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Muddy Fork Lava Bed

South Cascades > Mount Adams Area
46.3255, -121.5058 Map & Directions
Length
5.0 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain
500 feet
Highest Point
4900 feet
Calculated Difficulty About Calculated Difficulty
Moderate
  • Mountain views
  • Wildlife
  • Summits
  • Good for kids
  • Dogs allowed on leash
  • Rivers

Parking Pass/Entry Fee

Northwest Forest Pass

Mount Adams, at 12,276 feet, dominates the South Cascades and provides the most dramatic scenery of the region. The mountain is a standout destination also for the massive basalt lava beds that cover large portions of the surrounding landscape. This relatively young volcano initially formed nearly a million years ago, about 3 miles southeast of its current location. That first cone was ground down by glaciers during the long succession of ice ages that swept the region, while the "hot spot" that gave birth to the mountain shifted northwest as plate tectonics and continental drift rearranged the landscape. Continue reading

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Hiking Muddy Fork Lava Bed

Explore the evidence of Mount Adams’ most recent eruption with a gentle hike to the Muddy Fork Lava Bed.


Washington’s Cascade Range is one long string of volcanoes. This includes 12,276-foot Mount Adams. Adams initially formed about 1 million years ago, but its present eruptive cone is closer to 10,000 to 25,000 years old. Since then, Adams has erupted at least seven times. The most recent eruptions have been along the mountain’s lower slopes, in the form of broad lava flows.

Lava beds are formed when slowly cooling magma flows across large areas. While the Aiken Lava Bed is Mount Adams’ best-known flow, the Muddy Fork Lava Bed is the most recent. This basalt bed settled on the volcano’s northeastern flank roughly 3,000 years ago. Despite the lava beds’ rough and desolate terrain, the hike to get there is comfortable.

From the trailhead, take the Pacific Crest Trail as it slopes down toward Muddy Fork Creek. The gentle descent leads through spacious forest, allowing the sun to stream through the canopy. Approximately 2 miles into your relaxing stroll, you’ll get your first up-close view of the lava bed. As the lava cooled, it suddenly stopped and left the 20-foot abrasive and desolate black wall that stands in front of you. The trail continues around the high basalt wall for the next half-mile or so. Continue wandering along the base of the flow, or scramble up to explore its surface.

Dormant Volcano: Recent hot spots and gas emissions on Mount Adams’ summit show that the volcano is dormant but not extinct. This means that Mount Adams will someday show more signs of its volcanic nature.

Hike Description Written by
Brittany Manwill, WTA Correspondent

Muddy Fork Lava Bed

Map & Directions

Trailhead
Co-ordinates: 46.3255, -121.5058 Open in Google Maps

Before You Go

See weather forecast

Parking Pass/Entry Fee

Northwest Forest Pass

WTA Pro Tip: Save a copy of our directions before you leave! App-based driving directions aren't always accurate and data connections may be unreliable as you drive to the trailhead.

Getting There

From Packwood, drive south on Forest Road 21 for 17 miles to a junction with FR 2160. Turn left (east) onto FR 2160 and continue 1.8 miles, crossing the Cispus River, and turn right (southwest) onto FR 56. In 1.8 miles, leave FR 56 by bearing left (south) onto FR 2329. In 5.5 miles, turn left at a junction with FR 5603 and drive 2 miles to the trailhead.

More Hike Details

Trailhead

South Cascades > Mount Adams Area

Gifford Pinchot National Forest, Mount Adams Ranger District

Guidebooks & Maps

Day Hiking: South Cascades (Nelson & Bauer -- Mountaineers Books)

Green Trails No. 367S Mount Adams

Green Trails No. 334 Blue Lake

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Muddy Fork Lava Bed

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