Coldwater Lake

Trip

Backpack - Coldwater Lake

Backpack the Lakes Trail beside Coldwater Lake and then steeply climb into the Mt. Margaret Backcountry, passing Snow and Shovel Lake camps and spending the night at Panhandle Lake camp. Enjoy the wildflowers, views, and quiet of the Mt. Margaret Wilderness.

  • Strenuous
  • Challenging
  • Mileage: 20.2 mi
  • Elevation Gain: 6,740 ft
  • High Point Elevation: 5,207 ft
  • Pace: 1.5-2mph

Meet at the main Coldwater Lake Trailhead at 9:30am to be ready to hike by 9:45am. To get there take the I-5 exit for Castle Rock, drive State Route 504 east 43 miles. Stay right where State Route 504 forks towards the Johnston Ridge Observatory. Continue for 1 mile, turn left at Coldwater Lake Picnic and Boating Site. 

Each participant should reimbursement me $8 for the backcountry permit. There is no parking pass required at Coldwater Lake.

*Leaders Permission Required*. I will be looking for participants who have had or will have backpacking experience with trips 10+ miles with at least 4000 ft gain and can maintain a 2 mph pace. I will also be looking for participants who are committed to the trip if accepted as Mt. Margaret backcountry camps only allow reservations of four people or less. I have a permit for Panhandle Lake camp. It is important to me to have participants who enjoy hiking in a group and have patience for others on the trip. 

We will hike at a moderate 2 mph pace on the flat sections slowing down to 1.5 mph on the steeper sections and taking frequent breaks. We will stop for an extended lunch (~20 minutes). We will start hiking by 9:45am from the Coldwater Lake Trailhead along the west side of the lake for about 4 miles and then climb 4400 ft in the next 4.5 miles on the lakes trail, and pass by Snow and Shovel Lakes, aiming to get to camp at Panhandle Lake by 5:30pm.

On Sunday we will hike back the 10.1 miles we came up, enjoying the ridge and lakes on the way back down.

Route/Place

Coldwater Lake



  • Green Trails Mount St Helens NVM No. 332S

    Trails Illustrated Mt Saint. Helens/Mount Adams

    Green Trails Spirit Lake No. 332
  • See full route/place details.
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Required Equipment

Required Equipment

The Ten Essentials plus overnight gear which may include:

  • Tent with footprint/ground tarp
  • Stove and fuel
  • Sleeping bag
  • Sleeping pad
  • Water filter
  • Ursack for food storage
  • Cooking pot/pan with plate and utensils
  • Toilet paper and shovel or blue bag to deal with waste
  • Consider hiking poles for exposure
Trip Reports