Trail of the Month

Ghost Lake

Activity: Scary Good Hiking | Distance: 3 Miles | Rating: Moderate

By Brian Barker September 21, 2011 Published in the October 2011 issue of Portland Monthly

WHY IT’S GREAT See the full measure of Mount St. Helens’s terrifying wrath on this scramble to a hidden lake surrounded by a “ghost forest” of felled pines. Following Boundary Trail no. 1 (a section of a 66-mile backpacker route linking Mount St. Helens and Mount Adams) from the Norway Pass area, the path ascends a steep saddle of Bismark Mountain scraped clean by the volcano’s 1980 blast. Killer views to the west abound. Along the ridge, the remains of once-mighty pines stab into the sky like giant, sun-bleached bones. Yet among the ruins, life is back from the dead—seedlings insulated from the eruption now slowly rise to reclaim the forest. And beyond Bismark’s saddle, a stretch of low-lying forest and lush meadows stand unscathed, miraculously spared from devastation. At trail’s end: eerily quiet Ghost Lake.

DON’T FORGET Lest you think Ghost Lake is an actual apparition, turn left at Boundary Trail no. 1’s poorly marked junction with Ghost Lake Trail 1H, just past a stream crossing at the 1.5 mile mark. From here it’s a half-mile hike to the lake’s pumice-stone banks.

POST-HIKE WATERING HOLE Lone Fir Resort & Café Equal parts RV park, campground, diner, and climber registration center for those with St. Helens summit fever, the Lone Fir buzzes with a mix of aspiring mountaineers, locals, and holiday ramblers. Sit on the knotty-pine deck and decide between thick-crusted pizza or broiled chicken. 16806 Lewis River Rd; Cougar, Washington; 360-238-5210;

TRAILHEAD DIRECTIONS Take I-5 north into Washington to exit 21 for Highway 503. Drive 31.6 miles. (503 becomes Forest Road 90.) Just past Pine Creek Information Center, turn north on Forest Road 25. Drive 25 miles and turn left on Forest Road 99. Continue 9 miles and turn right on Forest Road 26. Drive about 2 miles and look for the Norway Pass Trailhead on the left. Cross the road and follow Boundary Trail no. 1. Northwest Forest Pass required.

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