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Blue Horse Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Mt. St. Helens from Huckleberry Saddle (bobcat)
Fritillary on pearly everlasting, Huckleberry Saddle (bobcat)
Butte Camp Dome from the Blue Lake Horse Trail (bobcat)
The 2006 mudslide, Blue Lake Horse Trail (bobcat)
Loop route shown in red (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: National Geographic Topo
  • Start point: Blue Lake TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End Point: Huckleberry Saddle
  • Trail Log:
  • Hike Type: Loop
  • Distance: 5.2 miles
  • Elevation gain: 560 feet
  • High Point: 3,985 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Seasons: Summer into Fall
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable: Yes
  • Crowded: No

Contents

Description

For those not wanting an especially rugged or lengthy hike, this short loop takes the hiker past the big old growth trees of Blue Lake, then along the side of a ridge to get views of the upper slopes of Mount Saint Helens to reach the lush meadow at Huckleberry Saddle. Then loop back on a backcountry horse trail, along which you will probably encounter neither horses nor hikers, through old growth and then lodgepole pine forest atop St. Helens ash fall. Finally, negotiate the mudslide of 2006, a testament to the ever-changing landscape here, to return to the Blue Lake Trailhead.

Hike up the trail that parallels the washed out FR 8123. Lodgepole pines dominate this debris slide area. Reach the Toutle-Blue Lake Trailhead Trail Junction and go left on the Toutle Trail #238. Cross the active part of the Blue Lake Mudflow and pass the Toutle-Fossil Trail Junction, keeping right here. Get a view up to Mount Saint Helens through the dead forest. The trail ascends parallel to Coldspring Creek, entering living forest briefly before emerging at the debris slide again. Cross Coldspring Creek on a log crossing which changes every year (An alternative is to keep hiking up to Blue Lake before crossing the creek and scrambling up the steep bank to meet the main trail). Traverse up the slope above the creek among large Douglas-firs with noble fir and silver fir in the mix. A couple of spur trails lead down the slope, the first to cross the creek and the second to the shore of Blue Lake. The Toutle Trail heads up into deep woods with big noble firs and some Douglas-firs. The trail winds up in a huckleberry/bunchberry understory and passes in and out of a draw. Heading up, the path passes a large western red-cedar and then reaches an open slope with Sitka alder, vine maple, black huckleberry, and thimbleberry. The canyon of Coldspring Creek is below with old growth rising up the opposite slope. The shattered top of Mount Saint Helens is also visible. The trail enters woods with younger noble firs and then passes across a lush meadow. The path heads up through a small grove of silver firs and reaches a small meadow and the Toutle-Blue Horse Trail Junction.

Go right here on the wide Blue Lake Horse Trail #237 and head along an old road bed with old growth to the left and an old clearcut to the right. Pass huckleberry fields and follow the road as it drops slightly in old growth forest. The road bed crosses Coldspring Creek over a culvert, rises, and then drops again. Here, the road bed is encroached upon by silver and noble fir saplings. Soon, the trail leads up off the road to the left, heading into the woods and then up through a clearing carpeted with wild strawberries. The trail switchbacks at the crest of a bluff, passes through thickets of young conifers, and reenters old growth forest. There are views of Mount Saint Helens and Butte Camp Dome. The path heads down the side of a ridge and then switchbacks into the path of the 2006 mudflow. Walk down through the rubble alongside a tributary of Coldspring Creek. Cross the creek and head through a Sitka alder thicket to cross an older mudflow (perhaps from 2001). Step across another a creek and enter woods, descending under lodgepole pines, western white pines and noble firs. Huckleberries form the understory. The forest on the lahars becomes almost entirely lodgepole pine and the trail keeps dropping to the four-way Toutle-Blue Horse Trail South Junction.

Here, go right on the Toutle Trail #238. Blue Lake is 1/3 mile away. The trail heads through lodgepole pines with a carpet of kinnikinnick. Reach a junction. Blue Lake is straight ahead. Go left and down the road bed to the parking area.

Note: A much longer loop, adding about 8 miles, can be done by continuing on the Blue Horse Trail past the Toutle-Blue Horse Trail South Junction to FR 8100. Continue straight to the Toutle Trail above the Kalama and go west to the Toutle-Kalama Ski Trail West Junction. Return via the Kalama Ski Trail to the Goat Marsh Lake Trailhead and then walk up the road to the Blue Lake Trailhead.

In addition, the Blue Lake Horse Loop can be incorporated into the return from the Sheep Canyon Loop Hike.


Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • none

Maps

  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument & Administrative Area
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Gifford Pinchot National Forest
  • National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map: Mount St. Helens - Mt. Adams

Trip Reports


Related Discussions / Q&A


Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • none

More Links


Page Contributors

Oregon Hikers Field Guide is built as a collaborative effort by its user community. While we make every effort to fact-check, information found here should be considered anecdotal. You should cross-check against other references before planning a hike. Trail routing and conditions are subject to change. Please contact us if you notice errors on this page.

Hiking is a potentially risky activity, and the entire risk for users of this field guide is assumed by the user, and in no event shall Trailkeepers of Oregon be liable for any injury or damages suffered as a result of relying on content in this field guide. All content posted on the field guide becomes the property of Trailkeepers of Oregon, and may not be used without permission.