Hike Mount St. Helens' Lava Canyon

Rate this Adventure 1.5 miles  - Out-and-Back Trail

Added by Ted S

Does a massive waterfall, cutting through a volcanic canyon that's surrounded by geological history sound like a fun adventure? Located right below Mount St. Helens, Lava Canyon combines all of these features and more into one short hike (with far more advanced offshoots) that is really a sight you, and your camera, have to see for yourself!

Caution: There have been fatalities around the canyon. Stay on the trail and pay close attention to your footing if you descend below the initial viewpoint.

Head downhill from the parking lot, following the paved / accessible trail which is marked along the way. After descending down just a few switchbacks, you'll leave the forest cover and see the waterfall viewing area ahead. It's only a short walk in total at less than a mile each way.

This is the end of the easy hike though you'll certainly want to explore around. Cross partway onto the steel bridge for a direct view down to the upper falls above you and the lower falls below you. Continue across for different perspectives of the canyon / river and more of the diverse PNW landscape that surrounds it.

For more adventurous hikers, you can continue down the trail to either side of the river to reach the 125-foot suspension bridge a little further down. While the hike there is also fairly short, it is steep and you'll want to be extra careful as you go; the trail is less a path and more worn in footsteps with wet and loose rock to navigate over as you navigate just alongside the high walls of the canyon.

The suspension bridge is well worth stopping for and makes a great photography spot though be mindful of other hikers, crossing with more than one at a time takes coordination.

It is possible to continue down to the lower parts of the canyon, technically still on a trail though the conditions continue to become more challenging according to the hike guide, especially in wet or cold periods. The complete advanced trail is around 1,600' of vertical gain over 5 miles (r/t).

Vault restrooms can be found at the trailhead. No water is available however. Given the fairly remote location of the canyon and exposed hike, plan to bring enough gear for a partial day outing.

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