Mount St Helens is a modern day epic tale. The volcano boasts more than 200 miles of trails, allowing access to a fascinating landscape marked by gorgeous summer wildflowers, young forests, new lakes, huge mounds of ash and rock and a growing volcanic crater rimmed by the state’s newest glacier. Amazing!
There are many hikes on Mount St Helens. Listed below are a few of the more popular hikes and some information about each one. But first a note about hiking at Mount St. Helens:
- Permits are required. Check online for the latest info. wta.org
- Be prepared for the elements! With little tree-cover, hikers are exposed to the sun, the rain, and especially, the wind. Bring a hat, sunscreen, sunglasses and layers to adjust to the changing conditions.
- Carry lots of water. There is also little water along many of the trails, so it is important to bring plenty of it with you.
- Leave your four legged friends at home. Due to the sensitive ecosystem, there are special rules in the blast zone area that ask hikers to stay on the trail, leave their dogs at home and obtain permits for backpacking or climbing the mountain.
Hikes from the West – The west side of the Mount St. Helens National Monument was transformed by the 1980 eruption. Old growth forest gave way in an instant to the explosion and subsequent lahar and mudflow. A new lake was formed. Today, this area is one of the most popular entrances to the Monument, and it’s easy to see why. Almost every mile of trail offers excellent views into the mouth of the crater and profuse wildflowers line the pumice plains and ridges.
- Hummocks Trail, 2.3 miles with an elevation change of 300’ and open late June through November is great day hike. Witness the remarkable changes to the North Fork Toutle River. Once an old-growth forest, this valley is now defined by towering mounds of ash, rock and mud. This is a great trail to gain an appreciation of the devastating effects of the eruption of Mount St. Helens and to marvel at the vitality of nature’s return.
- Harry’s Ridge – Boundary Trail is lined with beautiful Indian Paintbrush as you make your way along the 8 mile hike with an elevation change of 1400’. Backcountry access during the late June to November season presents wildflowers at mid-summer, and an amazing view has you looking straight into the mouth of the crater. You have a direct view of Loowit Falls and of an emerging glacier. Plus, incredible views of Spirit Lake, Mount Adams and even Mount Hood on a clear day.
Hike from the East – Trails accessed from the northeast offer a variety of habitat. Some areas were beyond reach of the blast and today enjoy the cool shade of ancient forest. Closer to Windy Ridge the topography changes considerably – ghostly Spirit Lake with silver logs still floating in its waters, old trees all blown down in the same direction, lots and lots of wind. This is the edge of the blast zone.
- Meta Lake – Round trip is 1.3 miles with an elevation gain of 50’ and open late May through November. The trail is short, sweet and paved. Despite being in the blast zone, this area is defined by a young forest. These trees survived the eruption by being under a thick blanket of snow on that fateful May day thirty years ago. The quiet lake is a fun destination, especially in mid-summer when you can look for tadpoles and trout in its clear waters.
- Norway Pass – Mount Margaret has stunning views of Mount St. Helens on the way to Norway Pass and Mount Margaret. With an elevation gain of 300’ to Norway Pass and 2300’ to Mount Margaret these 4.4 mile and 11 mile hikes respectively are open late June through November. On a sunny, windless fall day, there may not be a better trail in the Monument . From the get-go, the short hike to Norway Pass is spectacular – witness the matchbook-blown forest, the incredible views to Rainier, Adams and Hood, and finally Mount St. Helens herself with ghostly Spirit Lake in the foreground. All of this while traipsing through beautiful wildflower fields along a windy ridge.
Enough already! Come back to Carson Ridge Luxury Cabins worn out, exhausted and thrilled with the sights that you saw for the day!