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Harmony Falls

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Overlooking the east bay of Spirit Lake, this trail drops from the Harmony Falls viewpoint on gentle switchbacks. Harmony Trail's name seems appropriate so long after the eruption, but as you hike down this route, you'll recognize the lack of harmony-in fact, the ultimate chaos-that reigned here years ago. You'll be awed by the precise pattern of the fallen trees laid low by the huge blast. The trees lie parallel to each other like matches in a matchbook, pointing away from the volcano's crater. At the bottom of the trail are volcano-redesigned Spirit Lake and Harmony Falls. Once a beautiful high cascade, Harmony Falls was reduced in height by half. The massive mudflows that accompanied the eruption dammed the outlet of Spirit Lake, raising its water level by 200 feet. The shoreline is rough and treacherous, lined with gritty ash and loose rock.

The trail descends gradually from the trailhead, dropping through the blasted forest to the shores of Spirit Lake. The path parallels Harmony Creek, though staying well clear of the tumbling water. The trail initially hugs the wall of a steep headwall basin of the creek, before traversing down the valley. Halfway down, you'll be able to look down into the narrow gorge that holds the creek and its crashing falls.

The trail forgoes switchbacks as it drops, but they really aren't needed. You'll weave through a few looping turns, each providing a different angle from which to admire the grand views: Look northwest over the wild and rugged Mount Margaret area before turning a corner to look southwest over the expanse of Spirit Lake and the long spine of Harrys Ridge beyond.

The trail hits the shores of Spirit Lake after a mile. Enjoy a refreshing rest on the silver-gray logs that line the shoreline before heading back up the path.
Driving Directions:

From Randle, drive south on Forest Road 25 to its junction with FR 99 (found just past Iron Creek Falls). Turn right (west) onto FR 99 and drive about 12 miles to the trailhead on the right (3 miles past the junction with FR 26).

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Note: the description and driving directions for this Mountaineers Books entry are copyrighted and can't be changed.

Recent Trip Reports

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There are 8 trip reports for this hike. See all trip reports for this hike.
Harmony Falls — Aug 18, 2011 — Weluv2hike.
Day hike
Features: Wildflowers blooming
Issues: Water on trail
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Great short hike. Lots of people huffin and puffin on there out. Great views of Spirit lake and St H...
Great short hike. Lots of people huffin and puffin on there out. Great views of Spirit lake and St Helens.
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Harmony Falls — Aug 07, 2011 — Bob and Barb
Day hike
Features: Wildflowers blooming
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The trail gradually drops 700 ft to the shores of Spirit Lake and is the only legal access to Spirit...
The trail gradually drops 700 ft to the shores of Spirit Lake and is the only legal access to Spirit Lake. The steep part travels through alder and a few fir trees so it is mostly in shade which makes the return elevation gain not bad, especially since a light breeze was blowing! The area brought back memories of when we used to camp and boat in the area prior to the eruption. What a contrast! There were small meadows of beautiful wildflowers. Some are beginning to fade, but they and the fir trees provide beautiful color to the starkness of the landscape.
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Harmony Falls — Sep 30, 2010 — NobleHikers
Day hike
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No berries, and the wildflowers are almost gone. Also, there is very little water going over Harmony...
No berries, and the wildflowers are almost gone. Also, there is very little water going over Harmony Falls. But the main attraction, getting down to Spirit Lake even makes the trek back up the hill worth it. We saw a school group from Oregon down at the lake, and the kids were having a wonderful time.
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Harmony Falls — Aug 15, 2010 — Albert88
Day hike
Features: Wildflowers blooming | Ripe berries
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Feeling like old friends, we revisited the Spirit Lake and Mt. St. Helens after 31 years. Going cam...
Feeling like old friends, we revisited the Spirit Lake and Mt. St. Helens after 31 years. Going camping there by the lake shore in the fall of 1979, we fell in love with the majestic and snowy peak. We walked around the serene lake admiring the reflection of the cone-shaped mountain. We hiked up to the base of Dog's Head and had to stop there because the trail was so loose with pumice. And I will always remember the springy lake trail surface filled w/ evergreen needles which lent itself to easy stroll. Who's to know that the perfect Lady would wake up in angst and showed us who's the boss in no time!

After visiting Mt. Rainier and stayed overnight at the Paradise Inn, it occurred to me that it may be an ideal arrangement to swing by our old acquaintance's and see how much we remember each other. 37 miles south of Randal, Windy Ridge provides the closest view into the crater from the north. The TH to Harmony lies about 3 miles short of the Ridge. From there it is a moderate 600' elevation change to hike down to Spirit Lake. Most of the trail is in the woods providing shades during a hot summer day. We washed our hands and cooled our necks with the cold water dripping from the rock wall and the hand scoop from the running stream. The official end of trail was reached in just over a mile. A ranger was on duty patrolling the trail and reminded us, if we did not read the sign at the TR, that immediate access to the lake is prohibited.

The scenes around the lake remind me of the dueling and alternating power of destruction and rebuild. The bare and singed trees falling upward reveals the power of the blast while the lush vegetation around the lake manifests the persevering survival instinct of life if given the chance to be left alone.

We took numerous pictures of the lake and the Lady, still puffing, and found variety of vegetation thriving well. I also enjoyed the ripening huckleberry in the open meadow. It took us 30 minutes to come back up and then somewhat unwillingly waved good-bye to our old friend. It is comforting to know that both of us are now older and, hopefully, wiser to appreciate what we have in each other.

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Harmony Falls — Jul 30, 2010 — Riri
Day hike
Features: Wildflowers blooming
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This is a great hike for kids, one I picked specifically for CK and Pete and their two kids (ages 6 ...
This is a great hike for kids, one I picked specifically for CK and Pete and their two kids (ages 6 and 8), who had never seen Mt. St. Helen's. Highlights are a bird's eye view of the mountain and the breach, volcano-blasted hillsides, log-jammed Spirit Lake, and lovely little Harmony Falls, where the kids were amazed to learn through a makeshift science experiment that large lava rocks actually float on the water.

The trail descends gradually through welcome shade for the first 0.5 mile, then heads onto a sun-exposed plain. The grade, for a child, would feel moderately steep. Log-hop across some huge grey logs and enjoy Harmony Falls, then wander down towards Spirit Lake, where some flat rocky ledges provide ample space for a picnic or a nap.

Wildflowers are in bloom, especially brilliant red paintbrush, purple penstemon, and pearly everlasting. Flowers were far fewer than up above on the Independence Pass Loop, but there was a smattering of lupine, sitka valerian, bleeding heart, and arnica.

Flies weren't bad, as there was a nice gentle breeze blowing.

We were joined at the falls by a family hiking with a yellow lab, apparently either unaware of, or unconcerned about, the "No dogs allowed" regulations in the National Monument. Please obey the rules.

STATS:
Total time: 2.5 hours (including lolly-gagging, snacking, and science experiments)
Distance: 2 miles round-trip
Elevation Gain: 700 feet (on the return)
Map: Green Trails No. 332 (Spirit Lake)
Permits: NW Forest Pass

TO GET THERE:
From Randle, take FR 25 to its junction with FR 99.
Turn right onto FR 99 and drive 13 miles to the trailhead on the right (3 miles past junction with FR 26).
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harmony_brushing.jpg
WTA youth volunteers brush away overgrown vegetation from the Harmony Trail at Mt. St Helens, summer 2009.
Location
Harmony (#224)
South Cascades -- Mt. St. Helens
Mt. St. Helens national Volcanic Monument
Statistics
Roundtrip 2.0 miles
Elevation Gain 700 ft
Highest Point 4000 ft
Features
Lakes
Waterfalls
User info
Northwest Forest Pass required
Guidebooks & Maps
Day Hiking: South Cascades
Green Trails No. 332 Spirit Lake

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Note: the description and driving directions for this Mountaineers Books entry are copyrighted and can't be changed.

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