The Willapa Hills Trail is varied along its length, and this tip only describes the part going west of Chehalis for a short distance. For a more complete summary see my Willapa Hills Trail overview in the state of Washington section. As it is a state trail, the use of a number of the parking areas requires the use of a Discover Pass or day use permit (see my Discover Pass tip).
Many of the maps feature the Willapa Hills Trail going all the way from South Bend to Centralia. The reality of the situation is that as of late 2012, milepost 0 of the trail is located on the western fringes of Chehalis and getting to anywhere else without using the nearest bus stop or a car isn't easy. You could get to it on a mountain bike but the gravel road going into the place would be an obstacle for thin tires.
Unlike the middle section of the trail, the east end of the trail is currently paved westward for quite a distance.
There is a small soft are on the north side of the trail that seems to be designed for those wanting a softer surface than the pavement, but unfortunately it isn't used enough to keep it clear of growth and it isn't obvious in places that it exists.
There are pit toilets at the far east end of the trail. Here you will find a small post, if you look closely, identified as being Milepost 0 of the trail.
There are two parking areas at this location. One is obvious as it is located directly at the end of the road as you approach the trail. The less obvious, and actually larger, parking area is entered by making a left turn off the paved road just before entering this overflow parking area and onto a paved section that consists of both the paved section of the trail and the paved entrance road.
The trail itself is mostly flat and fairly rural and quiet from its current start point almost all the way to mile post 3. Just before Milepost 3 the trail start to run beside highway 6, which is busy, fast and fairly noisy during most periods of the day.
There are several road crossings, a few of which are mildly busy and require a bit of patience and care to get across. There is one railroad crossing but the line isn't used very often. While the majority of the trail is paved through here, the area around the railroad crossing is not paved, which I assume has been done to prevent those with a penchant for speed from going too fast and not paying attention to weather there is a train or not. Racing bikes most likely would be required to be walked over the gravel area anyway.
Between milepost 0 and milepost 3 there are two river crossings which, while solid enough, may not be comfortable to some people or horses. The decking has been made solid at these locations but it is unpaved wood.
Part of the trail is a state park and requires the use of a Discovery Pass for parking in the parking lots, while other sections do not require this. The parking area closest to the pit toilet building requires the discovery pass, while the overflow parking area near the end of Hillburger Road does not have the sign posted (but may require them anyway).
Some more details on how to get to the location, which will not fit in the "Directions" category: what you have to do is basically follow the signs to the Steam Train, and then continue past it on a road that doesn't look promising at all. In fact, it becomes a lane and a half wide gravel road as it crosses the railroad line and really doesn't look like it goes anywhere. Keep following this until you get to the end of Hillburger Road. Here, the road ends and there is a small paved parking area. If you turn left you will be driving on the trail but also on a paved entrance road to the main parking area by the pit toilet building. The area includes a place that is designated for trailer turn around and parking. Those with large horse trailers or similar will require some skill to get around the curve from Hillburger into the entrance driveway due to the narrow space available.
Somewhat west of Chehalis the trail does become unpaved gravel. While officially the trail runs all the way to the coast, the fact is that just west of the Pe Ell trailhead (see my Pe Ell Trailhead tip) the trail becomes quite a bit less passable. See my Pe Ell and West tip for the trail.
As this trail passes through and by a number of communities along its 56 mile length, it is difficult to limit its description to a single location. Please see my Willapa Hills Trail tip in the State of Washington section.
Located within sight of Interstate 5, the Veterans Memorial Museum has a collection of material going back a long ways, including a few items from the Revolutionary War. The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday 10 am to 5 pm. June through September the museum is also open Sundays 1 to 5. Admissions is $5 per adult, or $3 per child or student.
Locomotive #15 is a 1916 90-ton Baldwin with 2-8-2 wheel arrangement. Its last working assignment was to pull log trains for the Cowlitz, Chehalis and Cascade Railroad; which operated in the area until the mid 1950's. She was restored to operating condition in the Mt. Rainier's Mineral Shops for use on the Chehalis-Centralia Railroad Association line in Chehalis, WA.
There are two 12 mile round trips leaving at 1:00 and 3:00 on Saturdays and Sundays in Summer until Labor Day. On Saturday, there is also an extended 18 mile longer trip at 5:00. Fares are $8 on the shorter (1 pm and 3 pm) trips and $11 on the longer run at 5 pm. My external photo album and video click here
A ride on the Chehalis-Centralia Railroad is a pleasant, scenic, and relaxing journey back into history.