Fun Trail Facts
No fish were found in Spirit Lake until 1993, 13 years after the eruption. Recent population counts have shown expansion in both abundance and growth rates.
Boundary Trail #1 Norway Pass TH to Norway Pass
County & State
Skamania County, Washington
Cascades | Western Cascades Montane Highlands
Gifford Pinchot National Forest
Latitude & Longitude (DEC)
Tough hike for Dad the pack mule, but a pretty phenomenal hike for the little guy. Rarely was I nervous about the lad hiking by himself next to me.
Moderate [lengthy with some decent elevation gain]
Out and Back
Access to Trailhead (Link)
A breeze. After taking Forest Road 26 from NF-99, you come right up on the parking for the trailhead.
The trip up to Norway Pass is situated right in the middle of this zone, but the thirty-plus years since the eruption have softened the absolute destruction. Nearby Meta Lake and the wildflowers everywhere provide a welcome contrast to the pumice-laden and barren stretches that hint at what was the rule of the area rather than the exception.
I should know better than to think such things, but every time we got ash and dust on us, I kept thinking about how we were inhaling fragments of pulverized rock, minerals, and volcanic glass.
Being late July, it was a sweltering journey at times as well. Until we hit the snow. More on that later.
For those reasons, I highly recommend that you start this trek early in the day and definitely take more water than you think you'll need. I'm usually in the position of constantly offering my son water to make sure he stays hydrated during such trips, but this was one journey that he needed no extra prodding.
FYI - There is a fantastic water pump at the trail head.
While standing there thinking about how nice a dip would be in such water, I realized that it was getting warmer and that we still had a long way to go. With that in mind, the two of us continued cruising up in elevation, watching the subtle changes in scenery, and getting the opportunities to really learn from one of the greatest geological and ecological laboratories in the region. Primary, secondary, and tertiary succession were really easy concepts to teach the lad on this hike, as examples were everywhere.
While he played, I soaked my hat in some melted snow and was never so happy to have such chilliness flow down the back of my neck. It was a really welcome break, and his giddiness was contagious. Needless to say, snowball fights ensued.
It was just awe-inspiring, knowing that before the recovery, the soil had practically been blasted down to the bedrock. Thanks to some fierce competition between some ornery species, the beauty of the forest is returning.
After pulling out the binoculars, we managed to catch some great views of the high-water mark around the lake that was left by the devastation from the summit of Mt. Saint Helens sliding into Spirit Lake three decades back. Apparently, the water was pushed up 800 feet during the event.
After some goofing around and quiet reflection on everything that we had seen thus far, we turned around and headed down. We got to play some more in the snow and really get some new vantage points of things we had missed on the way up - Mt. Rainier, a gorgeous nearby waterfall, and way too many chipmunks.
My favorite part on the way down was winning a bet with the boy around the fact that I could make a rock float. When he saw pumice do its thing, he was as giddy as I remember being the first time I ever saw it bobbing on top of water. I should have bet him $5, but instead it was just a friendly bet without a wager.
Of course, we had to take the trail away from the boardwalk and go find some bigger caves that did not have any bats hanging out. We found plenty along the slight trails, just about half of a mile away from the Interpretive Site itself.
On the way home, I found myself promising the boy that we would be back. Next time, it'll just be further up to Mt. Margaret and all the way into the Ape Caves.