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.
The Hummocks Trail is a great opportunity to see the plant and animal life that has begun to call the area home in the years since the eruption. In the spring, lupine and red paintbrush can be seen in some areas; ponds provide ilfe-giving water to animals such as beavers and birds.
You’ll wind your way and change elevation many times as the trail bounds from one hummock to another. About 3/4 mile into your trip, you have an option to connect with the Boundary Trail, which takes hikers a little over 3 miles with some decent elevation gain on the back end of Johnston Ridge to the Loowit Viewpoint and eventually the Johnston Ridge Observatory.
But on this hike, you’ll want to continue on the trail, where multiple points ahead offer sweeping views of the valley and the North Fork Toutle River with more hummocks throughout than you can count. Make sure you have a set of binoculars because you never know what animals you might see along this trail! Elk have been known to roam this area, and they’re a majestic reminder of life’s ability to regenerate just three decades after the devastating blast.
Some of the best views of Mount St. Helens are had along this trail, and it’s the perfect opportunity for youngsters in the family to say they got to hike in the immediate area of the volcano without tiring themselves too badly.
Allow a good hour to tour the trail and see everything it has to offer, but don’t make it your only stop at the Mount St. Helens area!
How to get there: From Chehalis, take Interstate 5 south to Exit 63. Take a left on State Route 505 and follow it through to where it intersects with SR 504. Take another left and continue beyond the Science and Learning Center at Coldwater by bearing right at the interchange toward Johnston Ridge. Go about another 2 miles, just beyond the turn for Coldwater Lake. On your right will be the Hummocks Trail parking lot.