One of the peaks that took the blast from the Mount Saint Helens eruption in 1980
, Mt. Margaret, as you can imagine is just across Spirit Lake
from the north side of that more famous volcano. Located in the Mt. Margaret Backcountry
, this mountain is one of the more popular ones in the area. It's a fairly basic hike, accessed from either the east or west, with only a short scramble the last dozen or so feet to the summit. As you also can surmise, the views from Mr. Margaret allow you to look into the breach of St. Helens as well as down onto the area of devastation
between. It is interesting to note how the area has rebounded, yet, the myriad of downed tree trunks, looking like toppled toothpicks, is a constant reminder of that fateful day (if looking into a half blown-away volcano wasn't enough already).
As mentioned, one can access this peak from either the west or east. From the west, you would more than likely start out at Johnston Ridge Observatory
and hike the Boundary Trail
east and then north to St. Helens Lake
until finally heading east to just below the summit. It would be about 16 miles round trip for this route. One could also potentially start at either the Coldwater Ridge Visitor Center
, Lakes Trailhead or South Coldwater Trailhead (all just off Road 504) hike to Ridge Camp and then up to the Boundary Trail just south of St. Helens Lake but this would add more mileage. From the east, you could start from either Independence Pass
or Norway Pass
Trailhead, which meet on the Boundary Trail a bit further west and travel that on west to the same point just south of the summit. The eastern route is less mileage. Both of these approaches basically just hikes around Spirit Lake from different sides. See the "Trail Network" section of this page
for a good visual of these trails.
Both approaches are pretty special and offer a unique view and hike in the middle of the Cascades where one would expect heavy fir forests and occasional views. One feels like you are hiking in the dry Rockies as it is so open, but, just give the area some time. Barring another eruption, this place is slowly heading back to the way nature intended it to be.
To get to the Johnston Ridge Observatory for the western approach:
Take I-5 to Castle Rock exit 49 and follow Highway 504 for 52 miles to its end at the Johnston Ridge Observatory.
(If you want to visit the Observatory, there is an $8 admission and it's open from April 26 to September 26 from 10 am to 6 pm daily.
To get to Norway Pass for the eastern approach:
From I-5, take exit 68 and follow Rt 12 ~47mi to Randle. Turn off right onto Rd 25 (signed for Windy Ridge) and follow south ~13mi before turning right again onto Rd 99 (also signed). Follow the road into the outer blast zone of the Monument for 9.2mi, turning right onto Rd 26 and continue ~1mi to the Norway Pass trailhead on the left.
Parking is free at the Johnston Ridge Visitor Center for the eastern approach. Note that pets are not allowed on the trails here though. There are no food services at Johnston Ridge Visitor Center. Also, note that Coldwater Ridge Visitor Center is closed to conserve resources.
At the Norway Pass Trailhead, a Northwest Forest Pass
CampingCampground along Highway 504
There are also many campsites in the Mt. Margaret Backcountry along the Boundary Trail, see the Trail Network map
here again to see where they are located along the trail.
Here is a website
that has more details on the specific campsites and what they offer.
Please note for the western approach there is no water along the way until you get to St. Helens Lake at the foot of Coldwater Peak.
Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument