Hiking comes in great supply at Mount St. Helens. More than 500 miles of trails traverse the rich and diverse landscape. Lava Canyon offers offers the excitement of a rushing waterfall and a suspension bridge, while Norway Pass offers a breathtaking view of Spirit Lake and the lava dome steaming in the distance.
The Eruption of Mount St. Helens on May 18, 1980 drastically altered the surrounding landscape. The north side of Mount St. Helens contains the best opportunities for hikers to experience the effects of the eruption. The lush forests that flanked the northern slope of the volcano has become a barren plain of ash deposits and blown down trees. Hikes through the blast zone allow visitors to observe the devastation caused by the eruption, but also show nature's slow response and regrowth.
A popular blast zone hike is Truman Trail 207 and Willow Springs Trail 207 A. The 5.7 mile Truman Trail 207 places hikers in the center of the area devastated by the volcanic eruption. To the north, hikers can see the log-filled Spirit Lake topped by Mount Margaret, while to the south the crater and lava dome of Mount St. Helens is clearly visible. Hikers are treated to ever growing fields of wildflowers that grow in the nutrient rich volcanic soil. Wooden marking posts aid hikers to remain on trail while traveling across the pumice plains. Hikers wishing to extend their hike should take the .8 mile Willow Springs Trail from the junction with 207.
Boundary Trail 1. Norway Pass Trailhead to Bear Meadow is a 9.3 mile trail that allows hikers to witness the rejuvenation of the forest killed in the blast. Starting at the Norway Pass Trailhead, the trail crosses Forest Road 26 before climbing to a saddle north of Bismarck Mountain. For the next 2.5 miles, hikers pass through standing dead forest. These rotting and falling trees were killed in the blast of the eruption. Their current decomposition is now forming a thick organic bed of nutrient rich soil to nourish new plant life. 1.5 miles from the trailhead is the junction with Ghost Lake Trail 1H. A short side trip of 0.4 miles will bring hikers to the lake. In this area, hikers can observe a new conifer forest emerging.
The Green River trails allows hikers to walk the thin line that divided life from death on May 18, 1980. Three distinct forests are found in this region: a young forest planted after the harvest of trees downed by the eruption, a standing dead forest killed in the blast, and lush old-growth forest that survived the devastation. In addition to hiking, the lakes of this region provide good fishing opportunities for anglers.
Green River Trail 213. This 12 mile trail offers an opportunity to travel from the blast zone through standing dead trees and into a pristine old-growth forest. In the 1890s this route was blazed to access mining claims along the Green River. Start at the Green River Horse Camp and travel through a young forest planted after the Eruption of 1980. Following close to the Green River, the trail passes through a grove of standing dead trees before entering a magnificent forest of old-growth. This trail eventually meets Vanson Ridge Trail 213A which connects to Goat Mountain Trail 217 in 3.3 miles. The Green River Trail terminates as you re-enter the blast zone and connect with Weyerhauser Road 2500. Weyerhauser Timber Company controls access to this western trail terminus.
The Dark Divide Roadless Area provides opportunities for lengthier trips through lush valleys and rocky ridges. Well established by 1911, the historic Boundary Trail served as the pricipal route for rangers on horseback patrol on the boundary between Rainier and Columbia Forest Reserves (now the Gifford Pinchot National Forest). This trail has been designated a National Recreation Trail, offering a backpacking opportunity or shorter hikes to rocky peaks and subalpine meadows.
Craggy Peak Trail 3 is a great 5.3 mile backpacking trail, or an ideal day hike. The trail starts at an intersection with Wright Meadow Trail 80 on Forest Road 9327. The trail climbs gently, first in a tree plantation and then in a forested ridge. After 2.5 miles the trail junctions with Stabler Camp Trail 17. Continuing will treat you to glimpses of Mt. Rainier and Shark Rock. Near the first subalpine meadow, about a mile later, Blue Lake can be seen to the East. A short distance beyond, Basin Camp Trail 3B drops into a glacial cirque. The cirque is surrounded with meadows and wildflowers. At the bottom is a good camping spot complete with water and stunning views of Mt. Adams.
The Lewis River Valley Trail is a waterfall-rich section of the forest, sure to please any hiker looking for stands of old-growth surrounded by waterfalls. The trail network in this area ranges from the easiest trails to the most difficult. Barrier-free trails allow close approach to waterfalls at Big Creek, Curly Creek, Miller Creek, and on the Lewis River.
A popular trail in the Lewis River Valley Trail system is Spencer Butte Trail (3.2 miles) and Breezy Point Trail (0.8 mile). Accessible from Forest Road 93 or Forest Road 93-301, Spencer Butte allows hikers to experience a change in flora with elevation, as the forest changes from western white pine at lower elevations to noble and subalpine fir at higher elevations. Breezy Point Trail 30A is soon reached, and walking this 0.8 mile spur will take hikers to the location of an old fire lookout (look for the base of the old fire finder!). Atop Spencer Butte, the skyline is dominated by Mount St. Helens. Wildflowers provide a colorful display in the summer months. Descending northward, the trail passes through a Douglas Fir forest before ending near Spencer Meadow, a favorite gathering place for Elk.
The Siouxon Area is a large drainage with few roads located south of the North Fork Lewis River. The low elevation trails allow year-round recreational opportunities. Steep and wooded slopes characterize the area with rocky outcrops near the ridge tops. Siouxon Crewwk is the centerpiece, with many waterfalls and deep clear pools.
Huffman Peak Trail 129 is a popular hike in the area. This 6.9 mile trail may be accessed from Forest Road 5701 or Forest Road 6403. The trail splits off from Siouxon Trail 130, 1 mile east of the western Siouxon trailhead. The trail starts by descending steeply to a ford of Siouxon Creek before climbing northeastward 4 miles to the intersection with North Fork Siouxon Trail 126. The trail traverses the north side of Huffman Peak to a saddle, intersecting Wildcat Trail 156. Views of Mount St. Helens and neighboring volcanoes are visible from this point. Cross the saddle before climbing Siouxon Peak for an overhead view of Swift Reservoir. Continue another mile before encountering the end of fomer Forest Road 6403-216. Follow the roadbed another 1.5 miles to the 6403 road and the upper trailhead.
NOTE: There is no bridge at Siouxon Creek. Fording the creek is difficult during high water.
Silver Star Mountain is the highlight of the Silver Star Scenic Area. Trails in this area offer views of the Portland/Vancouver metropolitan area, the Columbia River, Mount Adams, Mount Hood, and Mount St. Helens. The Summer months bring an explosion of wildflowers to the meadows of this area.
Bluff Mountain Trail 172. Accessible from Forest Road 41 or Forest Road 4109, this 6 mile trail is popular with hikers interested in wildflowers. Following the 1902 Yacolt Burn, the landscape was left open and sparsely forested. The open nature of the trail allows for spectacular views. In the 1960s many areas along the trail were terraced and planted in a reforestation effore. Notice the replanted noble fir.
The trailhead is in the saddle between Copper Creek and the Washougal River. The trail heads sough, following an old roadbed, towards Bluff Mountain. After dropping into a saddle, the trail traverses a talus slope and regains the ridge crest west of Bluff Mountain. Water is available at a spring just east of the saddle, one of the few water sources along the trail. The trail climbs past Baldy Mountain south of the summit. After five miles, the trail intersects Starway trail 175. Silver Star Mountain is passed to the north before the trail terminates with the Junction of Silver Star Trail 180, 1.9 miles from Forest Road 4109.