Lava Canyon Trail

MODERATE 208 reviews

Lava Canyon Trail is a 5.9 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Cougar, Washington that features a waterfall and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from March until November. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

DISTANCE
5.9 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
1,309 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Out & Back

dogs on leash

birding

hiking

nature trips

trail running

walking

forest

river

views

waterfall

wild flowers

wildlife

snow

washed out

PARTIALLY REOPENED: Forest Road 83 open, upper loop snow-free. Lower section closed due to trail damage. Only a very small section is open. Please check park website for status updates.

hiking
1 day ago

I e only ever done the very short part of this hike where we loop back after the suspension bridge but this time we decided to go right and continue on. I looked at the map and I saw where we could stay in the Lava Canyon trail by keeping left at the bridge. Once we hit SCOTT trail we took a little break over looking the river. We decided to go down SCOTT trail u til it met up with the upper part of Lava Canyon trail. It is t marked but you can see the trail to the left. Also I knew it was only .3 of a mile. They really should put signage there. The upper trail is all up! Looks like an old Forrest access road overgrown. But we had to take a couple short breaks to rest. It’s over 3 miles up. I believe we climbed about 1204 feet. I could definitely say no dogs past the suspension bridge and this is definitely rated HARD in my book. Scary at times. I am glad I did it.

hiking
14 days ago

Absolutely beautiful!

29 days ago

Not for kids or dogs. Watch your footing as it gets very narrow in some spots. It was pouring rain when we went so we had to be extra cautious on the slopes and the ladder.

2 months ago

This hike really impressed us. We were looking for something a little bit different than the usual mountain hikes were used to, so we decided to give this trail a try. We really enjoyed that the trail was unique, in that you’re quite literally traversing down a canyon adjacent to magnificent gushing water and waterfalls. We enjoyed the views most on the lower portion of the trail, and especially loved the ladders...just got a kick out of those! All in all, we loved it and would definitely do it again!

2 months ago

Fantastic trail

hiking
2 months ago

Hiked this trail 7/7. Did the lower section first, which should be rated hard. It is not for small children, dogs, or anyone fearful of heights. I am none of those things but there were a couple of places on the trail that sped up my heartbeat!

As noted by another reviewer, several people have died on this trail, I imagine they went beyond the many signs telling them to stay on the trail. We saw quite a few people doing just that the day we were there. The ladder is tall but very sturdy. However, there is one place one the trail that is quite skinny and you also have to step up a couple of feet. Yikes!

Turned around at the bridge and back up the way we came down, then did the easy loop across the suspension bridge. The water is beautiful.

hiking
2 months ago

Multiple wonderful views of beautiful waterfalls, coupled with somewhat scary cliffs to traverse. There is plenty of solid ground at these points, the narrowest point being about a foot of trail, but it is quite a long way down. I highly recommend this hike as the environment is quite fantastic, but watch your little one's closely. If you are bringing a dog, these is a 30' steel ladder, nearly vertical, that you need to scale. Plan accordingly.

hiking
2 months ago

We did the whole trail. The top part of the difficult section was a little nerve racking for me since the ledge is thin and some loose dusty ground there. But it was well described.

Took us 2 hours round trip

2 months ago

Technically this trail is 3 modes of difficulty. You have options. The first is a paved interactive walk that has plenty of marked signage and history about the formation of Lava Canyon. It is wheelchair accessible and fairly straightforward.

The second trail is a loop. It is easy to moderate depending on what time of year you go. The trail gets slick in places. This is the portion of the trail that has the (amazing) 128 ft suspension bridge and the ladder. Its quick and I saw several families as we hiked. Kids love the suspension bridge. After the suspension bridge you can choose to go down and to the left which leads into the canyon or you can go up and to the right which continues the moderate loop you are already on.

Did I try the advanced trail? No. There is signage EVERYWHERE about people who have died because they didn't understand the risks. The third option is for experienced hikers and climbers. From what I understand it is a canyon that follows the flow of the falls. It is slick, steep, and dangerous. I know what my hiking level is. Someday I will get there. But not today.

overall the moderate Lava Canyon trail is what most think of when they learn about the trail. The views are incredible. The contrast of blackened lava and ice feed waterfalls against a cool green backdrop of forest and moss is stunning. You can see how the eruption of Mt. St. Helen's impacted the area because you are literally standing in the wake of dried lava flow 38 years later.

walking
3 months ago

Beautiful trail! The waterfall is absolutely beautiful! I’d rate this trail as moderate. Make sure that you have a good pair of hiking boots with a good grip. There’re a several sports that are a bit steep and some of the spots might have smooth, slippery rocks.
Make sure to bring a bug spray.
The hike is not that long but pretty exiting! If you’re still full of energy there’s Ape Canyon trail right next to it with gorgeous views of Mt St Helens.

hiking
3 months ago

Hiked 07/07/18

Fun hike. The south side trail on the river is still closed but the north side of the river is open however somewhat primitive. There are some risky spots with sheer ledges. There is a spot with a 32’ steel ladder to traverse into the bottom of one of the canyons. Might not be good for kiddos but with that said I would have taken mine.

The first part of the trail is all paved and it has a suspension bridge that was fun. This is a loop that is surely easy to navigate. Once you hike off the pavement and onto the dirt trail it gets challenging. Have fun and be careful.

hiking
3 months ago

We hiked Lava Canyon last week 7/3/18. Love this hike! The upper loop is moderate, and safe for most healthy people. If you don't like heights this isn't for you.

