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Silver Lake-Seaquest Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Boardwalk, Silver Lake Wetland Haven (bobcat)
View to the Visitor Center, Silver Lake Wetland Haven (bobcat)
The tunnel under Highway 504 leading to Seaquest State Park (bobcat)
Service road in Seaquest State Park (bobcat)
Big Douglas-fir, Seaquest State Park (bobcat)
Silver Lake Wetland Loop in red; suggested Seaquest State Park loop in yellow (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Google Maps
  • Start point: Silver Lake TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Stankey Creek Tributary Crossing
  • Trail Log:
  • Hike Type: Two loops
  • Distance: 4.5 miles
  • High point: 650 feet
  • Elevation gain: 530 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Seasons: Year round
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: No

Contents

Hike Description

Five miles east of I-5, the Mount St. Helens Visitor Center at Silver Lake saw millions of visitors when it opened in 1987. However, when the Coldwater and Johnston Ridge Visitor Centers were completed, attendance dwindled and, in 2000, the award-winning building was transferred from federal to state jurisdiction. The one-mile wetland trail here crosses the marshy fringes of Silver Lake and offers views to Mount Saint Helens. If a visit to the exhibits inside the Center and this short loop are not enough, you can walk to Seaquest State Park (or drive to the Seaquest State Park Trailhead in the day-use area), and do a longer loop through the wooded property, which harbors mixed coniferous-deciduous forest, some mossy Douglas-fir plantations, and a surprising number of large, old growth Douglas-firs. The campground here is open all year, but trails are muddy in the wet season, so come prepared. Seaquest State Park comprises 300 acres, of which 154 acres was the homestead property of the Seaquest family that was deeded to the state in 1948. The additional acreage was purchased in 1978 and 1981.

  • Silver Lake Wetland Haven Trail: 1.0 mile loop
  • Seaquest State Park: 2.9 mile loop
  • Connector trail between the two: 0.6 miles round-trip


Walk to the Visitor Center and take the universal access trail that switchbacks to your left. First, you’ll see an information kiosk for the Silver Lake Wetland Haven Trail. Go left at a junction where you’ll see a large Douglas-fir stump. Walk the gravel path under big-leaf maples, vine maples, Oregon ash, and red osier dogwood. Pass short tie trails to the parking lots. Across the last parking lot, you’ll see the pedestrian tunnel that leads under the highway to Seaquest State Park, the second loop described here. Reach a boardwalk going across a shallow expanse of water dotted with water lilies, and then pass a memorial panel commemorating the 57 people who died as a result of Mount Saint Helens’ May 18th, 1980, eruption. There is a view of the mountain from this spot.

Come to the end of the boardwalk where it meets an early 20th century logging railroad grade that crosses the marsh. Look for the arrow-shaped leaves of wapato, a Native American staple plant, in the shallows. The expanse of Silver Lake, the largest natural lake in this part of Washington, forms the foreground to another view of distant Mount Saint Helens. Now walk down a corridor of spiraea, wild rose, and willow. At breaks in the foliage, look for coots, mergansers, geese, and muskrats. A boardwalk takes you back to the mainland across a swampland of spiraea and sedge. Listen for marsh wrens and red-winged blackbirds in this area. Head around the Visitor Center and go right at the parking area for the next leg of the hike.

Walk east to the last parking lot, and go left through a tunnel that crosses under Highway 504. Follow the path to the entrance road to Seaquest State Park. A hiker sign indicates a trail rising to the left of the entrance road. Walk up the gentle slope under tall Douglas-firs with an understory of salal, sword fern, and Oregon grape. See campsites to your left, and head across them if they are not occupied (Otherwise, walk up to the campground loop road and go left). Pass some restrooms on your right and walk up to a Stop sign. Go left here on the main campground loop and then go left again for Sites T1 – T16.

At the far end of this camping area, find a road track leading down the slope behind a dumpster. Pass some big old-growth Douglas-firs as well as maples and cottonwoods. Reach the junction with a service road in a soggy grassy area. Go right and walk up the service road, which runs along the western boundary of the park. Here, the forest is more mixed, with grand fir, western red-cedar, and western hemlock in addition to Douglas-fir and big-leaf maple. You’ll see some rural residernces through the trees to your left. Pass one trail junction and then a second junction at a crest. From here, the road drops in Douglas-fir woods along the edge of a clearcut. Where the road begins to rise again, come to a junction with a map sign and go right on this trail.

Descend through a thicket of young alders and enter a dense, dark Douglas-fir plantation. Rise to a junction and go left down through a carpet of large sword ferns. Notice all the thatching ant nests in this area. Cross a salmonberry-choked creek and hike through a carpet of salal. Traverse an alder/hemlock forested slope brushy with red osier dogwood, salmonberry, and elderberry. Muddy steps lead down to a footbridge over a tributary of Stankey Creek. Hike up the hill and cross a small creek on a footbridge. Reach the northeast corner of the park, and turn up the slope. Undulate along with a road to your left.

Go right at a junction with a road track and head up to another junction, where you should go left. Pass through an elderberry/salmonberry thicket and reach another junction. Go left and then right after a few yards to keep to the interior of the park and pass a huge Douglas-fir. Drop through an understory of vine maple which blazes yellow in the fall. The wide trail proceeds through mature forest and rises to enter a grove of mossy maples. Drop down the slope and, at a junction, go right to head out to the park entrance road. Descend from here to pick up the trail leading through the tunnel and back to the parking areas and Visitor Center.


Maps

Regulations or restrictions, etc

  • $10 day-use pass or annual Discover Pass required
  • Dogs on leash
  • Picnic tables, campground, interpretive trail
  • $5 admission to the Visitor Center
  • Visitor Center hours:
    • March 1 - May 15, open daily 9:00 AM - 4:00 PM
    • May 16 - September 15 open daily 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM
    • September 16 - October 31 open daily 9:00 AM - 4:00 PM
    • November 1 - February 28, open Thursday through Monday 9:00 AM - 4:00 PM, closed Tuesday and Wednesday.
    • The center is closed on major holidays.

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Day Hiking Mount St. Helens by Craig Romano & Aaron Theisen
  • Day Hiking: South Cascades by Dan A. Nelson & Alan L. Bauer
  • Washington State Parks: A Complete Recreation Guide by Marge & Ted Mueller

More Links


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.