South Coldwater Ridge


Day Hike - South Coldwater Ridge

Experience the impact of the 1980 eruption of Mt. St. Helens by hiking through the blast zone, onto a ridge with logging equipment relics, a spectacular view of the mountain and a lunch spot with a panoramic view of Coldwater Lake, continuing down to the north end of the lake and a rest stop and possible swim at a sandy beach, then completing the loop around the lake to the trailhead, where we finish with a short car shuttle.

  • Moderate
  • Mileage: 9.7 mi
  • Elevation Gain: 1,380 ft
  • High Point Elevation: 4,000 ft
  • Pace: 2.0 mph

Meet at 9 AM at the Coldwater Lake Boat Launch parking lot, reached by taking Exit 63 eastbound from I-5, onto SR 505 through Toledo to its T junction with SR 504, where you turn left and continue to the left turn into the Coldwater Lake parking lots.  Continue around the loop to the second parking lot, by the boat launch.  A Northwest Forest Pass, or the equivalent, must be displayed by each car parked there.

This is a loop hike with a car shuttle.  At the Coldwater Lake Boat Launch parking lot we will use the nice restrooms located there and then caravan in half our cars to the nearby trailhead for the South Coldwater Ridge hike, leaving the other cars at the meeting place for the car shuttle at the end of the hike.  With cooperative weather, this hike has multiple attractions:  1. a spectacular view of Mt. St. Helens from the ridge top, 2.  several relics of logging equipment destroyed by the eruption, 3.  a lunch stop with a panoramic view of Coldwater Lake, 4. a rest stop at a sandy beach at the north end of the lake providing swimming opportunities,  5.  finishing on a lakeside trail with continuous views of the lake, and observing the impact of the eruption throughout the hike. 

After the hike, we will have time to drive to the Johnston Ridge Observatory to see exhibits and presentations there before they close at 6 PM.  Entrance to the Observatory requires presenting a Northwest Forest Pass or the equivalent at the entrance for each four people, but no pass need be displayed by cars parked in the parking lot there.  On the drive home we will have an optional dinner stop at the Fireside Grill,  which got good reviews from last year's hiking group.

If you participate in all the above activities, plan to return home late in the evening.


South Coldwater Ridge

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  • See full route/place details.
Required Equipment

Required Equipment

The Ten Essentials

  1. Navigation
  2. Sun protection
  3. Insulation (extra clothing)
  4. Illumination
  5. First aid supplies
  6. Fire
  7. Repair kit and tools, including knife
  8. Nutrition (extra food)
  9. Hydration (extra water)
  10. Emergency shelter
Trip Reports