Coldwater Lake


Day Hike - Coldwater Lake

Experience the impact of the 1980 eruption of Mt. St. Helens with a pleasant hike through the blast zone along the shore of Coldwater Lake, which was created by the eruption, with lunch at the sandy beach at the north end of the lake, and an opportunity to swim in the clean, warm water. After the hike, we'll drive the short distance to Johnston Observatory to take in the spectacular view of Mt. St. Helens and tour the exhibits.

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  • Moderate
  • Moderate
  • Mileage: 7.6 mi
  • Elevation Gain: 550 ft
  • High Point Elevation: 2,650 ft
  • Pace: 2.0 mph

Meet at 9:30 AM at the trailhead at the Coldwater Lake boat launch parking lot, where there are nice men's and women's restrooms with flush toilets and hot air blowers.  Each car parked there must display a Northwest Forest Pass or National Park Pass.  To drive there, take Exit 63 from I-5 eastbound onto SR 505 through Toledo, the last gas stop.  At the T junction, turn left onto SR 504 and continue to the turn to the left to the Coldwater Lake parking areas.  It is at the bottom of a hill, just before crossing a bridge.  Follow the one way loop road to the second parking lot (boat launch).


The 3.8 mile hike to our lunch spot at Sandy Beach is on a well maintained trail entirely along the lake shore, with the elevation gain divided evenly between before and after lunch.   Along the hiking route, we will see tree stumps and logs that predate the eruption, as well as lush vegetation that has grown since then. 

In addition to the trailhead restrooms, there are two composting outhouses at the one mile point from the trailhead.  There is no restroom facility at the lunch stop, but the thick vegetation by the beach provides privacy for bathroom breaks.

After the hike, we will drive the short distance to Johnston Observatory to view the spectacular view from there of Mt. St. Helens and view the exhibits.  A Northwest Forest Pass or National Park Pass admits four people into the building.  So no one should have to pay.

On the drive home there is the option for a dinner stop at the Fire Mountain Grill, where there is outdoor seating on their covered back deck with a view of the Toutle River.  Their specialty is peach cobbler. The restaurant is located on the site of the main logging camp serving the Mt. St. Helens area.  There is logging equipment on display left over from the old logging days.

This is a unique hike that you don't want to miss.  Plan on arriving back home late in the evening.


Coldwater Lake

  • Green Trails Mount St Helens NVM No. 332S

    Trails Illustrated Mt Saint. Helens/Mount Adams

    Green Trails Spirit Lake No. 332
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Required Equipment

Required Equipment

The Ten Essentials

  • Navigation
  • Headlamp
  • Sun protection
  • First aid
  • Knife
  • Fire
  • Shelter
  • Extra food
  • Extra water
  • Extra clothes
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