Home  •   Field Guide  •   Forums  •    Unread Posts  •   Maps  •   Find a Hike!
| Page | Discussion | View source | History | Print Friendly and PDF

Kalama River-Goat Marsh Lake Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Kalama River at the Toutle Trail crossing (bobcat)
Mossy carpet, Kalama Ski Trail (bobcat)
Goat Marsh Lake and Goat Mountain (bobcat)
Shallow Blue Lake surrounded by old growth forest (bobcat)
Big Douglas-firs, Blue Horse Trail (bobcat)
Stink currant (Ribes bracteosum), Kalama River, Toutle Trail (bobcat)
The route described (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo
  • Start point: Kalama Horse Camp TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End Point: Goat Marsh Lake or Blue Lake (optional)
  • Trail Log:
  • Hike Type: Lollipop loop with spurs
  • Distance: 13.9 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1435 feet
  • High Point: 3,345 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: Spring into Fall
  • Family Friendly: No
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: No



A network of trails on the gentle southwest slopes of Mount Saint Helens can be hiked early in the season, a good time to visit the lakes in the area, observe visiting waterfowl, and to admire the big trees, mostly ancient Douglas-firs and noble firs, the latter reaching their greatest proportions in this area. These trails are more used by horses than by hikers, and some were created for cross-country skiers, but early or late in the season it is likely you will not meet a soul other than mushroom pickers in the fall. The entire slope sweeping south from the mountain is layered with pyroclastic material, lahars, and debris flows that exuded from the mountain’s volatile slopes. Most of the area has never been logged, and you can judge the vintage of the volcanic deposits by the age of the forest established upon them. The Kalama River runs pristinely here, and cuts through 100 feet of volcaniclastic material, offering a shady, peaceful stretch on the final leg of the hike.

Three trails leave the trailhead. Take the middle one for the Toutle Trail #238 (To the right is the Camp Loop Trail and to the left is the Fossil Trail). Drop down and cross a creek on a footbridge. Reach the Toutle-Cinnamon Trail West Junction, and keep left. Hike through a mossy carpet with scattered huckleberry bushes under a canopy of Douglas-fir and western hemlock.

At the Toutle-Kalama Ski Trail West Junction, bear left and ascend gently with an eroded gully on your right. Reach the unsigned Kalama Ski-Fossil Tie Trail Junction, and go right to cross the gully, which is usually dry except in times of heavy runoff (Heading left would take you to the Fossil Trail at FR 81: see the Fossil Trail Loop Hike). Blue diamonds on trees, designating the route as a ski trail, mark the way. The trail wends east through a carpet of reindeer lichen and kinnikinnick under lodgepole pine and Douglas-fir. You will find yourself on the edge of a high bluff of lahar above a forested bench: the Toutle Trail is visible at times below. Reach the four-way Toutle-Kalama Ski Trail Middle Junction. Here the official Kalama Ski Trail merges right with the Toutle Trail as it comes up the bluff. Instead, keep left on the old tread of the Ski Trail, where you will see no blue diamonds for a while.

This is a rooty, rubbly tread through a moss carpet under Douglas-firs and hemlocks. Goat Mountain looms through the trees to the left. The tread soon becomes positively sandy and the official Kalama Ski Trail joins from the right as you note the blue diamonds once more. Cross overgrown FR 8122 and then a trickling creek before reaching FR 81 just above where the pavement ends. Cross FR 81 to a Kalama Ski Trail sign, and walk up across a large gravel parking area, the Kalama Ski Trailhead.

Pick up the trail at the north end of this lot as it follows a rubbly jeep track. At a steep section, the path detours off to the right and then rejoins the road bed, which widens and then drops to a rusty, bullet-riddled 44-gallon drum at the Goat Marsh Lake-Kalama Ski Trail Junction. Go left here on the Goat Marsh Trail #237A, pass the old junction, and head left up to the split-rail fence and signage that marks entry to the Goat Marsh Research Natural Area. The trail rises gently, passing some substantial Douglas-firs and reaches the shore of Goat Marsh Lake. You can follow the path around the shore of the lake to a marshier, western section of the wetland, passing more large trees, and then the trail peters out. Scan the lake for waterfowl, and note how trees have drowned from elevated lake levels caused by beaver activity.

