Lewis County is a pleasant surprise for cyclists of all abilities when it comes to picking a destination to ride on two wheels. With more stretches of open road than you could tackle in a couple weeks, more miles of trails added by the year, and beautiful scenery of farms, forests and mountains — your next cycling excursion awaits you here!
Several local roads, away from major highways and utilized mainly by local traffic, offer a great experience for people looking to log some mileage out in the open. We’ll take a look at a few of them here.
What was once the Pacific Highway connecting the entire West Coast has become a scenic stretch of backroad since the advent of Interstate 5, especially six miles between the Cowlitz Mission north of Toledo and Mary’s Corner north of Lewis and Clark State Park.
If you want a ride with some small hills and a good elevation gain over a decently tough hill, try Jackson Highway from south Chehalis to Toledo. The road follows a few miles of neighborhoods in the Newaukum Valley before intersecting with State Route 508 and ascending a hill toward Lewis and Clark State Park. It’s a decent ascent, too, so take your time and pedal vigorously!
You’ll reach an intersection with U.S. Highway 12, and fortunately there’s a traffic light there so you can wait for it to turn green so you can cross. About a mile south, you’ll see the entrance for Lewis and Clark State Park to your right. You won’t need a Discover Pass to explore it if you’re on a bike or walking in, so it’s a great option to take some time to relax and enjoy a rest and/or a picnic there in the old-growth forest.
Once out of the park, you’ll continue south. Notice how the landscape opens up once you get past Oyler Road; you’ll see the Toledo Airport before long, and on a clear day you can look to your left and see the expanse of the Cowlitz Prairie with Mount Rainier and Mount St. Helens keeping watch in the distance.
Make sure to also check out the old Cowlitz Mission, one of the oldest continuously operating churches in Washington State (pictured above), on Spencer Road. It is also a beautiful spot for a rest.
From the Mission, the quiet yet charming town of Toledo is about two miles south. Toledo offers a great variety of food options for a full meal before you get back on the bike and reverse your tracks back to Chehalis!
A good spot to start this ride is Stan Hedwall Park in Chehalis. Park there, then take a left on Rice Road (which then becomes 13th Street) and pedal up until you reach Market Boulevard, then turn right. Market becomes Jackson Highway, and it's a beautiful ride from there on out.
Some of Lewis County’s best cycling takes place in the Boistfort Valley, where long stretches of rural two-lane road passes acres upon acres of fertile farmland along the South Fork Chehalis River.
A perfect spot to start your journey is the grounds of the Boistfort School or the parking lot of the Baw Faw Grange. From there, you can set out southward on Boistfort Road, proceeding to the intersection of Boistfort Road and Pe Ell McDonald Road, where you have a choice: take the right turn to go about 12 miles into the town of Pe Ell, or continue straight to head toward the Vader/Ryderwood area.
Both are beautiful routes in their own right. If you continue straight, Boistfort Road changes names to Wildwood Road and continues to pass pastoral scenery while maintaining a mostly flat route with curves for several miles. This is a good showcase of Lewis County’s agricultural roots, with many of these farms having utilized the land for several decades.
If you head out on Pe Ell McDonald Road, you’re in for some undulating hills that would make good training for a ride like, say, the Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic. Just make sure you’re wearing bright colors as the majority of traffic that utilizes this road are log trucks that are hauling timber from adjacent lands owned by timber companies. As a bonus, once you reach Pe Ell, if your tires are wide enough, you can return via the Willapa Hills Trail, one of the newest recreational trails in the state.
Here's a Google map to the parking area mentioned earlier. Enjoy this beautiful ride and discover the beauty of the Boistfort Valley!
It’s on the way to becoming a 56-mile link between Chehalis and South Bend on the Pacific coast, but for now a good 23-mile of it between Chehalis and Pe Ell is totally rideable by people on bikes of all shapes and sizes.
Formerly a railroad that had been built for passengers and freight in the late 1800s, today the trail exists as a passageway for people using non-motorized vehicles such as bicycles to enjoy some scenic recreation. Continuing updates make this trail, most of which is finely compacted ballast and gravel, a fine choice for an excursion on a flat and gently rolling surface with minimal elevation gain and loss.
