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Blue Horse Trail

South Cascades


South Cascades -- Mount St. Helens
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10.4 miles, roundtrip


Gain: 1250 ft.
Highest Point: 4000 ft.


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Parking Pass/Entry Fee

Northwest Forest Pass

Hike a trail on the southwest flanks of Mount St. Helens. While mudflows and flooding rendered the land close to St. Helens difficult to negotiate even for two-legged hikers, the Blue Horse trail has been cultivated enough that the way is passable and pleasant for both horses and hikers.

Before you reach the mountain and the mudflows, you'll wind through a lodgepole pine forest, along a flat plain near the trailhead on FR 8123. You'll gradually gain elevation to a junction with the Toutle Trail (238) 2.8 miles into the hike.

In order to actually see Blue Lake, you'll need to turn left here, and proceed west for 0.2 miles to another junction heading north on Trail 238. Turn onto 238, and in 0.6 miles arrive at Coldspring Creek, the outlet of little Blue Lake(more green than blue). Camping was available at the south end of the lake, before a flood took out much of the viable lakeshore. Now it's good for one or two photo opportunities, though the landscape is a little tricky to navigate.

Back on the Blue Horse Trail, you'll hike through a wide-open forest that gradually rises to a crossing of a lahar, gray rock and ash from the outflow caused by the eruption of St. Helens. Seasonal creeks run through the lahar, feeding fireweed and other flora that bloom along the trail, and offering thirsty hikers a place to refill their water bottles.

Leaving the lahar, you'll progress through stands of noble fir and cross Blue Creek (audible, but not visible or accessible from the trail) before ending at another junction with the Toutle Trail. From here, many other hikes are possible. Consider doing a long loop by hiking back on the Toutle Trail. If you choose to do this, it'll be 9 miles round trip.

To do this, turn left (south) at the junction, and head gently downhill through more forest and some wildflower meadows, passing bushes laden with huckleberries in the fall to an overlook of Blue Lake 1.7 miles from the junction. It's a small glimpse of the little lake, but the color through the trees is quite pretty.

After you've gotten your photos, hike a further 0.6 miles and make a left turn onto 238. Then you'll continue another 0.2 miles and arrive back at the crossroads. Turn right, back down 238, and continue another 2.8 miles back to your car.


Blue Horse Trail

Map & Directions

Co-ordinates: 46.1691, -122.2601 Open map in new window


South Cascades -- Mount St. Helens

Blue Horse (#237)

Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument

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Guidebooks & Maps

Green Trails Mount St Helens National Volcanic Monument No 332S

Getting There

From Cougar, drive east on Highway 503/Forest Road 90 to one mile beyond the Swift Dam. Turn left (north) onto Forest Road 83. Continue 3 miles on this road and then turn left onto Forest Road 81. 1.6 mile from RedRock Pass, look for a trailhead on the north side of the road. There are no facilities here.

If you arrive at the junction with Forest Road 8123, you've gone too far. Turn around and drive a half mile back the way you came.

Parking Pass/Entry Fee

Northwest Forest Pass

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Blue Horse Trail

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