24 Hour Adventures: Lewis River Overnight

Apr 16, 2021 | 24 Hour Adventures, Gifford Pinchot, Hiking, Washington

It’s easy to forget that having an adventure doesn’t have to mean leaving for weeks on end or traveling for hours to get to your destination. I love going on 24 hour adventures – where the total time, from departure to arrival back home, is just 24 hours. It’s short enough that I can be fairly spontaneous if the weather is good or the schedule suddenly allows for a quick getaway. I find that it helps to have some ideas already percolating of what I might do given that short window of time.

We’re so lucky here in the Pacific Northwest to have so many options for these kinds of micro adventures (H/T to Alistair Humphreys for coining the term). I hope to chronicle more of these short getaways throughout the year, and I would love to hear what others come up with, so please leave a comment if you have a good 24 hour adventure to suggest.

With such a great weather this past week, I decided that I should break out my gear for a solo backpack on one of my favorite trails – the Lewis River Trail. The eastern end is popular for the stunning Upper, Middle and Lower Falls, but the western end has its charm as well. It’s a fabulous example of a temperate rain forest, with huge old growth trees covered in mosses, a crystal clear river, and some beautiful waterfalls. Added bonus: it is lightly traveled so you are sure to find some solitude. It is popular in hunting season, however (there are elk sign everywhere), so pay attention to the hunting season and be sure to dress in bright clothing if you are out during that time of year (September to November, typically.)


The Curly Creek Falls Trailhead is about two hours from Portland. The roads are good all the way there. You can park at the bridge or at the actual trailhead, which does have a vault toilet. There are several developed campsites along the trail.

My left foot has been wonky lately, so I wasn’t planning on putting in big miles, though you certainly could on this trail. End to end, the trail is just under 15 miles long. After a few hours of hiking, I found a good camping spot and set up for the night. Being my first solo trip in nearly two years, and my first overnighter in over a year, I did find being out there a bit challenging mentally. (I’ll be writing more about this soon.) It took some time to settle in, but by dinner time, I was relaxed into it and enjoyed a quiet evening.

After an oatmeal breakfast in the morning and a speedy camp breakdown, I hiked a bit further down the trail before returning to my car. A quick adventure but so satisfying. We can gain so much with a quick trip into the woods.

The water is crystal clear and gorgeously blue green in the deep pools.

The old growth trees on this trail will blow your mind. This cedar is especially gorgeous with it’s huge knot.

I ran this trail a few years ago, and this particular spot has stayed with me. It was just as magical seeing it a second time.

If you would rather trail run than hike, the Lewis River Trail is really runnable.

Even the eastern end has some good falls. I won’t share a photo of Curly Creek Falls; it will be way more fun to discover its cool secret for yourself.

Explore the maps:

You’ll need a Northwest Forest Pass or an America the Beautiful pass to park.

About The Author

About The Author

Teri Smith is starting her third act as a photographer, writer and adventure seeker in the Pacific Northwest. Learn more here.