Brian Mittge: A summer checklist of our area’s top spots


OK, folks. Summer is underway, the heat is on, and if you’re looking to get outside and have a good time, Southwest Washington has plenty of great places to enjoy our little slice of heaven. 

Here are my top 10 favorite places to get out and enjoy:

  1. Lewis and Clark State Park: Over 600 acres of enormous trees and quiet paths, plus lots of camping and picnic areas. Dog-friendly (on a leash, of course). If you’re looking for something new after exploring their Trails of the Deer, Fawn, Buck and others, head to the east side of Jackson Highway for another set of trails (designed for horses, but just fine for two-footed hoofers as well.) Bonus: When you’re finished, head down to Betty’s in Toledo for their fantastic burgers, as we did for lunch on Independence Day. The fresh strawberry shakes are YUM. I’ll admit I didn’t try the deep-fried green beans. 
  2. Ike Kinswa State Park: Water, trees, rolling lawns and plenty of sun make this a classic summertime spot. If you have kayaks or boats, head up the Tilton arm of Mayfield Lake for a magical experience of canyons, ducks and schools of fish beneath you. 
  3. Skate Creek Park: This gem in Packwood at the confluence of the Cowlitz River and its namesake Skate Creek is perfect for hiking and contemplation. Local volunteers and boosters have kept this park a live and going concern for years. Only locals knew about it for years, but word is getting out, and that’s a very good thing. 
  4. Windy Ridge: The northern approach to Mount St. Helens is an awe-inspiring look at the magnitude of the 1980 eruption’s destruction. Then hiking Windy Ridge gets you up close to the volcano with stellar views of nearby Spirit Lake. As of July 4, the road is open for the season.
  5. Rainbow Falls State Park and the Willapa Hills Trail: Explore the magic of water and stone by  stepping out to the Chehalis River as it cascades over ancient rocks at Rainbow Falls. The best way to approach this park is by bicycle on the Willapa Hills Trail, an ever-improving avenue for exploring west Lewis County.
  6. Lintott/Alexander Park: This is a great park for young families; its looping trail allows parents to talk while keeping an eye on kids cavorting on its play equipment or in its expansive central lawn. Scurry down the sandy banks to the Chehalis River to fish or just plunk rocks into the water. Its picnic shelters are great for hosting events. 
  7. Carlisle Lake Park: With a historic smokestack looming overhead, Onalaska’s old mill pond is now a nature-lover’s delight. Its lake is stocked with fish and is circled by a delightful compacted gravel nature path. The park’s patron saints at the Onalaska Alliance also host a Music in the Park series, which brings the Freckles Brown Band to the mill pond on July 24.
  8. The Tenino Quarry Pool: A unique outdoor pool in a former working sandstone quarry is newly reopened and renovated. There is nothing like it. While you’re there, check out the local history in the Tenino Depot Museum. Don't take any wooden nickels.
  9. Chehalis River Discovery Trail: Explore a wild section of the Chehalis River in this growing nature trail. Watch for bald eagles overhead. Enjoy barn swallows at the red barn. Thank the students of old who planted the saplings that now tower overhead. 
  10. Mount Rainier (Paradise, Ohanapecosh & more): There’s too much to say about this epic guardian of our state. From waterfalls to towering trees, glaciers to grand vistas, it’s simply majestic. Peak Washington.

There are so many more wonderful places to get out and enjoy life in and around Lewis County. What’s your favorite spot that I missed? 

If you visit all ten of these attractions over the next few months, let me know. I’d love to give you a shout out in a September column for doing summer right.

Brian Mittge loves the outdoors but isn’t a big fan of the heat. Shady spots will be his favorite places this weekend. Contact him at