Former lookout sites are ideal for views, and Strawberry Mountain is right up there with the best of them. See peaks in two states, the blast zone of an active volcano, and a few sapphire lakes set into the dramatic landscape. That is, of course, if you can bear the drive to get there.
Beginning from the viewpoint parking area, cross Road 99 and step onto the Boundary Trail. Almost immediately, you'll be rewarded by a view of Mount St. Helens. Boundary Trail continues climbing, heading up and up a draw in old-growth forest to an unmarked junction. After 0.5 miles, arrive at the official Strawberry Mountain trail and turn right.
This trail has been neglected and is in danger of being abandoned. However, it's a wonderful (if brushy) hike, and needs tread repair and logout. Once cleared, it would be a boon for pet-owners -- it's one of the few trails near Mount St. Helens which is open to dogs.
The trail climbs steadily and steeply along a ridge above the headwaters of Wakepish Creek through beautiful old-growth forest. After about a mile, the grade lessens as the trail traverses the east side of Strawberry Mountain. Occasional windows through the trees provide glimpses of Mount Adams, the Goat Rocks and Mount Rainier.
At 1.9 miles, the trail crests a knife-edge ridge. This is the demarcation between the volcano blast zone and primeval forest, where you get your first views of the Green River valley to the west and the first glimpse of Strawberry Mountain Lookout site ahead.
The stumps at this part of the trail were left from post-eruption salvage logging. The salvaged areas were not replanted, so the forest is returning naturally, but slow enough that the views still are outstanding. For the next 0.3 miles, the trail climbs along the ridgecrest, with views east and west, arriving at an unmarked junction in a small saddle. The right fork is the continuation of Strawberry Mountain Trail. The left fork goes to the former Strawberry Mountain lookout site.
The trail climbs a steep, pumiced slope, passing some old propane tanks, to reach the summit and former Strawberry Mountain Lookout site, where a lookout tower stood from 1931-1967. Here, hikers are rewarded with a360-degree view, and the occasional visit from local wildlife. Aptly named, there are also a few wild strawberries on Strawberry Mountain.
To the south, spy Strawberry Lake and gaze into the crater of Mount St. Helens. Crater Glacier wraps around the lava domes. If you have binoculars, look for Loowit Falls, where melting glacier water comes out of the crater.
To the west is the blasted, dramatic Mount Margaret Backcountry across the valley. Grizzly Lake is just visible as are the basins of several other lakes. To the northwest is the glacially carved Green River valley, with Goat Mountain. For many years, a mining company has been vying for rights to dig here. If they succeed, Strawberry Mountain will have a front-row seat to the site.
Turning north, look down the Quartz Creek valley and see the Quartz Creek Big Trees rising above the surrounding second-growth forest. Mount Rainier also stands north of Strawberry Mountain.
Off to the east, the Dark Divide Roadless Area, Goat Rocks, and Mount Adams dominate. If it's clear, you may even see Mount Hood and Mount Jefferson in Oregon, and perhaps the faintest glimmer of the North Sister on the south horizon.