South Coldwater Trail to Lakes Trail is a 18.7 mile lightly trafficked loop trail located near Toutle, WA that features a lake and is rated as moderate. The trail is primarily used for hiking and is accessible from June until September.
Directions from Iron Creek: Follow Forest Route 25 south for approximately five miles to Forest Route 99. Follow 99 southwest past Miner's Car Interpretive Site, to Primary Forest Route 26. Follow 26 north to the Norway Pass trailhead. Take the Boundary Trail #1 west (approximately 5-6 miles) to Coldwater Trail.
awesome view of Mt. st. Helen's from the top
Always enjoy this hike. The out and back along the lake is good for families. The complete loop would be hard for younger children . There is no right or wrong time of year for this hike but early spring could see the higher parts of the trail still covered in snow. Watch for Elk.
Today my family and I started at the South Cold Water Lake trail head and walked the first 3 miles of the loop. The elevation increase from this starting point was 1220 feet. The trail at times was a little narrow and at one small location a little dangerous for smaller kids. A hard right hand turn going up with a steep drop off. Otherwise, a safe and fun hike for the entire family. Tremendous amounts of wild flowers, strawberries, huckleberries, and 1 nice bull elk. Also great views and a nice trapped in time view of the logging equipment from May 18th, 1980. We did not have enough time to complete the entire loop so we returned back after hitting the Ridge Camp. Kids age 6 and 7. Travel time " Up- 2 hours" , Down - 40 minutes
This loop is a tail of two hikes. The north side of the loop is relatively level - in hiking terms. It has great lakeside views and as you get towards the north end of the lake you get to see geology at work as you hike through a rock slide area. The fan of the slide spreading into the lake is easily seen from google earth. The north side of the loop was being maintained on the day we hiked it. I think the Washington Trails Association was the group doing all the heavy lifting. Thanks volunteers, you did great. At the far north end of the lake you cross a very sturdy footbridge - and start going up - through lots of dense and in some places, head high vegetation. The trail becomes narrow and is seriously overgrown. Wear pants, you wont regret it. After about roughly an hour you emerge from the Pacific Northwest jungle and end up on a well worn trail. You'll be about 1000 feet above the lake and have great views of blown down forest, the lake and you'll stumble across the occasional destroyed logging equipment, remnants of that day in May 1980. The trail is virtually vegetation free at this point and now you begin the descent. Trek poles would be a good idea for the last two miles. Overall this is a fairly good workout, its well worth it, so happy trails.
I have hiked this trail several times and have loved it every time. The cliffs and the beaches make it refreshing to hike but the best was hiking up the creek past the foot bridge up the hill to meet the forest rangers dynamiting the rock to further the trail. After their days work my wife and I caught backup with them for some coffee and shared some stories of great hikes off this trail. Now sadly to say that my vertigo is keeping me from doing any high cliff trails. Breaking ones legs again is not something I want to do. But still that hike was alot of fun, even sharing laughs with the emergency room doctors as they put a cast on my leg.
My husband and I had hiked Coldwater Trail on one side of the lake as an out and back hike, once before. This second trip we wanted to hike the Coldwater Lake loop starting at the South Coldwater Lake trailhead. We parked at the Birth of a Lake trailhead and walked about a mile down the highway to the South Coldwater Lake trailhead so that we would end our hike at our car and the bathrooms at the boatramp --and so we would not have to hike down the highway at the end of the hike. The south side of Coldwater lake begins through a forested area then comes out onto an exposed area. You keep hiking upward on a gradual incline until you finally reach the ridgeline. It's quite exposed so be sure and have some protection, a hat or whatever. About 4 miles into the hike you'll come around a hillside and you'll be able to see Coldwater Peak to your right. We went in September so there were a lot of elk tracks on the trail (no elk though) and the elk had obviously been busy because there were no huckleberries left either except for two lone bushes. After the junction the trail starts it's descent down toward Coldwater Creek. The trail was very overgrown and the descent was a lot longer than we thought it would be. Finally we reached the bridge over the creek and from there we the trail was shady for awhile before we reached the landslide. There's a nice stream along the shady part, probably spring-fed and made for a nice mid-way resting spot. The rest of the trail runs low and along the lake. While it is mostly forested, the exposed parts are made sunnier because of the reflection off the lake. When we hiked through this side of the lake in June the streams were a little harder to cross and the trail was a lot muddier, it was also raining off and on. This time it was drier and the streams were low making the trail just a little easier to hike. I don't know if I'd do the whole loop hike again. Now I know why the ranger told us that not too many people hike the south side of the lake. The south side was worth it for the beautiful views of the lake and the heavy logging equipment wreckage but not necessarily worth a revisit because it was so exposed and overgrown.
By the way, if you park at the South trailhead you don't need a pass and can park for free but if you park at the Coldwater Lake trail/Birth of a Lake trailhead, you'll need a pass.
Stunning views of devestation area. Tasty huckleberries in September. Beautiful lake created by Mt St Helens eruption with reflections of forested and blown down hills on three sides. Half of trail is low and forested along the shore and half includes some elevation gain and a bit of exposure when it climbs the bluff for views of St Helens and the valley beyond. Check out the upside down bulldozer leftover from the blast up on the hill.