Mt. St. Helens NM Hike Kalama Horse Camp to Goat Marsh

Hike Distance: 8.4 miles        Yearly Hike Distance: 684.6 miles

Elevation Gain: 1195 feet      Yearly Elevation Gain: 82092 feet

Just a little note to everyone that I’m about 20 trip reports behind on the blog. 😦  I’m hiking way too often to keep up with the demands of writing up the details for a blog, and also have to select and process all the photos.  I apologize and will try to increase releasing more trip reports.  During the week, when I’m hiking alone, I document all the hikes while I’m on the trail.  Unfortunately, when I’m hiking with my wife, or kids, I don’t take the time to dictate into my phone.  I don’t want to be rude, when with other people, and this delays my documentation process.  On to my latest hike, so you can see where I’m at!

Yesterday was quite impressive, but today was stellar.  A whole lot cooler, inland, and worth going to places where the snow isn’t an issue.  So we decided to head out to a favorite hike in the Mt. St. Helens National Monument; Goat Marsh Research Natural Area.  This is in the SW corner of the monument and the trail head is about 45 minutes from our home. 🙂

We parked at the Kalama Horse Camp, which resides just off of NF-81.  It’s an easy drive and Google Maps will provide a nice route for you.  We parked in an area designated for the trail head.  The trailhead is for the Toutle Trail #238.  I couldn’t possibly describe the contorted way you follow this trail, so please email me if you want the GPX file for the trail.  The bottom line is that you use the Toutle Trail in order to get you to the Kalama Ski Trail #231.  The reason I say it’s a contorted route is that you’ll possibly get lost without knowledge of the trail system, and we almost always make the wrong turns (haha), except not this time.  The jist of this route is that you basically turn left at most of the intersections, except for one that will lead you to a stream that leads to the wrong trail.  Take my word for it, you either need time to explore, and make a mistake, or have a map/gps with you.

So you wind around (correct turns at intersections and cross a dry seasonal stream bed that’s heavily eroded) for a few tenths of a mile and finally get on the Kalama Ski Trail #231!!  You’ll then be hiking east for a while, through sparsely treed terrain on a usually wide road-like trail that is all loose lava type soil.  You’ll be up above the Kalama River and will hear, and sometimes see the water.  There’s a few areas where the land has slid away and only a steep bare lava slope is between you and the river (far below).  Don’t get too close and watch out for your kids!!!  There are some nice views of the adjacent ridge, and views looking back west at the open areas (with some clear cuts 😦  ).  That ridge contains a 7-8 mile long trail called the Cinnamon Trail, and it’s a nice hike but more difficult, and some amazing views of Mt. St. Helens!

You’ll come to another intersection and veer NE to stay on the Kalama Ski Trail #231.  This area is all forested.  You’ll come to a road crossing and then continue until you reach NF-81.  This can be a busy road so watch for traffic.  Cross the road, to the road that leads north,  and follow the Kalama Ski Trail past a large parking area.  Stay to the right of the parking lot and continue until you reach a not obvious trail.  It sucks that this isn’t signed or obvious. 😦

Continue north on this and it turns, initially, into a nasty rocky road.  The road gets better and more level, and enjoyable.  I know, you’re still in a forest with no view and have already gone three miles.  We actually enjoy these three miles because it’s rare to see anyone, except for the occasional few people on horseback.  If you want, you can drive down NF-81, and park in the parking area, and the hike is then only about 3-4 miles long!

After about a mile you’ll see a tall sign on your left and it will state that Goat Marsh is about 1/2 mile away.  Turn left and follow this road/trail to the Goat Marsh Research Natural Area entrance.  Actually, the entrance to Goat Marsh is a couple blocks, and the marsh is 1/2 mile.  You can’t miss the research area entrance.  Please read the entrance rules and follow them.  This area is a premium natural area with pristine forest/wetlands with Old Growth, and is meant to be treated like Wilderness.  I implore everyone to leave no trace so everyone can enjoy this place!

The Kalama Ski Trail  can be followed up to the lake, where it turns into a narrower trail.  Surprisingly, there were still some large patches of snow along this trail.  The view from the east side of the marsh is of Goat Mountain!   Breathtaking is an understatement, and I typically tear when I see such beauty, but this isn’t the best view; yet.  The trail will actually take you around the marsh, and in about a half mile you’ll see Mt. St. Helens looming in its magnificence behind the marsh. 🙂   Today the snow covered volcano was in perfect form, and if you’re not humbled you need to take your temperature. haha  The water in the marsh was being stirred by the wind, but we’ve seen it when it looked like glass, and a perfect mirror image was formed.  I so love this place!  We saw NOBODY for the half hour we were here!.  You can continue on the trail and get a view of Goat Lake with Goat Mtn. in the background.  This is another amazing view, but we cut the hike short due to time constraints.

On our way back we saw two other groups of people on the trail, between the parking lot and before Goat Marsh.   We saw two groups of people on the return section between Goat Marsh and NF-81.  One was a couple that had never seen it before and the other group was a family that didn’t know where they were.  We saw no other people the the remainder of the hike after NF-81 and had a wonderful day.  My back even did very well today. 🙂