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Mt. St. Helens Hiking: Birth Of A Lake Trail

Along the shoreline of Coldwater Lake, in the Mt. St. Helens National Monument, is Birth Of A Lake trail. The trail is paved, both family and wheelchair friendly, with overlook decks and a boardwalk over the lake, to enjoy vast views from. The trail is ¼ a mile each way, in and out, with the option to do an easy loop instead (that is 0.6 of a mile long). It’s not a long trail, but it is pretty and great for families.

The last time I had been to Coldwater Lake was in the summer of 2003. That trip Kirk had dropped Ford and I off at the South Coldwater Trail (about 1½ miles up the main road), and we walked the upper ridge to the head of the lake, then met Kirk for lunch (he kayaked the lake and met us at the one beach allowed at the end). Then Ford and I hiked the rest of the loop back, along the lake, to the boat launch area. That trail is 9½ miles long (and very much worth doing), but well, I was looking for a easier hike. It was very hot (in the 90’s), and we had already done an outing before.

We were thinking of where to picnic after visiting the Johnston Ridge area, and I thought about how cool and shady parts of Coldwater Lake were, so we drove down. When you enter the area, head to the right, for the picnic area and Birth of a Lake trailhead. The area has many picnic tables – in shady areas, garbage cans and some very awful designed bathrooms. It also has beach access to the lake for splashing. Which those two boys love to do.

You get views of Mt. St. Helens from the beach. The ridge in the distance is where the South Coldwater Trail climbs up (it has logging relics that survived the blast).

Looking up the lake, with a hummock in the distance, in the lake. The beach at the far end is not visible to the eyes.

We took the trail, and it meanders alongside the lake, poking out onto decks over the lake, and the last bit is a winding boardwalk.

Plenty of fish are visible, as are tadpoles.

These two kids love getting out if the hikes are this easy……

After retracing our steps on the boardwalk, we took a right to do the loop, instead of the in-and-out that most people do. This side is mostly through a deciduous woods, and is pleasant in the heat. There is a deck to visit, which overlooks the boat launch.

Take a left at the last junction (right goes to the other parking lot, at the boat launch). It drops you off near the bathrooms.

Because apparently the person(s) who designed this gem was later employed to design all the buildings for Star Trek Next Generation’s sets. Just saying. Or they escaped from the Logan’s Run movie set. Either way, the early 80’s were a special time. They are also airless heat pits to hang out in……

Thoughts on the hike? The area has changed so much in the past 15 years. When I was at the lake 15 years ago the old logging roads were still visible (Coldwater Creek ran deep in a valley, between two ridges, and was actively being logged when the mountain exploded). The old tracks ran into the lake, at odd angles. Now? You have to search for those tracks. Across the water I could barely make them out. 38 years after the explosion they are nearly healed.

~Sarah