photo courtesy David Anderson
Day 1 (Thursday, August 9th)
Orientation and travel to trailhead
Hiking Mileage: N/A
Elevation Loss: N/A
We will meet at our offices in Amboy, WA for an orientation at 2 p.m. The orientation includes introductions, briefing on the trip itinerary, checking of personal gear, dividing up of group gear and food, and a pack-packing class. Then we will travel to travel to the trailhead at Climber’s Bivouac (we provide transportation to and from offices to trailhead), set up camp for the evening, eat dinner and relax before we start our journey the next morning.
Day 2 (Friday, August 10th)
Climber’s Bivouac to Pumice Butte
Hiking Mileage: 10.7 miles
Elevation: 2,100 feet gain, 1,700 feet loss, 400 feet net
We will get an early start for our first day on the trail. The day will begin with an ascent up the Ptarmgan Trail quickly meeting up with the Loowit Trail at the base of the summer climbing route. We’ll head east on the Loowit Trail, heading counter-clockwise around the volcano, staying close to tree-line, weaving in and out of old-growth forest and crossing some boulder fields along the way. Eventually, we will stay above tree-line as we cross a massive mudflow from the 1980 eruption and arrive at our destination near the edge of the Plains of Abraham at Pumice Butte.
Day 3 (Saturday, August 11th)
Pumice Butte to the South Fork of the Toutle River
Hiking Mileage: 10.7 miles
Elevation: 1,500 feet gain, 1,700 feet loss, -200 feet net
This is the day of the blast zone and wildflowers. We’ll enter the blast zone as we cross the moon-like Plains of Abraham… well, except for the wildflowers! The trail ascends Windy Pass to the highest elevation point on the Loowit Trail (~5,000 feet) and drops into the heart of the blast zone, the Pumice Plain. Views of Spirit Lake, Mt. Adams, Mt. Rainier, the Mt. Margaret Backcountry are spectacular, but perhaps the most awe-inspiring experience comes from the in-your-face view of the crater, the growing glacier in the crater and the waterfall spilling out from the crater. There are few places that can challenge your sense of scale like the Pumice Plain! It is also a great place to see mountain goats, elk, a wide-variety of bird species and spectacular blooms of lupine and penstemon. The last portion of the hike will ascend Studebaker Ridge and drop us of on a bench overlooking the deep chasm of the South Fork of the Toutle River.
Day 4 (Sunday, August 12th)
South Fork Toutle to Climber’s Bivouac, back to Amboy, WA
Hiking Mileage: 11.5 miles
Elevation: 2,100 feet gain, 2,300 feet loss, -200 feet net
From camp, we’ll descend into the deep canyon of the South Fork Toutle River, ford the river, climb back up to tree-line atop Crescent Ridge and exit the blast zone. Views of Butte Camp Dome and Monitor Peak (old lava domes) fill the foreground while vistas stretching south from Mt. Hood to the Three Sisters near Bend, OR. This is a day for contemplation. We’ll have come full circle, literally. From trees many hundreds of years old, to rock far younger than you… views spanning two states… a natural disturbance bigger than anything you could imagine, and a landscape growing back faster than you could imagine. After ending our trip where we started, Climber’s Bivouac, we’ll put it all into perspective over dinner in Cougar before saying goodbye (for now) in Amboy.
Please Note: We always do everything in our power to follow the set itinerary, however it can change occasionally based on campsite and water availability, weather, road closures, guest ability/injury, and natural events like fires and flooding.