Mt. Saint Helens - Mt. Margaret Backcountry Loop

I did a 3-day, 2-night loop from the Norway Pass TH. I went to the Lakes Trail, followed that through to Coldwater Lake, up the Coldwater Trail to the Boundary Trail and back to Norway Pass TH. About 26 miles in 3 days: 8, 11, 7, so the out days were fairly easy - to take the drive into account. The weather varied quite a bit, as you will see below.

A shorter loop of 15 miles or so could be done with the Whittier Ridge trail, but it is advertised as being very rough, so I didn't want to commit to do it with a backpack. But I did scope it out and it would probably be okay - they have a rough reroute on the ruined section on the north end. Both loops would probably be great for our intrepid trail runners.

I left home in White Salmon at 8am and taking the various forest roads was on the trail at 10:45. It was mixed cloudy and sunny the first day, more clouds than sun. Here is my first view of Spirit Lake from near Norway Pass.

The floating logs formed a very straight line, but they shift around a lot, as you will see from my photo on the way out. Fairly soon after this, I was on the Lakes Trail and behind the Mt Margaret Ridge. No views of the peak, but a series of small lakes back there.

The old trees and new on the ridge can make for quite a contrast.

Here is my first camp at Snow Lake, the last of the lakes in this area. I got a nice 30 minute period of bright sun when I got there, but that was it for the day (last Saturday). It dropped into the mid 40's overnight.

The terrain has some prominent rock faces and the colors were starting. Here's a couple of shots from the area near Coldwater Lake.


so far, I had repeatedly heard elk bugling, but failed to spot them. Finally I had a good view.

Coming around the ridge, I had a great view of St. Helens Lake with what I think are huckleberries. These are hichleberries, aren't they? I ate them and didn't get sick.


And St. Helens Lake with Spirit behind it.

Finally I got to Dome Camp.

After making camp and getting some hot fluids in me - it was cloudy and chilly all day - I laid down in the tent to read a bit of my National Geographic at about 4pm. An hour later I noticed some blue sky outside of the tent. In that one hour, virtually all the clouds had dissipated and I had a mostly clear sky! The ridge to the north looked a lot different with sun on it.

This is the magic of a trip like this. The nights are getting long. It gets dark early. It was cold and chilly. Then the sun comes out so suddenly making for one of those magical late afternoons and evenings in the mountains. Sitting on the ridge, all bundled up, taking all this in.


It was a great evening, but the night got cold. There was frost on my tent fly in the morning, though the water bottle outside had no ice. If there is one consolation to the longer nights, it's that you don't have to get up so early for sunrise shots. Note the tiny smoke plume in the middle.

I got a bit slower start in the morning, but it was a nice hike out. I took a break on top of Mt. Margaret, with views of the other three volcanoes. I saw/heard another band of elk. That bugling sound is quite strange, not what I would expect from such an animal.

Here is the last view of Spirit Lake an hour from the trailhead. Note how the logs have shifted.

I saw one backpacking pair during the trip and a couple of dayhikers a few hundred yards from the end.When I got back to the car about noon, it was sunny and hot and the beer I had left on my front seat was ice cold.