at this point the trail appeared to be little more than a boot path and went down into a small ravine and stream at the west end of the pond. We called it here at 2.01 miles and walked back to the last marker. A small boot path went down to a clearing and a viewpoint of the pond here. It was actually very serene and tranquil but it was too marshy to continue all the way to the pond’s edge in our tennis shoes.
We then headed back for another bout with the nettles and sticker bushes, dodging snails and millipedes anew. When we were nearly back to the car and that last section of mud, we caught a side trail up to the road and walked back this way the last few hundred feet to the trailhead. I can’t say this was anywhere near my favorite hike but the kids were entertained and 4 miles was perfect enough to say we hadn’t just sat around camp all day. My guess is that the trail does continue around the pond unofficially on a fisherman’s trail if you really wanted to keep going. I can’t imagine it’s worth it unless you have fishin’ on your mind.
Directions: Drive east on SR 12 towards White Pass 20.2 miles and turn right towards the town of Mossyrock at the light for Williams St. Drive past the bus barn and jr. high to State St and turn left. This will take you through the town of Mossyrock as the road becomes Mossyrock Rd. E. In 2.5 miles there is a Y and you keep right on to Swofford Rd as it curves through farmland. In 1.4 miles there is a bend in the road to the right and you will see a sign and pullout for Swofford Pond. This is not it. Keep going around the lake on Green Mountain Road (.5 miles) until you drive over the spillway and you will see the trailhead on your right with parking on the shoulder. Discover Pass required.