Seminary Hill
Centralia's Forested Jewel

We showcased some photos of a serene wooded environment during the January 3 snowstorm on our Facebook page, and we'd like to take an opportunity to tell you more about the place at which we shot those photos. It doesn't get much fanfare, but it's one of the most beautiful areas in Lewis County.

The Seminary Hill Natural Area in the city of Centralia is a forested area with numerous trails not even a half-mile east of Centralia's city center. Just a hop over from the illuminated and well-traveled Tower Avenue and Pearl Street, the natural area boasts more than 2 miles of family-friendly trails and is home to a variety of species of plants, trees and animal life.

If you're lucky enough to traverse those trails during a snowfall, you'll find yourself immersed in an incredibly peaceful setting. Gone are the sounds of engine noise and traffic; instead, the wind and the birds who have a knack for surviving winter become the most common auditory treat.

The snow that fell in the Seminary Hill Natural Area on January 3 fell briskly and covered the ground with just enough to flock the trees. Trails were covered too, bringing an otherwise cloud-darkened landscape to a snow-brightened wonderland.

When winter changes over to spring and summer, activity on Seminary Hill increases. Runners, walkers and nature lovers of all sorts take to the trails to enjoy a slice of the forest in an otherwise urban setting. Joggers love the trails for their varying elevation, walkers love it for exercise and an opportunity to get away from it all...and animals love it too because of the habitat it provides them.

There's a reason the trails are well-kept and maintained, and for that you need to look no further than a group that knows the Seminary Hill Natural Area like the backs of their hands.

The Friends of Seminary Hill is a volunteer cadre of trail enthusiasts who come from all around Centralia and Chehalis to improve and maintain the trail system, and in addition showcase the trails through events. Several guided walks are held by the Friends of Seminary Hill, including a birdwatching tour (bring your binoculars!), botany walk in which people learn all about the plant and tree life along the trails, and a poetry walk in which volunteers read nature-based poetry while enjoying the trails.

In 2015, Centralia College professor Lisa Carlson led about a dozen people on a nature walk in the forest, explaining types of plants and trees that call Seminary Hill home. Not only was the walk good exercise, but it was also a valuable lesson in what makes our region so unique and pristine.

We'll post the dates for the Friends of Seminary Hill guided walks in 2016 as soon as we get them. Those events are generally free and open to the public, and we know for a fact the group is always willing to meet a few new faces!

No matter the season, the Seminary Hill Natural Area is worth a visit, whether it be for a short walk or an hours-long nature excursion. Our best bets are the Rufus Kiser Trail, a half-mile segment of scenic trail named after a longtime Centralia College instructor and naturalist, and Staebler Point, a vantage that offers a great view of Centralia in the distance on a clear day.

To get there from Interstate 5, take Exit 82 to Harrison Avenue and head east. Continue onto Main Street, then take a right at Pearl and a left at Locust. Follow Locust across the train tracks and up the hill to the parking area; parking for multiple cars is provided. Bring a camera or binoculars!