Wild and Easy
Explore a forested, partially collapsed lava tube.
The area between Mount Adams and Mount St. Helens in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest is known for its lava tubes, underground channels formed by flowing, then cooling lava. Natural "bridges" are formed when such tubes, lying beneath the surface of the ground, partially collapse. The collapsed areas become trenches, and the intact areas become bridges across the top of the trenches. The area called Natural Bridges is a particularly dramatic example. Here, a mile-long tube collapsed in several places, leaving a series of bridges. The area has grown over with maple trees and other deciduous foliage, and a network of paths connects the various bridges. The result is a striking geologic park which can be observed by walking 50 feet from one's car, or by strolling any or all of the approximately 2 miles of paths along both sides of the trench and across the bridges. For a special treat, visit in the fall, when the changing leaves turn the area into a flaming gully of color.
From Trout Lake, follow Highway 141 north through town (coming into Trout Lake from the south, Highway 141 is the left fork of the Y as you enter town). Pass the ranger station (0.9 mile from the Y) and reset your odometer; stay on Highway 141. Highway 141 turns into Forest Road 24 at the Skamania County Line, 4.5 miles past the ranger station.
After 6.2 miles from the ranger station, turn left, following a sign for"Natural Bridges and McClellan's Trail." Continue to follow the signs 0.7 mile down this rough road to a parking area.
Walk from the parking area up the short rise to the edge of the gully. To the right is one of the most dramatic bridges. You may walk in either direction; trails follow both sides of the tube and cross each bridge. Most of the tube and its paths lie to your right.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication