Apparently I was too optimistic about the weather last Sunday. Three of us went on the hike but stopped when the rain made it too wet to enjoy. This Sunday's forecast is better so I am going to try this hike again. Consequently, I am now labeling it semi-exploratory.
Mt St Helens is one of my favorite hiking areas. For those who use William Sullivan's 100 Hikes in Northwest Oregon and Southwest Washington, it is hike 22 on page 68 (difficult option -10.4 mile loop with 1900 feet elevation gain).
Starting at the Blue Lake Trailhead we will walk approximately 2.5 miles to reach a spectacular footbridge above Sheep Canyon's gorge. If we detour briefly, we will see a waterfall viewpoint. After another 1.5 miles, we will hit the Loowit Trail junction at the rim of the South Fork Toutle River's mudflow canyon. Another detour will give us a view of the river's tiered canyon to MSH. On the way back, we will climb the Loowit Trail up a long ridge into the 1980 blast zone and traverse the head of Sheep Canyon. From there we will continue back to the starting point.
Although I have been to MSH several times, I have not been to Sheep Canyon. Please be in good hiking shape before signing up for this hike. If the group wants to stop for refreshments after the hike, I am willing to do so.
The roundtrip mileage is approximately 115 miles ($12 to the drivers). A Northwest Forest Pass is required.
Directions to trailhead: Interstate 5 north to Woodland exit 21. Turn right for 27.7 miles following signs to Cougar. Half a mile before Cougar turn left onto Road 8100 at a sign for Merrill Lake. Follow the paved road for 11.5 miles and then continue straight on gravel Road 8123 for 1.5 miles to the Blue Lake Trailhead at the road's end.