A FalconGuide to Mount St Helens  by Fred Barstad

A FalconGuide to Mount St. Helens Guide Book

by Fred Barstad (Falcon Guides)
A FalconGuide to Mount St Helens  by Fred Barstad
On May 18, 1980, Mt. St. Helens spewed 540 million tons of gas and ash, toppled miles of trees, and sent devastating debris flowing down its flanks. Two years later Congress established the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument to allow the volcanically altered landscape to recover naturally and to provide for educational, recreational, and research opportunities. Today the 110,000-acre monument has become a world-renowned attraction, with many thousands of visitors each year. This book offers 23 trails — from short self-guided tours to multiday backpacks — that will help you get the most out of your time on this extraordinary mountain. Through explorations of Lava Canyon, the Plains of Abraham, and much more, the author offers a close-up look at the destruction and remarkable recovery of Mount St. Helens. He discusses the area’s natural and cultural history and points out the geological features, flora, and fauna that make this dynamic region so fascinating and unique.

© 2005 Fred Barstad/Falcon Guides. All Rights Reserved.

Trails from the "A FalconGuide to Mount St. Helens" Guide Book
Displaying trails 20 of 23.

Displaying trails 1 to 20 of 23.

The Ape Canyon Trail provides one of the best possible places to observe and study the effects that a large lahar has on the landscape. This route climbs along the edge of the huge Muddy River Lahar, then treats you to a spectacular view down the sharply cut upper gorge of Ape Canyon—and the possibility of being entertained by the marmots that live close by.
Cougar, WA - Hiking - Trail Length: 9.6
Climb gently through old-growth forest, passing rushing streams, then enter the Blast Zone of the 1980 Mount St. Helens eruption. After hiking through another sheltered patch of large timber, and topping a ridge, you’ll descend through the blasted forest to the trailhead. A small group of people was camped at Bear Meadows—near the trailhead where this hike begins—on the morning of May 18, 1980. Gary Rosenquist was among them, and he snapped a spectacular series of quick-succession photographs of the eruption that has been widely published. Then he and his companions made a harrowing drive to escape.
Randle, WA - Backpacking,Hiking - Trail Length: 5
This hike takes you across lava beds and through forest from Redrock Pass Trailhead on the Toutle Trail to a junction with the Butte Camp Trail, then on to the Loowit Trail at timberline on the southern slope of Mount St. Helens.
Cougar, WA - Backpacking,Hiking - Trail Length: 7.6
This short loop walk through magnificent old-growth forest is an excellent hike for small children, with adult supervision. Allow plenty of time to enjoy the huge trees, moss- and fern-covered ground and logs, and dense understory of this low-elevation, Temperate Zone rain forest.
Carson, WA - Hiking - Trail Length: 0.9
This entire hike is within the Blast Zone of the May 18, 1980, eruption, and features elk and blacktails. This hike leads you up a ridge from South Coldwater Trailhead on the South Coldwater Trail, passing demolished logging equipment. You’ll then descend into Coldwater Canyon on the Coldwater Trail. Once you reach the canyon bottom, you’ll hike along Coldwater Lake on the Lakes Trail to Lakes Trailhead. Early in the season (April and May) elk are very common along the Coldwater Lake section of this route, which can be accessed at that time from Lakes Trailhead, but the higher elevations of the loop will probably still be snow covered. Black-tailed deer (Odocoileus hemionus columbianus) are common along the lake in all seasons.
Toutle, WA - Hiking - Trail Length: 10.8
This hike takes you northeast from Johnston Ridge, passing above St. Helens Lake. You’ll then climb the open flower-covered slopes to the summit of Coldwater Peak, where a fire lookout once stood.
Toutle, WA - Hiking - Trail Length: 13.6
This hike through the forest takes you to two lakes that were formed sometime between 1480 and 1780, when mudflow debris caused by Mount St. Helens volcanic activity blocked and altered the drainage pattern of a stream. A beaver-dammed stream flows between the lakes.
Cougar, WA - Hiking - Trail Length: 2.8
