Backpack - Coldwater Peak

Trip

Backpack - Coldwater Peak

Beat the Memorial Day weekend traffic with this early season midweek trip. We will hike into the western portion of the Mt Margaret backcountry on the north side of Mt St Helens approaching from the northwest side of Coldwater Lake. We will camp two nights at Ridge Camp, do some spectacular day hiking on the second day and on the third day end the trip by hiking out along the north shore of Coldwater Lake. Solitude and seclusion is almost for certain guaranteed as the trip is by permit only and we should have Ridge Camp to ourselves. THIS IS A LEADER PERMISSION REQUIRED TRIP AND NO PERMISSION REQUESTS WILL BE ACCEPTED BEFORE REGISTRATION OPENS!

Info
COVID-19: Learn about our most up-to-date guidance for participants and leaders on our COVID-19 Response page. All participants and leaders must agree to the COVID-19 Code of Conduct before participating in this Mountaineers activity.
  • Moderate
  • Challenging
  • Mileage: 19.0 mi
  • Elevation Gain: 4,000 ft
  • High Point Elevation: 5,700 ft
  • Pace: 2.25 mph

Meet at the Lakes Trail trailhead located at the boat launch at the northwest end of Coldwater Lake.   

10:30am  READY TO HIKE  

No pass is required for parking.

Driving southbound on I-5 take exit 63 onto state highway 505 towards Toledo.  In approximately 16 miles turn left onto state highway 504 (also known as the Spirit Lake Highway).  In about 28 miles arrive at Coldwater Lake and follow the signs for the boat launch parking.  It is well marked and easy to find.

This is a very unique backpack trip providing great views of not only looking down on Coldwater Lake but also the blast zone from the 1980 eruption.  Early season is a terrific time to view the volcano as there is still considerable snow remaining up in the dome and on the surrounding peaks adding to the beauty as opposed to the hot, dry and barren conditions of later in the season.  Being early season we will likely have some snow travel and that will be primarily on our day hiking on the second day. 

COVID -19:  We will adhere to the Mountaineer’s protocol.  All participants are required to have face masks and hand sanitizer.  We will wear masks when gathered at camp, at the trailhead, stopping on the trail and when passing other hikers or being passed.  We will maintain social distance at 6 feet the best that we can and all are encouraged to wear masks as much as possible.

ROUTE:  Day #1  Tuesday   We will start at 2,600 ft at the trailhead at the northwest end of Coldwater Lake and hike up the South Coldwater trail to the junction with the Coldwater trail.  From here we go west on the Coldwater trail for a half a mile to Ridge Camp (roughly 4,100 ft) where we will set up our camp for two nights.  Total distance from the trailhead to camp is 5 miles with a cumulative elevation gain of roughly 1,700 ft.  Note that our route which is a loop will require one mile of walking on the road which we will do at the very start of the trip to get it out of the way.  It is walking from the Lakes Trail trailhead where we will finish the trip to the South Coldwater Lake trailhead.  From here we will get on a trail and it is 4 miles to Ridge Camp with fantastic views looking down on Coldwater Lake as well as great mountain views looking deep into the Mt Margaret backcountry plus great views of Mt St Helens and the lava dome.

Day #2   Wednesday   Since the plan is to camp two nights at Ridge Camp we will spend a portion of day #2 day hiking west on the Coldwater trail to the Boundary trail and then take a short spur trail to the top of Coldwater Peak.  This day hike from Ridge Camp is 7 miles round trip.  It is possible that there may be too much snow to safely venture to the top of Coldwater Peak (5,700 ft) but even without going to the top of the peak the scenery is spectacular from the Boundary trail looking down on Spirit Lake and St Helens Lake.  There are also other close in areas we can hike to such as 5,000 foot Blastzone Butte.

Day #3  Thursday   We will pack up camp and get a relatively early start and hike back to the trailhead but on the return we will complete the loop around the lake.  To do this we will hike the Coldwater trail from Ridge Camp back down to the South Coldwater trail junction, go right or northeast and descend back down to lake level.  There we will loop around the northeast end of the lake and then hike the north shore back to the trailhead along the Lakes trail.  Total distance this day will be 8 miles with relatively easy downhill and lots of flat hiking along the lake. 

 OTHER:  Ridge Camp is located in an area that was heavily impacted by the 1980 eruption and therefore it is not protected with tree growth and is directly exposed to the rain and wind if that were to happen.  There is also no protection from the sun making it not very desirable during the heat of summer but being late May and at 4,100 feet the temperature should be quite pleasant.  In the right conditions it is a fantastic place to camp.  Since there is not much in the way of tree growth it may be very difficult to find a place to hang your food so it may be helpful to have a bear canister or Ursack to protect your food.

Also, Ridge Camp is a dry camp later on in the summer but being early season there should be good runoff from the snowfields above Ridge Camp.  If not good runoff, I know there will be snowfields and I will carry my lightweight avalanche shovel just in case we need to melt snow for water.  Plan to carry a bit of extra fuel for this purpose.  

Micro-spikes and trekking poles are required.  There may possibly be a snowfield or two to cross in route to Ridge Camp.  Ridge Camp itself will be melted out as it has direct sun exposure.  It is then likely that we will need the micro-spikes and poles during our day hiking on the second day as we will be at higher elevations. 

The trails are not abnormally steep but more moderate in nature but may definitely be challenging if snow covered which will be the case for a portion of day hiking on day #2.   For this reason I rate the trip as challenging.

Following is a link to a map of the route:

https://www.gaiagps.com/public/Oh4HWSoV51PGgXS5Fi2ya8G2

I will be following up with more details via email as we get closer to the dates of the trip.

AS ALREADY MENTIONED THIS IS A LEADER PERMISSION TRIP.  DO NOT SEND ME LEADER PERMISSION REQUESTS UNTIL THE REGISTRATION OPENS!  IN THE REQUEST PLEASE TELL ME WHAT YOU HAVE BEEN DOING OVER THE LAST FEW MONTHS AND RECENT EXPERIENCE TO MAKE YOU A GOOD MATCH FOR THIS TRIP.  ALSO, PLEASE MAKE SURE THAT YOU ARE COMFORTABLE HIKING IN MICRO-SPIKES WITH YOUR FULL PACK.  AND, FINALLY, BE SURE THAT YOU ARE OKAY WITH CAMPING IN A LOCATION LIKE RIDGE CAMP PER MY DESCRIPTION ABOVE.

Route/Place

Coldwater Peak, Harry's Ridge & Pumice Plain



  • Green Trails Mount St Helens NVM No. 332S

    Green Trails Spirit Lake No. 332

    Green Trails Mt St Helens No. 364
  • See full route/place details.
Roster
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
  • Bear canister or extra stuff sack and cord designated for hanging food
  • Cooking pot/pan with plate and utensils
  • Toilet paper and shovel or blue bag to deal with waste
  • MICRO-SPIKES
  • TREKKING POLES
Trip Reports