Boundary Trail from the West

Page Type
Washington, United States, North America
Route Type:
Summer, Fall
Time Required:
Most of a day
Hike with short scramble
Rock Difficulty:
Class 3

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Boundary Trail from the West
Created On: Oct 24, 2010
Last Edited On: Oct 24, 2010


This route begins at the Johnston Ridge Observation Center at the end of Highway 504. Initially, you will cross open land heading east and gaze into the breach on the northern side of St. Helens bumping up and down the hills. The route then turns north and climbs snaggy hills until you get up and over the ridge to a small protected slope by Coldwater Peak. The route goes around St. Helens Lake at the base of Coldwater Peak and then turns east again to climb the ridge to Mt. Margaret. This is a popular hiking trail and well worth the effort. Views of St. Helens, especially this side of it, are astounding as is the continuous reminder of the dangerous ground you tread as evidenced by the fallen trees and open slopes which were blasted in the 1980 eruption.

It's a fairly easy hike with no shortage of views, a rock arch you hike through, beautiful lakes and potential for seeing elk. The last hundred yards or so are off trail followed by a short (10-15 foot high) Class 3 pinnacle scramble to the summit. Pinnacles and crags abound and the view down the ridge to Mt. Whittier makes you wish you had more time (and maybe you do).

Total distance is 18.4 miles round trip with about 1700-1800 feet of elevation.

Getting There

See the Getting There section of the Main Page for directions to the trailhead. Start at the NE end of the parking lot (unless you want to do the .4 mile long Eruption Trail and visit the viewpoint of St. Helens-you don't really need to, you'll get great views as you hike along this route).

Route Description

Follow the Boundary Trail east along Johnston Ridge. (Named for David Johnston the Forest Service observer stationed here when the eruption occurred) Travel 1.9 miles to a great viewpoint at a sharp left turn on the trail (it's obvious). From there, the trail heads northeasterly into more vegetated gullies before a junction is met with the Truman Trail. Stay left here and travel another mile to Harry's Saddle, a viewpoint between ridges with a great view of Spirit Lake.

From Harry's Saddle continue north on the trail for two miles up a ridge with some switchbacks to Point 5332.

The trail heads around the west side of the subpeak and ducks down through a natural rock arch to another junction with the Coldwater Trail #230. Stay right here another .4 miles along the east slopes of Coldwater Peak (between it and St. Helens Lake). From here, ignore the trail to the left (unless you are also hiking up to the summit of Coldwater Peak) and angle off to the right. The trail now slowly traverses and ascends the ridge heading east to Mt. Margaret. There are many pinnacles along the way, keep heading east for 3.4 miles until the trail traverses under the actual summit of Mt. Margaret. Refer to the picture below:

If you follow the ridgeline coming in from the left and continue that line to the right, at the point where it hits the horizon is about where you want to exit the trail and head up through mostly open slopes to the summit. You could also hed up the other side which is more open but slightly steeper with gullies and grooves to maneuver, the west side of more open and easier.

Once you get up on the ridge, you will see this pinnacle:

Easy Class 3 in multiple spots, just find the way up that works for you. It's maybe 10-15 feet of scrambling.

Descend the same way.

Essential Gear

None needed but note that aside from St. Helens Lake, there is no water available. Pets are not allowed in this area either.

External Links

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Boundary Trail from the West

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