Best Easy Day Hikes: Mount St. Helens
by Fred Barstad (Falcon Guides)
© Fred Barstad/Falcon Guides. All Rights Reserved.
Trail is dry underfoot. Cool, easy walk to lakeside. Look for tracks in sand...both elk and cougar. More than the usual amount of debri left by campers...sad.
This is a great hike for kids! I took my 4-year old with my 9-month old on my back. The climb up to June Lake is very doable (only 1 "my legs are tired" moment). The lake itself is small and not really a swimming hole, but with the waterfall and lush surroundings it was very pretty. Even better, it was great for rock throwing. The real magic of this climb is the lava field. We scaled our way up the boulders about 40-50 feet and had a great view. For me (as the Dad), the best part was watching my son figure out how to handle the clibming. It was a real confidence builder for him. We're heading back there tomorrow.
I really like this trail because it gives beginning hikers the opportunity to see the variety of beauty in the Northwest's outdoors, experience slightly varying terrain, and view one of the most lovely waterfalls in Washington. The Cougar area of Washington State offers many day hike trails ranging from this quick and easy
example to marathon thirty-mile hikes like the Loowit Trail, which actually adjoins to the June Lake Trail. A recent law passed in Washington requires that hikers and climbers purchase a day use pass costing around $5. This can be procured in the gift shop at Jack's Restaurant, which is a large blue building located on the right side of SR503 just as you are entering Cougar. Once you reach the trailhead and begin the hike, you will be walking through a lot of ash on the ground from the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens. There is some mild uphill hiking that quickly turns downhill. The ground off the trail is lush and green with blue spruce and mosses. Nearing the end of the trail, you will come into a clearing. On the left is an expanse of volcanic rock, ahead of you is forest and the trail that joins up to the Loowit Trail, and on the right is June Lake. I remember this as being on of the most wonderful sights I had ever seen. To get the full effect I recommend goning in late spring or summer. There is a small waterfall that cascades into a lake covered by flowering tree blossoms, vibrant green algae, and blooming lilly pads. The sun setting casts a rosy glow on the hills and water that makes the experience magical. If you can walk, you can do this hike. Although hikers may see people camping, there is officially no camping allowed and the reason people can get away with it is because the trail is not frequently checked by the Parks or Forest Service. This trail is very good if one is looking for a short mountain bike ride.
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