Southwest Washington’s ‘Secret’ River Trail

posted in: Washington Coast | 0

Looking for a quiet trail that’s one of southwest Washington’s best kept secrets? Have I got a deal for you!

Lace up those boots and explore an old pioneer cemetery atop a lonely, green-garbed hillside hugging the Johns River Wildlife Area in Grays Harbor.

Hiker Dude and I take Hiker Dog on this trail frequently. But it’s kind of a secret. We rarely meet another sole (that’s not a typo). The site is quiet and almost always deserted. It winds around a slough and through thick forest for about 1.6 miles. You eventually reach a pioneer cemetery, the old Markham Cemetery, at the crest of a knoll.

Starting out from the gravel parking lot off of Highway 105, the trail is lined with alders and evergreens. The river is on your right. The trail is wide and well-shaded. You’ll find a weather-beaten bench on the left side of the trail at roughly a mile in.

There’s a greenish truck bridge just past the bench. Cross it and start climbing. The trail levels out as you approach a clear cut area. It winds past this area and loops around to the right. The trail then straightens out and is fringed with soaring evergreens. Head downhill for about 250 meters. Cross a culvert with an expansive view of the Ocean Spray plant. Continue uphill.

You’ll soon reach a barely discernible sign. It used to have “Cemetery” etched on the board. That’s gone now. It’s been replaced by an orange right arrow.

Follow the arrow. The entrance to the cemetery trail looks like something out of the Amazonian rain forest. If you’re over four feet tall, you’ll have to stoop. The trail opens up a few steps later. Watch for downed logs. The cemetery’s secluded setting is peaceful and restive. If you visit during winter, when the surrounding foliage isn’t as thick, the sights above the river are terrific.

Some sources indicate that the cemetery was once part of the Fry Family homestead. Because the cemetery itself is unmarked, it’s easy to get lost. Pay attention to where you’ve been and how you’ll get back. A casual hiker can reach the site in under an hour.

Leaving the cemetery, the trail continues uphill briefly. Depending on the season, you may find evidence of bear in the area. So keep a sharp eye and a clear head.

Tip: Wear sturdy footwear and a hat. If it’s sunny, apply sunscreen and bring plenty of water. There isn’t any on the trail and you’ll need it.

Located near the Ocean Spray cranberry plant, the Johns River Wilderness Area includes two access sites nestled between Markham and Ocosta. About four miles RT, the cemetery trail is located on the east side of the river, just before the Ocean Spray plant.

The Johns River Wildlife Area is managed by The Department of Fish and Wildlife. The area covers more than 6,700 acres, managed in 15 units located near the Pacific Coast. The local portion is 12 miles southwest of Aberdeen off Highway 105.

Getting There

Access to the cemetery trail is unmarked and easy to miss. To access the site, head out of Aberdeen toward Westport on Highway 105.  The undeveloped parking area at the trail head is on the left, near the sign for Markham. It’s the next driveway past Dave’s Harbor Guns, about 10 miles from Westport. If you hit the Ocean Spray plant, you’ve gone too far. You’ll need a Discover Pass.