Hike from Harmony Viewpoint to the shore of Spirit Lake, all the way passing through landscape and plant communities that are rebuilding and reestablishing themselves after the catastrophic 1980 eruption. This trail is the only legal access to Spirit Lake, still partially covered with floating logs. Watch for Roosevelt elk (Cervus elaphus roosevelti) all along this trail, especially if you are making your hike early in the season and early in the morning. Even if you don’t see the elk, you will probably see their tracks along the trail. Also look for outcroppings of volcanic rock that are many times older than Mount St. Helens itself, and view places where ancient glaciers have polished and scratched the rock.
Randle, WA - Hiking - Trail Length: 2.4
This is a relatively short and easy hike through the remains of the 1980 Debris Avalanche. You should have plenty of time to stop at the points of interest before reaching the trailhead or (better) on the way back. The entire Hummocks Loop wanders through the jumbled, mounded, and chaotic (hummocky) landscape of the remains of the Debris Avalanche deposited by the May 18, 1980, eruption of Mount St. Helens. The huge landslide swept the upper 1,300 feet of the peak into the valley of the North Fork Toutle River. Some of the rocks and other volcanic debris you see along the route may have been at 9,000-feet-plus elevation near the summit of this once much higher, symmetrical mountain. Roosevelt elk (Cervus elaphus roosevelti) are very common along this trail in spring; I saw more than a hundred of them when I hiked this trail in April. Coyotes (Canis latrans) can often be seen or at least heard, especially if you’re on an early-morning hike.
Toutle, WA - Hiking - Trail Length: 2.3
The Independence Loop offers some of the best scenery to be found in Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, including Spirit Lake, the gaping crater of Mount St. Helens, the huge volcanic cones of Mount Adams and Mount Rainier, and the jagged peaks and green ridges of the Mount Margaret Backcountry. All the while you are passing through terrain that nature is diligently working to revegetate.
Randle, WA - Hiking - Trail Length: 7.1
A popular ski trail that sees some horse use, the Kalama Ski Trail is used as an access trail or combined with other trails to make loops. The trail is almost always in the woods and atop lahar deposits. Most of the Kalama Ski Trail runs atop lahar deposits of varying ages, which were laid down during historic eruptions of Mount St. Helens. Note the spacing, type, and size of the trees as you hike and see if you can tell the relative age of the particular deposit you that are crossing. Recent deposits feature few trees, and those that exist are widely spaced. They may also show scars of the lahar. When the deposit has aged a century or so, lodgepole pine usually becomes the dominant species, although the trees will not be very large. After several centuries the soil will have gained enough organic matter to support a mature forest of Douglas and true firs, and finally the shade-tolerant hemlock will join in to create a climax forest.
Cougar, WA - Cross-Country Skiing - Trail Length: 10.9
This route passes as least five lakes as it undulates through the Blast Zone and the glacially eroded remains of twenty-million-year-old Spirit Lake Pluton.
Randle, WA - Backpacking,Hiking - Trail Length: 24.8
There are two hike possibilities from the Lava Canyon Trailhead: a short loop past some of the best waterfalls at Mount St. Helens, and a difficult descent of the Muddy River Gorge, aka Lava Canyon. Whichever hike you choose, the first 0.3 mile is paved and barrier-free. This lahar split near the present site of Lahar Viewpoint, with part of it racing down Pine Creek. The rest rushed down the Muddy River Gorge, aka Lava Canyon, removing all the vegetation as it went. Below the gorge the lahar continued down the Muddy River, smashing and carrying away almost everything in its path and depositing a large volume of logs into Swift Reservoir. This is not the first time a lahar has scoured the timber from Lava Canyon. Geologic evidence shows that this has happened before and in all likelihood will happen again.
Cougar, WA - Hiking - Trail Length: 6
A 34-mile round-the-mountain trek that offers spectacular views of a landscape often devastated, but sometimes almost untouched, by the 1980 eruption. The Truman and Windy Trails offer one of the easier access routes to the Loowit Trail. On the northern side of the mountain, where this hike starts and ends, there is little vegetation along the Loowit Trail, but the view is breathtaking. Around the northern side of the mountain between the South Fork Toutle River and Windy Ridge Trailhead, the trail crosses terrain where the vegetation was nearly completely obliterated by the 1980 eruption. Plants are slowly reclaiming this area, but at times you may think you are hiking in a barren desert. This part of the hike is the best for seeing herds of Roosevelt elk (Cervus elaphus roosevelti), with the lack of trees and brush making the viewing easy. Remember that nearly this entire section of the route is within the Restricted Zone, so it must be crossed in one day.
