12:27 pm - 59 degrees - blue sky and sunshine...
Yesterday was our Girl Scout troop’s family hike. I wanted to pick a hiking trail that no one had hiked yet and was fairly kid friendly. So I picked the Lava Canyon Trail #184.
|Here we go... 2+ hour drive to the Lava Canyon Trailhead!|
The Lava Canyon trail is a three-layer hike, each layer a little more challenging than the previous, through a stunning canyon carved into an ancient lava layer.
The rock formations in Lava Canyon are remnants of a Mount Saint Helens lava flow that coursed down the Muddy River’s valley several thousand years ago. The basalt lava fractured into a honeycomb of pillar-like columns as it cooled. When the river then cut down through the flow it carved waterfall chutes and left free-standing lava towers.
Later stream debris buried the formations until Mt St Helens erupted again on May 18, 1980 when the heat destroyed Shoestring Glacier, triggering a massive lahar (mudflow) that swept through the area at over 100 miles an hour, washing everything out but leaving a lifeless, mud-caked landscape in its wake.
Nature finds its own way of recovering what is lost. The transformation at Mount St Helens is amazing; what once was a barren landscape of destruction is now bursting with new growth.
The unique Lava Canyon trail wanders through this geological phenomenon in a beautiful way. The views around every turn are amazing! In addition to the breathtaking views, you also get to climb metal staircases, cross bridges, and climb ladders.
A sign at the trailhead marks the three-sections like a ski map – green for “easiest”, blue for “more difficult”, and black for “most difficult”. Since our fun lovin’ group of 26 people, had an age range of 4 years old to 60+ years old, we choose to only do the first two sections which is a 1.3 mile loop with a 300-foot elevation gain.
The first “easy” section is a paved ADA path that leads 0.4 miles to an overlook, but it gets more challenging when the pavement ends.
The second “more difficult” section was definitely not as kid friendly as the first section since parts of the path are very close to cliff edges, and the steep wet rock was extremely slippery. There are signs everywhere stating that over the years, there have been fatalities from hikers getting too close to the edge, slipping, and falling into the raging creek and waterfalls below. Even with all the warning signs, the second section includes the 125-foot cable suspension bridge, so we continued on.
The 125-foot cable suspension bridge can be an intense experience for those who are not comfortable with heights. You can turn around and hike back if the bridge just isn’t your thing. Even though a few people in our group do not love heights, I am happy to say that everyone crossed the bridge!
|The swaying cable suspension bridge was AWESOME!!!|
|125-foot Cable Suspension Bridge!!!|
After we had all crossed the bridge we looked for and found our first Geocache of the day!
|Geocache Hot Lava GCG632 - Found it!|
At this point we continued around the loop and back to our cars.
Below the bridge, for the more adventurous hikers without small children, you can continue downstream where the trail drops more dramatically and sometimes leaves hikers exposed. Eventually, the trail arrives at a point where hikers must descends a dizzying 30-foot ladder if they wish to continue. A bit further down the canyon, a 0.2-mile spur trail visits (via another ladder) a lava outcrop viewpoint called The Ship. Turn around here for an uphill return to your car.
|Geocache Lahar Viewpoint GC3Q2XY - EarthCache, Found it!|