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Mt. St. Helens’ Incredibly Scenic Loowit Falls Trail Experience
I am a traveler and an explorer at heart, I feel best when sitting in an airport terminal waiting for a flight or traveling in a town I’ve never been in. I enjoy the freshness and the new experiences of seeing things that I have never seen before. That is why I enjoy spending time at Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument. I’m a city kid and enjoy the city immensely but there is something to be said about the awe and grandeur of Gods natural creation. The incredible forms on this planet. They can make a 300 pound man feel tiny, and make us all hold our breath in the face of rugged beauty and incredible strength.
Mt. St. Helens is a wonder at any sight, which is why I was happy to move within easy traveling distance to the mountain. I have visited many times, but last month me and a long time friend, let’s call him Mike, decided to do something we had wanted to do for a while now, walk out onto the mountain.
We chose the Loowit Falls Trail for this expedition and man was it ever a good choice. The entire round trip (and we didn’t know this until we finally made it back to the car) was roughly 8.5 miles in length so if you choose this path, it is a longer one. The best time to go for sure is the beginning of August. Most the snow will have melted by this point and the chances of having the trip on a clear day are greatly improved. The beginning of the trail is at the Windy Ridge parking lot, unless you want to start it at Johnston Ridge in which case you can double the length of the trip. Windy Ridge has an incredible scenic view all by itself, but trust me when I say it gets much better. There is a gate over a continuing dirt road at the far end of the parking lot. That is the starting point of the Loowit Falls trail.
Before you take off remember to have a few things in your pack:
- Lots of water-I took 3 large bottles of water with me and almost drank them all by the time I got back
- Sunscreen (I still got burnt on my neck)
- A hat to keep the sun out of your eyes and cover balding heads (mine)
- Comfortable hiking shoes-I had Timberlands that were 6 years old and they were not comfortable!
- Food-this trip took about 5.5 hours so there is a good chance you’re going to get hungry.
- A camera-at least bring something to capture the beauty of this expedition.
- Some shades to keep the sun out-me and my friend, (lets call him Funzoe) regretted not having any sunglasses.
- Batteries and flashlights-for just in case.
- First Aid Kit-always a good choice.
The beginning of the road is an uphill jaunt that lasts for about half a mile and then starts going downhill. So right off the bat for a bigger guy (me) it’s a bit dificult, luckily the absolute breath taking views of a dizzyingly large valley are worthy of stopping for camera ops, and catching breath.
The dirt road that is the beginning of Loowit Falls trail is only open to cars driven by scientists, forest service officials and colleges who have permission to take some students out for projects or experiments. After around two and a quarter miles the road empties into a parking lot for said privileged individuals.
The sign at the parking lot has different trail information including the distance to Loowit Falls.
Now when my friend and I, (let’s call him MJ), planned out this trip, the information we got said to follow trail #216F. The fun thing is, there are maybe one or two signs on this journey that refer to any trail numbers at all so basically don’t worry about the number. All the signs we came across just said Loowit Falls and pointed too the direction we were to go. It was not hard to follow.
When we got a ways away from the privileged parking lot we were treated to a beautiful view of Spirit Lake, and behind it in the distance we saw Mount Hood peaking out.
For the most part the trail is a very well cut path and is marked with poles and rock piles along the way, but there are a few times the trail disappears when going through some rock bed areas with large boulders. The trail is easily found just by casually looking around, and always picks up nearby without any lengthy search required.
Big Person Warning
Here is a warning for people who may not be in great shape (like I wasn’t). After you leave the second parking lot (let’s call it Privileges Car Depot.) the trail is mostly going to be an uphill endeavor. Now I, being 300 pounds at the time, only had to stop and rest about 3 or 4 times. That isn’t too bad for as long as the trip was but the constant going up really did wipe me out pretty good, and it was very hard exercise for me. My friend (let’s call him Special Kid) did much better and was only somewhat winded on this part of the trip. The only good thing about the going up is that on the way back you’re descending most of the way.
Now the journey to Loowit Falls takes you inside the blast zone, right underneath the blown out bowl of Mt. St. Helens and is just an incredible vista all the way around. This trail by far was one of the best scenic excursions that I have been on and I really recommend it for all those who want to see the mountain up close and experience its surroundings.
Finally at the end of the trail we were met with a beautiful waterfall ruggedly cutting down through the rock and sand. The trail ends at a rock face near, but not extremely close to, the waterfall. There was evidence that hikers had climbed up the rock face but I would not recommend doing that because the rock is very loose and the rock face is very steep. There are some rocks to sit on there and it is a good place to eat some lunch if you started early, or maybe have a rest and a snack. We opted for lunch because we started the trail at about 9:30am and it was around 11:30am when we got to the falls.
The trip back is a much easier and enjoyable one. You get to go downhill, Spirit Lake is to your left, the giant deformed volcano is to your right, and Mt. Adams is staring you dead in the face, a truly majestic and incredible sight. We had seen Mt. Adams on the way to the falls but it was something else to be walking towards the mountain, and it being constantly in our view. I kept having to stop and take pictures of the thing, and believe me the pictures do not do it justice. Mount Adams is much closer then Hood and looks just gigantic.
Again, if you’re not in the best shape (like the person typing this) then your fun times feel like being over once you get to the super pampered and privileged, "oooooh lets look at me and marvel at my glory", parking establishment that was strictly off limits to a commoner like myself (I kid the scientific and forest service community ). You may recall that at the beginning of the trip it was uphill for half a mile then downhill to the lot. Now you get to tread almost 2 miles going uphill. Don’t despair too much because this part is on a large road and not on a little trail. I felt it was much easier for me to travel uphill on the road then it was going uphill to the falls, and again the views are just fantastic.
This was a great trip that left me feeling tired but very happy to have seen and captured some of the prettiest natural scenery that I had witnessed in a long time. Again, I would recommend it to anyone who wants to see some incredible views, and get some exercise along the way.
Enjoy this planet, its beautiful!