Randle, WA - Backpacking,Hiking - Trail Length: 34
The trip to June Lake is one of the most popular ski tours from the Marble Mountain Snopark. If the snow is good, the skiing is easy. Other skiing and snowshoeing options are available, and the snopark also serves as a base for hiking and climbing trips. Marble Mountain Snopark is the hub for snowmobilers, cross-country skiers, and snowshoers on the southern slopes of Mount St. Helens. Adequate snow cover for skiing can usually be found from December through March most years. The snow at the snopark is seldom very dry and often changeable, so it’s generally best to be riding on no-wax skis. Most days are skiable here if you’re prepared for the conditions, but some days are definitely better than others.
Cougar, WA - Snowshoeing - Trail Length: 4.4
Take the short walk from Miners Car Exhibit through the blown-down forest of the Blast Zone as you stroll to Meta Lake, soaking in the proof of nature’s tremendous survival and rejuvenating capabilities.
Randle, WA - Hiking - Trail Length: 0.6
This hike climbs through the blown-down but slowly rejuvenating forest from Norway Pass Trailhead to Norway Pass, then follows the very spine of the Mount Margaret Backcountry to the summit of Mount Margaret. Mount Whittier is a short but challenging optional side trip. This entire hike is over strata that are part of the twenty-millionyear-old Spirit Lake Pluton. Intrusive rock is magma that has cooled and solidified below the earth’s surface. A pluton is a large body of intrusive rock, possibly several miles or more wide. Much of this pluton was deeply eroded by ice age glaciers that melted only about 11,000 years ago. They formed the deep U-shaped valleys and bowl-shaped glacial cirques that are so evident here today. Of course, there are deposits of pumice and other recent volcanic material from Mount St. Helens thinly covering much of the terrain. The higher peaks have been mostly washed clean, however, and the rock of the pluton is exposed.
Randle, WA - Backpacking,Hiking - Trail Length: 11.6
This route first heads south along Windy Ridge, with views of Mount Adams to the east, then climbs a flower-covered ridge to the Plains of Abraham. After climbing Windy Pass it returns across the Pumice Plain. The entire loop is within the Blast Zone of the May 18, 1980, eruption. The loop begins on the Truman Trail 207. This trail—really a closed section of FR 99 at this point—was named for Harry Truman, the longtime owner of Spirit Lake Lodge who died in the 1980 eruption. The route heads south, then south-southwest from Windy Ridge Viewpoint and Trailhead. First you travel along the east side of Windy Ridge through severely blasted but slowly regenerating forest. Cardwell’s penstemon (Penstemon cardwellii) and common red paintbrush (Castilleja miniata) color the slopes between the black huckleberry bushes (Vaccinium membranaceum) and low-growing mountain alders (Alnus incana).
Randle, WA - Hiking - Trail Length: 8.7
This hike takes you through dense forest and across an open slope with a great view. You’ll then make the nontechnical but strenuous climb up the south side of Mount St. Helens to its summit on the rim of the 1980 eruption crater. This route climbs through three of the four life zones encountered in Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument. The only place on the mountain where these zones exist at present is on the south side between the Plains of Abraham and the South Fork Toutle River Canyon. The 1980 eruption obliterated them on the north slopes. Even though the south slopes were not drastically affected by the 1980 eruption, they have been affected by other volcanic events over the past few centuries. This has caused the timberline to be at a much lower elevation than you’d expect.
Cougar, WA - Hiking - Trail Length: 9.2
Starting in large old-growth forest, this hike climbs to near timberline. Then, as you descend Crescent Ridge, you can see the destructive power of a volcanic eruption in the form of blasted trees and lahars. Much of the more open terrain is covered with flowers through summer.
Cougar, WA - Backpacking,Hiking - Trail Length: 11.5