In July of ’16 Katrin and I wanted to see yet another region of our state that we haven’t explored thoroughly. I was once more inspired by an online photo, this time of Panther Creek Falls. Which is located in the South-central part of the state. Namely Skamania County. I did my usual research. Going to visitxlocation.com, searching for travel related things via Google, and staring at Google Maps finding things like Tire Junction.
This route would start like most. Jump on a freeway or highway for a few hours and arrive eventually (in the dark) at our first camp site. Which was a no name location outside the town of Carson, WA. I figured that as long as we went into the national forest area we would be fine to camp. I found us a spot that looked like it was frequented by many campers since there was a few fire pits and the ground had been previously cleared.
In the morning we trekked back into Carson for some supplies and breakfast but mostly to run away from the bug infested area we made camp in. After getting what we needed from the local stores and exploring the town a bit, we headed straight for Beacon Rock.
Beacon Rock really is a giant rock. It’s 848 feet tall and the trail up to the top is about a mile of switch backs. Once at the top you can see most of the Columbia River and surrounding area. The rock also features rock climbing. If you have the fingers for it. Don’t forget to look down at the switchbacks on your way back for a mesmerizing view.
There really is a lot to do in this area. The Gifford Pinchot National Forest is vast and contains more than I could explain in anything short of a book. We had a lot to choose from, in terms of what to but we decided to drive through Tire Junction to Langfield Falls. The falls are a short walk from the parking area and are beautiful. The cool air at the base of the falls felt like air conditioning in the summer heat. The water was freezing though.
We at lunch in the Langfield Falls parking lot before cruising to Guler Ice Caves. In July there really wasn’t much ice to speak of but the temperature in the cave plus crawling through the tunnel to the other side was still worth it. Bring a headlamp for sure.
Keeping with our typical fast pace, we didn’t waste too much time getting over to Panther Creek Falls. Initially we drove right past it. Luckily, we turned around and found the somewhat obscure trail head. You’ll have to park across the road and hike DOWN to the falls. Which is honestly not far. Just be mindful of the steep terrain. Once at the bottom you’ll immediately notice that the falls are very wide. I was amazed at how much water was flowing through the area even in mid-summer. The falls look like they belong in Hoh Rainforest because of the lush green environment. We also walked up stream a little bit before returning to the car.
By this time, as you may have guessed, it was already getting late into Saturday. We needed to make some miles because Monday was looming on the horizon. Since we weren’t doing any backtracking that meant we had to turn North towards home. While hunting for a camp site, the sun was setting on the mountain. Staying for some sunset photos was mandatory! We camped along one of the forest service roads at yet another unmarked area.
In the morning our destination was Mount St. Helens. This route would allow us both the ability to get closer to home and still go sightseeing. Being that we would be passing through from the South East the obvious choice was to see some of the lava flows and hike the short trail at Lava Canyon Trailhead. Where the views were spectacular and the water flowing through the canyon mesmerized us.
Pro tip, do NOT shake the bridge to scare the person you share a car with. You’ll never hear the end of it.
July was a perfect time to see St. Helens. The view up the lava flow looking at the mountain is breath taking. Our whole way home we dreamed of our next adventure.