A couple weeks ago, Gov. Inslee began lifting some of Washington state’s restrictions by opening some of the state’s many trails. Though the trails and parks we visited in Forks a couple weeks ago weren’t open yet, we actually had a pretty successful trip to the Melmont Ghost Town Trail this past weekend! Ryan is still TDY, but since things are just beginning to open up, I knew I wanted to get the kids out, regardless of the weather. Our friends decided to go with us, thankfully, so the kids and I packed up Saturday morning and drove the hour from JBLM to Carbonado, WA, home of the Melmont Ghost Town Trail. I’ve had my eye on this one for a while for a few reasons. First, it’s a pretty clear trail; flat, easy, and not really strenuous.
Washington Trails Association says the hike is six miles roundtrip with an elevation fain of just 100 feet. So, when I say it’s easy enough for kids, I mean it. Best of all, it’s stroller-friendly, too. We didn’t bring the stroller, but having the option definitely makes it ideal for families hiking with littles. This hike was an interesting one though because there are about four different trailheads or entry points to choose from. Not all of them are kid-friendly. Some are downright dangerous, and there isn’t a ton of dedicated parking at the trailhead. Originally, we’d hoped to park near the trestle bridge (which is spectacular, by the way), and then hike down from there. Spoiler alert – that trail is A) not kid-friendly and B) jam-packed.
Most people had the same idea I did, so the minimal off-street parking by the bridge was full. None of us wanted to walk a mile (or more) on the road with five kids and two dogs, so we parked at the Foothills trailhead, which is about two miles back towards town from the bridge. There was ample off-street parking, and we suited up in the rain for a swampy hike. As usual, Washington treated us to its bipolar weather, alternating between glorious sun and heavy rain throughout the hike, but the tree cover on the trail spared us from the worst of it, thankfully.
Because of the trailhead we chose, we didn’t get to see a lot of the actual Melmont Ghost Town. For those who take the right trailhead, however, you can see everything from the remnants of an old wagon bridge that once spanned the river below, an abandoned car, and even the remains of an old school basement. Our length of trail primarily showcased the beauty of Washington, however. We could hear the roaring river below – though I should mention we were high above it, so we couldn’t see it – and we got to see tall, mossy trees, little waterfalls, dense raspberry bushes, giant slugs, and more. It’s muddy there, and from what I’ve read, it’s pretty much always muddy. But you know what? It’s also dog-friendly, family-friendly, and beautiful. We parked ourselves just past the trestle bridge and had a little picnic before heading back.
All in all, we did five miles roundtrip, and for my littles who’re just getting back into things, that’s big. In fact, I think this is the longest hike they’ve done yet. I’ll admit that it’s probably more fun on a completely sunny day, but it was worth it, nonetheless. And, for these kiddos who haven’t seen kids in months, you’d better believe it was heaven! For those in the JBLM area looking for a fun, family-friendly hike, here’s what you need to know about the Melmont Ghost Town Trail:
Trail Length: Varies based on entrance; via the Foothills trailhead back towards Carbonado, it’s 6 miles roundtrip
Level of Difficulty: Varies; our trail was easy, but if you hike down from the trestle bridge to the river, it’s extremely difficult
Parking: Free & no pass required; parking is limited and may dictate which trail you have to take
Tips: Wear layers and waterproof boots that you don’t mind getting muddy; practice pack and go because there are no facilities on the trail