September 5, 2010
Location: Mt. St. Helens, Loowit Trail #216
Region: South Cascades- Mt. St. Helens
Agency: Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument
Guide Books and Maps:
Mount St. Helens NVM Trail Guide
Schematic Trail Map
NW Forest Pass Required
The Loowit Trail is in good condition in some areas and great in others. By following the pink, blue and orange tape and the tread itself you’ll have little trouble following this wonderful trail.
Our hike started at the June Lake TH #216B. The trail has a slight grade except for the few switch backs at the end, just after the lake. If you have kids or a dog hiking up to June Lake to see the waterfall will be fairly easy for all. Past the lake the real adventure begins.
Our hike of the Loowit was in the clockwise direction. Very shortly after getting on the Loowit Trail you encounter your first test, the lava. The rocks are sharp and you’ll be on them for a while. Some are loose so watch where you step. At mile 3.1 after being in the trees a while you’ll come to the Climbers Bivouac Tr# 216A.
It’s a relative quick 2.5 miles further on to Butte Camp Tr#238A. You’ll pass through a few wooded areas but for the most part you’ll be out in the open and exposed. The next 2.8 miles to Tr# 240 is slower due to the up and down nature of the terrain.
After Tr#240 you traverse Crescent Ridge and just north of the impact line from the 1980 explosion you turn west losing elevation while descending through a beautiful forest. As you exit the forest you almost immediately see the South Fork of the Toutle River and the massive gorge it has dug over the years. If you keep your eyes open for the pink, blue and orange flagging you should be able to find your way down to the river okay. Crossing the river isn’t too hard but those with large packs may have to get their feet wet. Finding the trail on the other side was probably the hardest all day but if you just get yourself up and out of the gorge, then worry about where the trail is you’ll find that the flagging is really easy to find.
The turn at Tr# 216G is a bit tricky since the arrows point in odd directions. You’ll want to take a right at the sign post. From here the tread gets easier until the area around the Muddy River. At mile 15 you’ll come to Tr# 207A after crossing a vast exposed area on your way around the north side of the mountain and the Breach. This is a restricted zone so you can not leave the trail or camp here.
At Tr# 207A you make a right and make one of your largest single climbs on the loop up to the junction of Tr# 216F, which leads to Loowit Falls. The next 2 miles of so is fairly easy hiking, until you get to the short climb up Windy Pass. Make two switch backs and your down onto the Plains of Abraham.
The Plains offer your legs a break with flat easy hiking. Once around Pumice Butte (mile 20) the easy hiking is over and you start the up and down roller coaster along the SE side of the mountain. This section is just like that of the SW between Butte Camp and Sheep Canyon. Though once you hit the Worm Flows the lava starts again and the tread gets tough.
5.5 miles after Pumice Butte your back to the June Lake Trail, #216B and your loop is complete. Enjoy your the descent back to the car, stopping at June Lake to admire the falls.
Water was not an issue as we hit many streams along the way. If it’s sunny bring lots of sun screen.
Rivers, Waterfalls, Mountain views, Ridges/passes, Gorges, Established campsites
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Photos, Video, and Hike Report, here.
Get out there!