Hike description: Yes, this is a bit of a drive. But well worth it. Combined with an overnight stay, either in a backcountry camp or a local motel, this trip will expand your hiking vistas.
The trail meanders along Siouxon Creek, a real treasure. When you can’t see the creek you will hear it. There are lots of campsites along the trail, again within sight and/or sound of the creek. The trail is gentle enough and the campsites inviting enough to make this a good family backpacking destination.
Wander and explore the trail and the river’s edge, finding places to sit and listen to the water, have a snack, take a nap, plan future trips. When you get to a water crossing over Siouxon Creek that is more daunting than you want to manage, you can turn around without worrying that you’ve been shortchanged. From here the trail gains significant elevation only to deposit you at another Forest Service road. Admire the water, mull over how one might get across and still be dry on the other side and then turn around and head back, stopping to enjoy the vistas from this direction.
Directions: Drive to the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument headquarters on state Route 503, between the towns of Amboy and Cougar. Go east on Healy Road which becomes Forest Service Road 54 in 2.4 miles. Nine miles from the headquarters go left on Road 5.7. In 1.2 miles go left again on road No. 5701. At 11 miles from headquarters you will pass the old trailhead. At 14 miles from headquarters you will reach the end of the road and the new trailhead, elevation 1,500 feet.
Difficulty rating: 2 (1 is easiest, 5 is most difficult)
Miles round-trip: 6
Elevation: 400 feet
Best time of year: May-November
Map: Green Trails 396 Lookout Mountain
Pass: Northwest Forest Pass
Also: Keep yourself safe by being properly prepared and in condition for your trips. Always carry the 10 Essentials on day hikes and overnight trips. Be cautious about attempting water crossings that will only be more difficult later in the day when you attempt to return to your starting point. Rushing streams full of snowmelt can be deceptively fast and strong. Practice Leave No Trace and help keep the trails neat and clean for all to enjoy by packing out all of your trash and anything else you find that others have left.
Info: Contact ranger station for current pass information and trail and road conditions. Mount St. Helens Volcanic Monument headquarters in Amboy, 360-449-7800; Mount Adams Ranger District, Trout Lake, 509-395-3400; Gifford Pinchot National Forest website, www.fs.fed.us/gpnf/index.shtml; “Day Hiking South Cascades,” Mountaineers Books.
Hike of the Week is presented by The Mountaineers Tacoma Branch Hiking/Backpacking Committee.