Return to the Goat Marsh Lake-Kalama Ski Trail Junction, and go left to drop into a steep-sided gully. The trail rises to an old road bed and goes right to cross FR 8123 at the Goat Marsh Lake Trailhead. The path circles around several campsites to rise gently in dry western hemlock/lodgepole pine woodland with a smattering of western white pine. Keep rising where a carpet of lupine blooms in summer, and eventually reach the Blue Horse-Kalama Ski Trail Junction. To continue to Blue Lake (1.6 miles round-trip) continue heading up to your left and, in about half a mile, come to the Toutle-Blue Horse Trail South Junction. Go left here. The trail heads through lodgepole pines with a carpet of kinnikinnick. Reach the Toutle-Blue Lake Trailhead Trail Junction, and go straight, following the path across the rubbly Cold Spring Mudflow of 2006, where you'll stay right at the Toutle-Fossil Trail Junction. Cross Cold Spring Creek on stepping stones. Head up along the creek in western hemlock, Douglas-fir, silver fir and noble fir forest. Blue Lake appears down to the right with spur trails leading to its shore. Spend time in this tranquil spot, especially noting the massive noble firs in the woods around the lake.

Return the way you came to the Blue Horse-Kalama Ski Trail Junction, and continue south on the Blue Horse Trail #237. The trail is marked with red diamonds for horses and splits into one-way sections marked by arrows. Take the left (upper) section, and traverse along a mossy slope under silver fir and Douglas-fir. Rejoin the main trail, and keep dropping as a gully appears on the left. Some large Douglas-firs rear along the base of the slope here, and soon you pass below a spring that issues onto the trail. Enter lodgepole pine/western hemlock woods, and then wind left into more Douglas-firs. Drop along a draw, and pass over a low rise to reach the Blue Horse Trailhead on FR 81. Cross the road, step between large boulders, and take the FR 81-600 spur along an avenue of young silver fir and hemlock. Cinnamon Ridge (See the Cinnamon Ridge Loop Hike) rises ahead. The Toutle Trail intersects with this road at the Toutle Trail-600 Spur Road Junction just before the road bridge over the Kalama River.

Go right on the Toutle Trail, and pass a couple of large hemlocks. The Kalama River runs to your left for the duration of this stretch, which visits a number of substantial Douglas-firs. Higher above the river, pass twin Douglas-firs and a fairly recent slide that took out part of the steep bank. Arrive closer to the river again, and cross a road, FR 8022. There’s a large campsite area to your right. Reach the Toutle-Kalama Ski Trail East Junction, and continue hiking along the steep bluff above the river where these two trails share the same route. Pass above a slide and then a larger collapse where the layers of pyroclastic material can be clearly seen. There are a couple more slides; with some of these, the old tread has been obliterated, and a new path has formed. Wind down on a rubbly tread to the Toutle-Kalama Ski Trail Middle Junction. Go left and traverse down the steep slope, switchback, and then walk along the river. Note the many trees that have been undermined by the constant working of the Kalama at the soft layers of ash and volcanic debris. Cross a gully with a washed-out footbridge, and reach the Toutle-Kalama Ski Trail West Junction and, soon after, the Toutle-Cinnamon Trail West Junction. From here, head up to the Kalama Horse Camp Trailhead.


The Kalama River is named after John Kalama, one of several hundred native Hawaiians (“Owyhees”) who came to the Pacific Northwest from the 1820s to 1840s to work under John McLoughlin for the Hudson’s Bay Company. John worked at Fort Nisqually and, like many of his countrymen, married into the local tribe. He eventually settled with his family at the mouth of the Kalama, which was named for him after he drowned there. Not many people are aware that a large number of Northwest Native Americans have strong Polynesian bloodlines!

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Northwest Forest Pass required at trailhead
  • Campground road gated November through April
  • Pit toilets in campground; water for horses only
  • Share trails with horses


  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • Green Trails Maps: Mount St Helens National Volcanic Monument, WA #332S
  • 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

  • Off the Beaten Trail by Matt Reeder
  • Day Hiking: Mount St. Helens by Craig Romano & Aaron Theisen
  • Day Hiking: South Cascades by Dan A. Nelson and Alan L. Bauer (Toutle Trail section)

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.