The entire north slope of Mount St. Helens gave way on May 18, 1980, following a 5.1 earthquake, creating the largest landslide in recorded history. Nearly thee-quarters of a cubic mile of debris flowed northward, covering the western arm of Spirit Lake and filling the Toutle River valley with mud and ash that was up to 600 feet deep. Seconds later a massive, explosive eruption followed, sending a plume of ash 80,000 feet into the atmosphere, and knocking down 230 square miles of forest.
This 8.5-mile hike takes you into the heart of the blast zone. The hike takes you through a dynamic, moonlike landscape of pumice planes, lava ridges, and rocky gash-like river channels. Along the way one is treated to sweeping views of Mount St. Helens, Mount Margaret Backcountry, and Spirit Lake. In the spring and early summer, displays of lupine, Indian paintbrush, and pearly everlasting add some unexpected color. In the late summer it is not unusual to see families of mountain goats and some of the largest herds of elk in the Pacific Northwest.
The apex of the hike is Loowit Falls, a dramatic 186-foot waterfalls issuing directly out of the crater. Loowit Falls has been in a state of constant change since its formation following the blast. As a result, it may look dramatically different from one year to the next, and it may disappear completely at some point.