Winter’s harshness has ended, by calendar only. Keep your fingers crossed. If your like me, your screaming for spring, and especially summer!! Winter still has it’s many advantages and snowshoeing is one of them. I had been couped up for month and had to escape the concert jungle!! Calling REI, I rented a pair of snowshoes and headed off south to Mt St Helens. I decided to hit trail 211, Coldwater trail, in Mt. St. Helens National Monument. This trail starts at Coldwater Lake Recreation Area to the left of the boat launch.

The first 3 miles almost no elevation is gained besides some slight ups and downs as you hike along the pristine lake. You are close up and personal with the lake the whole 3 miles but access is only granted twice along the hike. The snow was plentiful at end of March except for a handful of spots. Creek crossings were numerous but they weren’t large and probably not existent is summer. As you hike towards the northeastern part of the lake the view of Mt. Margaret backcountry is constantly in view. Mt Minnie, Coldwater peak, The Dome, Mt Margaret and Mt Whittier make up the splendid view. Looking south Coldwater Ridge slashes down into Coldwater Lake. Elk prints and scat were everywhere and for one mile a herd of 20 followed me up above on the ridge. The end of the lake made for thick snow and my snowshoes fell 6 to 12 inches deep into the existing three foot of accumulation. As the lake ends you pass a marshy area where beavers had damned up a nice deep pool. At mile 4.2 trail 211 continues into Mt. Margaret Backcountry but to follow the Coldwater Lake loop take a right onto trail 230 which connects to trail 230A. The connection is 1.8 miles long and gains about 1,300 feet of elevation with many switchbacks. Snowshoeing is slower and more of a work out than hiking and as this point climbing elevation was intense but I knew magnificent views were about 3 miles ahead. After the switchbacks you will come to a T in the trail, take a right onto trail 230A which will guide you back to start of the lake. At this point you only have to gain about another 500 feet until you start to drop back down Coldwater Ridge. A mile and half from the T views of Mt. St. Helens will come into view.

As you stare into the jaws of the active volcano all time stops and you’ll become mesmorized. Descending down to the parking lot will take 3.7 miles from the T. This descent is awesome as views surround you. Take your time enjoying it all. Old logging machinery most likely destroyed by the eruption lay along the trail making for some unique pictures. Once you reach the parking lot for trail 230 a mile hike on hwy 504 is required to reach the parking lot at Coldwater Lake.

Directions: From southbound I-5 take exit 63 WA-505 Winlock Toledo. Turn left onto Hwy 505 and go 16.4 miles. Next take a left on hwy 504 and drive 31.3 miles to destination. Once in the national monument, signs guide you. From northbound I-5  take exit 49 WA-504 Castle Rock Toutle turn right on 504 and follow signs.

Season: Summer, Fall and Winter

Length round trip: 10 miles roundtrip

Difficulty: Moderate

Variety: Loop

Elevation Gain: 2500 ft – 4200 ft =1,700 ft total gain

Features:  Lake, mountain vistas, peak climbing, wildlife viewing, wildflowers, Fishing

Wildlife:  Deer, Elk, Beaver

Trailhead amenities: Picnic area, bathrooms, two parking lots, fish cleaning area, boardwalk, nature walk

Water Source: lake, river, and streams

Passes/Permits: Northwest Forest Pass is required to park or a day use pass.

Special Information: No camping is permitted on these trails unless hiking into the Mt Margaret Backcountry where a special permit is required.

Usage: Hikers, backpackers, snowshoers, mountain bikers

Agency: Mt. St. Helens National Monument

Map: Green Trails map- Spirit Lake number 332

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