Exploring Washington’s Singing Cispus

Continuing our series on 30 West Coast Ways: Celebrating Great Outdoors Month in Washington, Oregon and California, we’re exploring two lesser known (but still cool) outdoor sites in the great state of Washington.

Mount Rainier so dominates Washingtonian geography that worthy nearby locales are easily overlooked. But when summer throngs clog the Queen of the Cascades, solitude and serenity can be found just a few miles south of the great Mountain along the Cispus Area Loop. Tucked into this off-the-beaten path road are two outdoor sites worth seeing, the Cispus Loop and Layser Cave.

1. Cispus Loop

Located near the small mountain burgh of Randle, in Lewis County, the 29 – mile Cispus Loop is a scenic back country drive with lots of local color and solitude. The sometimes bumpy road winds along the serpentine coils of the singing Cispus River past campgrounds, wildflower meadows, hiking, fishing, and choice picnic sites.

2. Layser Cave

One of the most significant archaeological sites in western Washington. Named for the U.S. Forest Service employee who discovered it in 1982, the prehistoric cave dates back some 7,000 years. Located on the Cispus Loop.

 A short jaunt down the trail is Layser Cave, a prehistoric cave named for the U.S. Forest Service employee who discovered it in 1982.  It’s a .25 mile walk off a dirt road. The trail offers a magnificent view of the Cowlitz River Valley. The cave itself dates back more than 6,660 years.  It’s a pretty cool outdoor find, and another glimpse into the mystery, majesty and magic that surround the Mountain. On a quiet summer morning, you can almost hear it sing.

Cispus Loop FYIs:

  • Make allowances for Cispus Road. It’s bumpy, windy, and not in the best shape.
  • The cut-off to the Cispus Learning Center is about 17 miles past Morton off Highway 12 East.
  • Randle is about a half hour south of Mount Rainier.

Located off U.S. Highway 12 near the Lilliputian mountain berg of Randle in east Lewis County, the Cispus Area Loop offers campgrounds, picnic areas, fishing, and some primo hiking opportunities such as trails to Angel and Curtain Falls (aka: Covel Creek Falls and Phantom Falls).

But that’s another story. Join us for more of Great Outdoors Month as we head to California for some fun in the sun and sand!