Hiking down into the canyon should be rated difficult. There are 90 ft cliffs. People have died in this canyon. There is alot of loose rock which makes narrow stretches slick, and sketchy! A family with small child behind us turned around and left at the first one of those sections. Good idea!

There is a rock formation in the middle of the canyon that people call "The Ship". Climbing it reminds my wife of Hobbits climbing Mt Mordor, so we call it Mordor rock. The view from the top is beautiful. You can look back at the Lava Canyon waterfalls from it. Well worth the climb.

3 months ago

Trail is open, went on the hike on Saturday. Nice small hike and good for family

hiking
3 months ago

We only did the upper loop as the lower was still closed fathers day weekend. What a cool area!! The rocks were a little slick for any downhill and that felt sketch. Saw another couple really struggling. Dogs may not be the biggest fan of the suspension bridge. Really quick and easy jaunt though with BIG rewards

3 months ago

nice area/hike. lower trail is now OPEN as of 6-29-2018 .

sidenote, follow signs to get to Lava Canyon. I was new to area, saw a sign telling me to turn left for Lava Canyon, but my GPS wanted me to go straight. i followed signs, and it got me there. it was actually the only way to get there since road ends at lava canyon trailhead . wherever my GPS was taking me was going to be 10 miles in wrong direction.

3 months ago

This trail is not open as of 6-24-18! The lower trail is closed and the short loop is the only thing open.

hiking
4 months ago

(OPEN) 6/3/18 This is a cute and moderately easy trail you could take the whole family too. There are some parts of the trail that are not paved and require some maneuvering down rocks and wet parts only for a short amount of time. Not good for the elderly or those with knee issues. I was able to finish the trail within an hour or less. There is a suspension bridge that is a bit wobbly, it sways and bounces so beware. This is not a good trail if you don’t like heights. Dogs ok on leash, but we had to carry her across the bridge. Use your NW pass or Nat’l Park pass to this park or bring $5 cash for parking.

hiking
4 months ago

This trail is not open yet. We tried to go out and hike it yesterday (May 26th) and it's still closed.

4 months ago

Does anybody know if this trail is open yet?

5 months ago

When is it open??? I tried many times to come here but its always closed

hiking
6 months ago

Area Status: Unreachable
https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/giffordpinchot/recarea/?recid=41610

8 months ago

Went 1/12/18 Road is currently closed

10 months ago

Beautiful fall day hike! Would’ve given this trip 5 stars had we been able to do the full hike, but like others have indicated, the Smith Creek portion had been washed out. What we did hike though was amazing. The trail was rocky, wet and slick on some portions of the cliff side. Take your time! You most certainly DO NOT want to slip! Doing so will either give you a good scare or.....☠️

hiking
11 months ago

Everything looks artificial and hand crafted like a smooth playground made for water. I would even go as far as saying this was the Disney Land Water Park of trails. Every time I walked to the next zone of the trail it was completely different than the last, like 5 mini hikes in one. Waterfalls, a quarter million dollar suspension foot bridge. PNW does not mess around when it comes to their trails.

11 months ago

We made it out in the snow today. Absolutely amazing.

11 months ago

Visited 10/27/17. A must see! The loop is great! The bridge is amazing! The weather was perfect on this day 70 with blue sky and sunshine.
We attempted to do the longer hike after the bridge, but it was too dangerous. Very narrow, steep, wet and steep drop offs. If you slip, it could be very bad. We turned around after about ⅛ mile.

hiking
11 months ago

This place was absolutely gorgeous! Beautiful fall views. I have no complaints at all. It can be slick during rainy season, so good hiking shoes are recommended. I'll definitely be going back!

Monday, October 16, 2017

Did the full trail a couple weeks ago, and it was a great day, with some fun challenges Make sure you do your homework and know what you’re getting into before you hike (and if you go unprepared, please don’t post a bad review!).

backpacking
Monday, October 09, 2017

We only did the loop to the suspension bridge and back to the parking lot as we had young kids with us, but would love to do the longer trail. Beautiful day to do a little hike with the family and see the beautiful waterfall.

hiking
Monday, October 09, 2017

Arrived at the trailhead about 9 am this morning. Maybe 8 cars in the parking lot. Day was overcast, no rain. Vault potties. NW Forest Pass or American the Beautiful pass required. Pay station at the trailhead. Almost to the first observation deck, signage warning to stay on trail, fatalities have occurred. First part of the trail was paved, down to observation deck. Very accessible to all. You can cross the first bridge and hike around the canyon to the suspension bridge. Or you can stay on the one side and hike to the suspension bridge. We did the first option. Trail was a little rocky, but very well marked. Signage all over to stay on the trail. One set of metal "stairs" or ladder down the trail a little ways. Then the suspension bridge. Very cool. Trail for the difficult part of the trail is on the other side of the bridge (same side as the parking lot) Just to one side of the suspension bridge, goes down with a sign that the trail is most difficult. Trail is very narrow and rocky. A little wet, but we took our time. Beautiful views!! Had to stop several times just to enjoy it. Ladder down was a little scary, but doable. Plan was to walk a loop taking the Smith Creek Trail. Read a prior report that maybe the trail was washed out. US Forest Service employee cleaning when we arrived, said he believed the trail was open. It was not. Lower Smith Creek Trail had a tree blocking the trail about 30 yards up the trail from the bridge. A couple of gals with us went to check it out. There was also a washout just on the other side of the tree. Decided to turn around a return the way we came. What was easy going down was more work going up. lol If you are nervous of heights, this trail is totally doable, just take your time.

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