Overseen and patrolled by Washington State Parks, the trail is well-maintained and taken care of. Rangers are based at the nearby Rainbow Falls State Park in Dryad.
As stated before, just about any bike works, but don’t bring your road bike out here — 700x32 tires or wider with decent tread are recommended. For most families using the hybrid bike you bought at your local bike shop, just about any tires except for thin road tires work well.
The trail is paved from Chehalis to a bridge at milepost 5.5 in Adna; from there, the trail is finely crushed gravel and ballast through to Pe Ell. Farmland, forests, rivers and creeks along the way make this a truly peaceful nature excursion that you can enjoy without having to worry about road traffic.
Please note: You’ll encounter people walking or running along the trail, especially between Chehalis and Adna. Be a safe and courteous rider by always announcing when you’re passing someone, and try to do so on their left just as you would do in a vehicle. If you encounter horseback riders, yield to them and dismount your bicycle.
Centralia and Chehalis are now fully connected by a walking and cycling path that adjoins Airport Road, which itself parallels Interstate 5. Where a rural road to the west was once the only logical cycling option between Centralia and Chehalis, the Airport Road Trail has now supplanted it as an even better option that is only open to non-motorized traffic.
The Airport Road trail is best known as a connector whose simplicity and direct route is vital for people wanting to cycle between the Twin Cities. A park-and-ride lot offers a safe place to park your car right off of Mellen Street and Old Airport Road, making it an ideal spot to start a journey on the trail toward Chehalis.
It’s the best way for people cycling in from Centralia to reach the Willapa Hills Trail to the south. In fact, if you wanted to bring your bicycle on the Amtrak Cascades and head to the Willapa Hills Trail, south using the Airport Road Trail is the direction you’ll need to go to reach the trail.
From the north, you can take Yew Street to Mellen Street and link up with the trail from Old Airport Road; from the south, connect with it from the bicycle lanes on Louisiana Avenue.
You can also use the Airport Road Trail to connect to Airport Road and bypass the busy Chamber Way/Louisiana Avenue intersection.
Two cycling events call Lewis County home, with another one you just may have heard of before stopping in our region each year on its way from Seattle to Portland. Let’s take a closer look at the ones based right here!
The oldest organized bicycling event in Lewis County, the Lewis County Historical Ride gives anyone wanting to venture on two wheels a multitude of options to log some serious mileage and experience history along the way. Organized by the Centralia-Chehalis Optimist Club and supporting scholarships for young people, this event brings many from outside our area to enjoy the open road in the springtime.
Choose from 20, 48, 68 or 100 miles and enjoy the views of the volcanoes to the east. Several historic sites serve as rest stops, such as Evaline School — the oldest school in Lewis County — and the historic Claquato Church.
This ride is well-supported, with communications and emergency response along the route provided by generous volunteers from the Lewis County Ham Radio group. The course is well-marked for each level of mileage.
For more information, including how to register, visit the Optimist Club’s website as the springtime approaches. It's generally held around Mother's Day.
Make plans to experience this awesome ride in the peaceful, historic areas of our county.
Image above provided courtesy of the Centralia-Chehalis Optimists Club.
For the second year, Ride the Willapa will bring together families and friends for a leisurely ride from Chehalis to Pe Ell and back on the Willapa Hills Trail, with overnight camping at either Rainbow Falls State Park or the town of Pe Ell.
Drawing more than 225 riders in its first year, the event expects to see attendance increase this year as more people discover the Willapa Hills Trail for themselves. Partnerships with local farms adjoining the trail brings the Tour de Farms event to life, enabling riders to stop off and sample or buy some locally-grown produce, fresh cheese and much more.
The town of Pe Ell throws a party for riders as well, with live music, food options and much more. Overnight camping will take place at the Pe Ell School’s football field, in a quiet setting so you can rest before getting back on the trail the next day.
More details for the ride will be announced soon, so check their official website for more info.