April 15, 2019
By Gwen Dildine
Outdoor Rec Meets In-Town Fun
For locals and visitors alike, Lewis & Clark Trail State Park is a great way to spend a night out of town. Just 30 minutes northeast of downtown Walla Walla along Highway 12, this 36-acre park is bordered by the Touchet River on the north side, which is great for fishing (mostly Rainbow Trout), swimming, and tubing. Because of the dense riparian habitat, multiple signs also warn visitors of resident moose that may be passing through the area, so always be respectful of wildlife. There is also a trail that hugs the river and wraps through the campground. At just under a mile in length, it is actually a highly entertaining trail for kids as there are multiple spots of visual interest: canopies of vegetation that encircle the trail, interesting root systems and low branches for climbing, and tall grasses to hide from siblings.
There are 24 campsites available from April 1 through October 31 and those sites are reservable online as of May 15. There are two group sites that can accommodate roughly 50 people and potentially up to five RVs―these sites are reserved by calling (509) 337-6457. With regards to facilities, there are restrooms and showers as well as a dump station. These sites aren’t likely to accommodate larger RVs as most have a site length of 50 feet. Across Highway 12, the day-use area offers users many interpretive signs that highlight the history of the area, a small playground, ball field, and another short trail.
One reason this park is so enticing is due to its proximity to other small towns well worth your time exploring: Walla Walla, Waitsburg, and Dayton. The family won’t notice if you sneak out and grab a latte at one of the many little coffee shops. Farmer’s Markets are also a fun way to experience these communities. Walla Walla has a robust market on Saturdays, May through October, and the Blue Mountain Station Farmers Market in Dayton is year-round. We’ll keep you updated on our events page of various markets across the Blue Mountain region so you can keep your campsite stocked with fresh, local ingredients.
Even though hanging around the campground walking the trails and playing in the Touchet River is entertainment enough, Middle Point Ridge Trail (#3116) is just down the road and offers views in a hurry (meaning you are going up). To get to the trailhead from Walla Walla and Lewis & Clark Trail State Park, head east on Highway 12 to Dayton. Turn right on 4th Street, which is also the way to Bluewood Ski Resort, and continue for 17 miles. All of those miles are paved, so no additional vehicle requirements or concerns. The trailhead is marked and has plenty of parking as well as facilities. This is a multi-use trail. If planning on doing a little mountain biking please know your limitations. This is a trail for the experienced, slightly crazy bikers (we type that with love and concern).
The mere mortals will enjoy this trail on two feet. The first half mile is deceivingly peaceful and forgiving, surrounded by vine maple that is exquisite in the fall as it turns bright yellow. Catch your breath before you leave the cool, creek-side air because it is time to burn some energy. The switchbacks are just the most efficient way to reach the breathtaking views at about 5,100 feet (roughly 3 miles from the trailhead). The trail does continue another nine miles along Middle Point Ridge before connecting into other trails. Don’t let the stairway to the Blues scare you, there are many places to pull off the side of the trail under a tree to take a water break and enjoy views of the opposing hillside―bring your binoculars to look for wildlife!
If cooking dinner at the campsite sounds like too much effort at this point, consider yourself lucky. There are a number of eateries in both Dayton and Waitsburg, close proximity to the Lewis & Clark State Park. Check out the Weinhard Cafe & Bakery in Dayton―a sweet story, fresh ingredients, and an impressive menu make this a perfect choice to replace some much needed calories. Do your taste buds and stomach and favor and treat yourself.
So many opportunities for exploration regardless of if you call the Walla Walla valley home or now consider it your home away from home. The varying terrain from valley floor shaped by mountain-fed rivers to high ridges and grass-covered hillsides and tree-filled draws are just a few of the features that make the Blue Mountain region so special. With so many activities and communities to enjoy, we hope this is the first of many adventures to the area.