It's now been 36 years since Mount St. Helens erupted in 1980, drawing worldwide attention to the volcanic blast. Today, the mountain continues to attract people from all over the world — but to escape the crowds and see nature's regeneration up close, you need to take the family on two awesome hikes in the blast zone.
Three decades and change is awhile in human terms, but in the general grand scheme of Earth itself, it's a blink of an eye. That's what makes a trip to Mount St. Helens to visit that the whole family can do so essential: to see up close the rapid regeneration of the ecosystem of plant life and wildlife at the mountain.
Today we'll take a brief look at the Hummocks Trail and the Lakes Trail, family-friendly adventures that everyone in your group from the youngest to the oldest will enjoy. Comprising a total of up to 8.4 miles and a good four to five hours of hiking and wildlife watching in total, these two trails are a great family escape to a unique part of Southwest Washington's landscape.
When Mount St. Helens erupted in 1980, more than 1,000 feet of the mountain was destroyed and deposited in areas for miles around the volcano. Those pieces, known as hummocks, are large deposits of rock, mud, ash and other pieces of the mountain that vary in size — some as large as a few hundred feet.
There’s no better place to get up close with remnants of the mountain while getting a grand view of the volcano than the Hummocks Trail, just ten miles from the crater of Mount St. Helens. This family-friendly trail loops around a part of the Toutle River Valley, originating in a parking lot near Coldwater Lake and ending there as well.
This trail passes along one of Washington state’s newest lakes, formed as a result of the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens. The Lakes Trail takes hikers around Coldwater Lake for a distance of about 6 miles out-and-back with a beautiful view of the lake and surrounding landscape, with majestic hills and mountains in the distance.
There’s very minimal elevation gain, so the whole family can do this hike easily. Hike in as far as you want and connect with the South Coldwater Trail for some real backcountry hiking or to fully circumvent the lake. Or find a beautiful spot and turn around wherever your heart desires.
While you can't see Mount St. Helens directly for most of the hike, the Lakes Trail passes some areas that were forever altered by its eruption and is in itself an essential place to visit in the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument.
Now that we've covered the two prime family-friendly hikes in the Mount St. Helens area, stay tuned for our next post on a couple more difficult trails that offer quite a reward!