Lava Canyon Trail 184

Mount Saint Helens National Volcanic Monument, Washington

Distance2.4mi
Elevation Gain1,758ft
Trailhead Elevation2,838ft
Top2,838ft
Elevation Min/Max1698/2838ft
Elevation Start/End2838/2838ft

Lava Canyon Trail 184

Lava Canyon Trail 184 is a hiking trail in Skamania County, Washington. It is within Mount Saint Helens National Volcanic Monument. It is 2.4 miles long and begins at 2,838 feet altitude. Traveling the entire trail is 4.9 miles with a total elevation gain of 1,758 feet. The Lava Canyon Interpretive Site attraction and the Lava Canyon Trailhead parking are near the trailhead. There are also a picnic site, an information board, and a restrooms. The Lava Canyon bare rock can be seen along the trail. There are also a viewpoint and a cliff along the trail. This trail connects with the following: Smith Creek Trail, Ship and Lava Canyon Loop Trail.

Lava Canyon Trail 184 Professional Reviews and Guides

"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."

"Hike into a dramatic chasm formed by an ancient lava flow and scoured clean of vegetation by a massive mudflow during the 1980 eruption. Pass by a half dozen waterfalls. Cross a high suspension bridge. Teeter along the edge of steep cliffs and descend into the heart of the chasm on a 30-foot steel ladder."

"The Loop is rough and slippery in spots. Below the Loop the trail is very rough, exposed and slippery in spots. The ladders, which must be descended to continue down to the Smith Creek Trail and to The Ship, can be slippery when wet. The trail to The Ship is also very difficult and exposed. The paved trail leaves the south side of the parking area, descending gently. You will make a couple of switchbacks and pass some benches before reaching an interpretive viewpoint. The viewpoint is a wooden platform with a handrail and information sign.

The side trail turns to the right (southeast) and climbs very steeply to The Ship viewpoint 0.2 mile away. The Ship is a large rock outcrop above the riverbed. The view from The Ship is well worth the effort it takes to get there, but the trail is very steep and exposed."

"This hike begins with the wide, paved Lava Canyon Interpretive Trail, which leads to a viewing platform overlooking a stunning canyon—a deep, jagged cut through a thick layer of ancient lava. From the viewing area, the trail loops down to the canyon rim in a long series of steep (for wheelchair users) switchback turns offering excellent views.

The Muddy River cuts through the heart of this basalt canyon, which was scoured clean by the rushing mudflows during the 1980 eruption. The main Lava Canyon Trail continues east along the wild gorge of the Muddy River. You won’t find grand vistas or sweeping panoramas here. You will find a remarkable lesson in geological change—this valley was carved in part by a massive lahar, or volcano-induced mudflow of massive proportions."

"First, a little history, so you’ll know what you’re looking at: In ancient times, a forest covered a deep valley. Then, 3,500 years ago, Mount St. Helens erupted, sending a massive mudflow down through the canyon, filling it with volcanic rock. Over the years, the river carved a path through the rock, forming a canyon with waterfalls, deep cuts, and towers of harder rock—Lava Canyon.

Later mudflows covered all of that, and eventually forest grew back over the whole thing. Then, on May 18, 1980, Mount St. Helens erupted again, melting 70% of its glaciers in an instant and sending millions of cubic feet of mud and rock blasting down the side of the mountain at about 45 miles an hour."

Lava Canyon Trail 184 Reviews

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6/20/2009
The beginning of this trail is absolutely beautiful! After you get off of the paved switchbacks you get some incredible views of a huge waterfall and some lava flowage. Amazing!! In all of my research to do this trail today, nothing indicated that parts of it were closed. We could only hike about a 1/4 mile to the suspension bridge then signs said the loop was closed at this point. I believe a bridge on the return trail is out. So be sure and check on this before you go. We can't wait to go back when we can hike the entire loop...the water is just beautiful!
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7/10/2006
The environs were worth the trek, rainbows over the falls, emense rock and lava formations, wonderful forested areas, and the best natural A/C ever at the bottom of the falls. Dissapointed that the suspension bridge is closed. The trail is well described, and just a note, when it sais, "Most difficult trail" Do NOT take your children, under 12 no matter how skilled, it becomes a goat trail on a very steep cliff, not to mention crossing the waterfall was an adrenaline rush all it's own for my small kids. Just the right amount of challenge though and then we turned around and headed back before the trail got to skinny for them.
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Lava Canyon Trail 184 Photos

Trail Information

Mount Saint Helens National Volcanic Monument
Nearby City
Mount Saint Helens National Volcanic Monument
Parks
Dog-friendly, Kid-friendly, Stroller/Wheelchair Accessible
Accessibility
Moderate
Skill Level
Waterfalls, Views
Features
Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, 360-449-7800, www.fs.usda.gov/mountsthelens
Local Contacts
USFS Mount St. Helens National Monument.
Local Maps

Activity Feed

Nov 2018