Named for the lovable curmudgeon who refused to leave his homestead when St. Helens was on the brink of erupting, Harry’s Ridge offers a fascinating panorama of the restless giant, still smoking and belching occasionally, years after her devastating awakening.
Begin from the Johnston Ridge Visitors Center. Take in the mountain from this angle, which offers a direct line of sight across the plains and into the blast zone. Is the dome smoking today? Check again as you hike – conditions in the crater change from hour to hour.
Follow a paved pathway that leads up several tight switchbacks to an overlook of the mountain. From here you can also see down the valley, where the silvery thread of the Toutle River winds away out of sight. A metal map here offers excellent insight into the surrounding peaks and other landmarks. It’s worth taking some time with it to orient yourself and learn what you’re looking at.
When you’ve examined the landscape and learned a few of the peaks, proceed along the paved path, proceeding downhill and to the west. The trail follows a ridgeline here and the mountain is nearly always visible, but occasionally disappears from view as you round a hummock.
A mile and a half from the parking lot, arrive at a junction. Work completed by WTA and the US Forest Service in 2016 created a bypass trail that allows hikers to skip the steep, nerve-wracking traverse found down the trail to your right. Continue following the trail that rolls out ahead of you. This allows you to continue a ridgeline traverse to a well-marked junction, bypassing the traverse, known as Devils Elbow.
Continue through rolling, dusty hills and hummocks, occasionally losing sight of the mountain but never lacking for visual stimulation. The area is fascinating and full of life, though it looks barren at first glance. At three miles, leave this section and enter a surprisingly lush area.
Huckleberry bushes abound here at the transition between deserty blast zone and green, lush hillside. Shortly arrive at a junction at about 3.5 miles. The trail heading straight on is the Boundary Trail, one that heads into the Mount Margaret wilderness. Harry’s Ridge is to your right, up a ridge that offers views of Spirit Lake and Mount Adams.
Take in the sapphire-blue lake below and the enormous log raft. It's from the 1980 eruption; the hillside was hit by the blast of the volcano, and the trees on it were sucked back into Spirit Lake after the water sloshed up (and possibly even over) the mountains. Winds in this area push the raft around, so it may change shape during your visit.
Almost there. Continue up the ridge to an outcropping of cement and metal, remains of an old weather station and observatory. This is the high point of the hike, and though the trail itself continues downhill, make it your stopping point for lunch, where you can gaze at the white cap of Mount Adams and the smoking lava dome of St. Helens simutaneously. On the way back down, be sure to check the shape of the log raft in Spirit Lake before heading towards the Visitors Center.