Welcome to the Toutle Valley!

I'm starting this blog to help visitors find the many things to do around Mount St. Helens and the Toutle Valley.  Our area is surrounded by adventure, high and low, but it's sometimes genuinely hard to find information about these special places.  Before our volcano erupted, the Spirit Lake Hwy followed the Toutle River all the way to Spirit Lake and Mount St. Helens with easy-to-find adventure around every bend.  The route was lined with campgrounds, river access, logging roads, trails open to all,  and vast areas to explore. 

Today its different--With all the passes, permits, and rules, it's a tangle of red tape to just understand where you can go for a walk.  Don't dispair!  I know all the secrets... and I might even be asking for your help to make the area more accessible. 

Consider this blog your Insider's Guide to the Toutle Valley.  

Posted By Toutle Trekker

June 26, 2022

 Johnston Ridge Observatory is open with an entrance fee, and the ridge trails are melted out.  Coldwaer Peak Trail is still snow covered.  The Forest Learning Center is open.  The Coldwater Ridge Science and Learning Center is supposed to be open to the public on weekends (supposed to is the key here).  The Mount St. Helens Visitor Center at Seaquest State Park is open 9 am to 4 pm.  Admission is $5 for adults and $2.50 for children.   Additionally, Harry Gardner Park reopened to camping on April 11, and the South Toutle Bridge is open to all traffic.  Tower Road remains washed out near Hollywood Gorge. 

Trails:   A group of us hiked the South Coldwater to Lakes Trail June 6 (out the boat launch) loop.  The Lakes Trail was brushed out this past week to about a mile past the bridge (toward Snow Lake).  The South Coldwater Trail is brushed out all the way past the logging equipment and part way down toward the lake on the other side.  The gap that isn't brushed out requires some ducking and weaving below between logs and low hanging trees.  There were lots of birds to see in the willowy ponds at the end of the lake.   Be aware there is a black bear that has been roaming around on the ridge, digging into ant nests.  I've seen it once this spring, and watched it for a half hour.   All higher elevation trails (Mount Margaret, Loowit Trail, Tumwater,  Deadman's) are buried in snow. On June 25 I hiked to Deadman's Lake from the Lander's Creek (Weyerhaeuser controlled) trailhead.  There were drifts at the trailhead, but the first hill was melted.  Above about 4700 feet, the trail was snow covered with drifts up to 6 feet deep!  The lake is melted out and the campsites are open.  Blow down was minimal but snow was similar to mid-May (not late June).  Consequently, because of heavy snow melt, the rivers are still ice cold and/or milky.

Services: Earlier this year, Drew's Grocery caught fire and was severely damaged.   This family-owned business has been the heart of Toutle for nearly 85 years.  The store is closed, but the family is has put in a double wide that will soon be a mini store (but not yet).  The other new building going up is a Red Leaf Coffee.  FUEL IS NOW AVAILABLE .  Pay at pump and open 24-hours.  Fire Mountain Grill at 19 Mile House and North Fork Survivors are open for the season. 


 
Posted By Toutle Trekker

Yesterday evening my family drove up the Spirit Lake Highway to check out the snow level and go for a hike up the ridge.  The snow is deeper than it was a month ago, but we did hike up the the logging equipment on the South Coldwater Trail.  What a treat!  We were the only people up on the ridge at this time, and the animals were out everywhere.  We saw, on the drive and hike, nearly 200 elk.  The elk must be migrating up from the valley to the ridges toward the snowline.  Of all the elk we saw moving, only one bull was limping, a sign of "hoof rot disease" that is plaguing our herds.  The sooty grouse (aka blue grouse) were whooting and whopping all around.  Often they are heard but not seen.  I did track down and watch two roosters strutting their stuff.  The violet-green swallows and yellow-rumped warblers were back for the summer.  A pack of coyotes yipped down by the lake, and a pair of black-tailed deer watched us trek by.  Of all this wild activity, the highlight of the hike was the beautiful, shiny black bear that we watched as it wandered down an old road.  The bear would stand up on its hind legs and scratch its back on alder trees.  It had been hunting ants and winter killed carcasses, no doubt, and we found where it tore into an ant hill by the trail.  

Wildlife Viewing Pointers: Hike in the morning or evening on a non-weekend day, stay quiet and keep alert, listen for wildife which are often heard before they are seen, and don't forget binoculars (like we did).  All these critters are spooky, so don't get too close, just watch quietly.


 

 

 
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