On Labor Day, my sister and niece invited me to hike the June Lake Trail in the Mt. St. Helens Volcanic Monument area of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. The trail was a challenge for me even though it is rated Easy on All Trails. This was because it is up all the way in, not a steep slope but up none the less, which is the hardest thing for me to do. If you make the effort, you’ll be rewarded by beautiful views on the way in, plus a lake with a waterfall.
June Lake Trail
Panting Stops: 3-5
Distance: 2.3 miles, out and back
Elevation changes: 462 feet
June Lake Trail is a wide dirt path through a fir and maple forest that runs along a swift-moving little creek for most of the way. There are no other paths going off it, just one fire road, so it is easy to stay on the right track. As you get higher in elevation, you can see great views of Mt. St. Helens, and when you arrive at June Lake, you are just below the granite portion of the mountain. Just before you arrive at the lake, you encounter a broad open area of ash and sand that has probably been used as a campground. You go through some bushes to get to the lake, and if you go in the first opening, you’ll hear the waterfall. There is no access to the waterfall, but if you walk along the open area a little further, you’ll come to another access with a great view of the waterfall.
The lake is shallow and full of downed trees, but the place is peaceful. Although most of the path is heavily forested, the area around the lake is open, so even if it is a cool day, you might want to bring your hat.
How to get there
Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, Gifford Pinchot National Forest, near Cougar, Washington
From Vancouver or Seattle
Drive north on I-5 and take the Highway 503 exit at Woodland. Drive east on 503 for about 30 miles to Cougar. Continue on and about 13 miles past Cougar, you will reach National Forest Road 83. Turn left at NF-83 and drive about 7 miles. You will pass NF-8312 on your right and the Marble Mountain Sno-Park on your left. The June Lake Trailhead is the second left after the Sno-Park down a little road. The sign is worn off and another sign is behind a bush, so it is easy to pass up the trailhead. If you go farther than 1/2 mile or so past the Sno-Park, you have probably passed it.
There is a parking lot for about 20 cars at the trailhead.