Pets allowed
Not Allowed
Elevation Gain
?
Trail type
Loop
Distance
2.00 mi (3.22 km)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

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.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Spring
Summer
Fall

Congestion

Moderate

Parking Pass

NW Forest Pass

Pros

Geologically unique. Numerous waterfalls. Suspension bridge.

Cons

Trail deteriorates in the canyon.

Trailhead Elevation

2,800.00 ft (853.44 m)

Net Elevation Gain

500.00 ft (152.40 m)

Features

Waterfalls
Wildflowers
ADA accessible

Location

Field Guide + Map

Nearby Adventures

Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument
Southwest Washington/Mount St. Helens, Washington

Nearby Lodging + Camping

Southwest Washington/Mount St. Helens, Washington
Southwest Washington/Mount St. Helens, Washington
Mt. Adams/Indian Heaven Wilderness/Goat Rocks, Washington

Comments

09/12/2017
One of our favorite hikes in the area. So adventurous and such beautiful views.
08/19/2017
Three trails. Three ratings. Know your abilities, limits and turn back if you are not sure. The third section is hikeable but NOT for the less sure-footed. Be smart. Be safe.
If you get a chance, the ship wreck trail (at the current end), makes the entire trip worth it!!
08/12/2017
The lower trail labeled as "Most Difficult" on signs is still in poor condition after the long suspension bridge and no longer provides a through route to the Smith Creek Trailhead due to washouts. The "Easiest Trail" and "More Difficult Trail" are in great condition and provide a stunning 1.1 mile loop.

Great day trip includes Lava Canyon and Ape Cave!
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