Lava Canyon

Southwest Washington/Mount St. Helens, Washington

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Lava Canyon


  • Rock penstemon (Penstemon rupicola) near the trailhead parking area.- Lava Canyon
  • Field lupine (Lupinus nanus) near the trailhead parking area.- Lava Canyon
  • Beginning section of Lava Canyon Trail.- Lava Canyon
  • Old-growth forest of Douglas fir and western hemlock.- Lava Canyon
  • Cautionary signs on the path to the Lava Canyon waterfall viewpoint.- Lava Canyon
  • Blue water running through the canyon.- Lava Canyon
  • Waterfall views from the bridge.- Lava Canyon
  • Lava Canyon- Lava Canyon
  • Lava Canyon trail.- Lava Canyon
  • Growth along the canyon walls.- Lava Canyon
  • Lava Canyon suspension bridge.- Lava Canyon
  • Crossing the suspension bridge.- Lava Canyon
  • Looking into the canyon from the suspension bridge.- Lava Canyon
  • Looking into the canyon from the suspension bridge.- Lava Canyon
  • A view to the suspension bridge from the canyon.- Lava Canyon
  • Lungwort (Lobaria pulmonaria) and thriving mosses in Lava Canyon.- Lava Canyon
  • Descending further into Lava Canyon.- Lava Canyon
  • Patterns in the wood mimicking the cooled lava patterns.- Lava Canyon
  • Woods strawberry (Fragaria vesca).- Lava Canyon
  • Woodland penstemon (nothochelone nemorosa).- Lava Canyon
  • Narrow trail east of suspension.- Lava Canyon
  • Descending further into Lava Canyon.- Lava Canyon
Overview + Weather
Geologically unique. Numerous waterfalls. Suspension bridge.
Trail deteriorates in the canyon.
Trail beyond/east of suspension bridge is currently in poor condition and should be accessed with caution.
Southwest Washington/Mount St. Helens, WA
Pets allowed: 
Net Elevation Gain: 
500.00 ft (152.40 m)
Parking Pass: 
NW Forest Pass
Preferable Season(s):
Spring, Summer, Fall
Total Distance: 
2.00 mi (3.22 km)
Trail type: 
Trailhead Elevation: 
2,800.00 ft (853.44 m)
Current Local Weather:
Hike Description

Hike Description

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Lava Canyon provides options for both the timid hiker and the adventurous explorer. The hike begins with a paved, ADA-accessible trail that leads to a waterfall viewpoint. This portion of Lava Canyon is the easiest and leads you through a series of interpretive signs that describe the formation of this geological wonder. From the waterfall viewpoint, the trail continues down into the canyon by a series of switchbacks.

Losing elevation at a gradual pace, the main Lava Canyon trail continues east into the canyon along the river. Although this trail won’t provide grand views to the distant mountain peaks, it will provide countless overlooks to waterfalls carved into the landscape created by past volcanic activity. The trail below the waterfall viewpoint becomes more difficult because it is no longer paved and follows the cliff-lined canyon walls. The exposure in this lower area can be intense at times, and hikers of all skill levels should proceed with caution due to the loose rocks on the trail.

Overall, descending below the waterfall viewpoint is worth the effort. Beyond the numerous waterfalls, a 125-foot cable suspension bridge allows hikers to return on the south side of the canyon. About a mile past the suspension bridge, a small side trail leads to "The Ship," a tall fin of lava. A stand of trees atop the fin appear to be masts rising from a ship of rock. The spur trail leads to the crest of this formation, offering views of a series of small waterfalls in the lower canyon. Even further down into the canyon is a 30-foot ladder descending a cliff and providing access to the lowest level of Lava Canyon. The Lava Canyon trail ends just beyond the ladder at the intersection with Smith Creek Trail #225.

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(9 within a 30 mile radius)

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(54 within a 30 mile radius)

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