During a stretch of beautiful autumn weather last October, I traveled to the relatively remote region on the east side of Mount St. Helens with ultra-runner, Hayden Teachout. We spent a perfect day exploring the vast network of trails in this uncrowded and exceedingly beautiful part of the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument. The views from the east side are perfectly oriented for epic sunrises and views directly into the massive crater left by the 1980 eruption.
As the trails wound around the mountain, gaining and losing elevation, we often encountered light blankets of early season snow, always a treat when contrasted with blue skies and autumn foliage.
Before the mountain’s eruption, the surrounding ridges were covered with old-growth forests. They are now the home for enterprising young evergreen trees and sprawling fields of sub-alpine plants. A well-timed visit in spring or fall will yield a sea of bright colors.
While the fascinating form of Mount St. Helens dominates many of the vistas on this east side of the park, there are also amazing vantage points which provide views of the surrounding volcanoes including Mt. Rainier, Mt. Hood and the perfect dome of Mount Adams, pictured here.
A marmot’s-eye view of Hayden cruising a snowy bit of ground between Norway Pass and Mt. Margaret. This trail can be combined with a series of other trails, creating a loop around the entire mountain that clocks in at just over 30 miles.
Lest you get the impression that the mountain is finished with its volcanic activity, a close inspection of the crater shows frequent action. Mount St. Helens is still the mostly likely Cascade volcano to erupt, and the almost-constant activity in the crater adds height and mass to the volcano on an ongoing basis.
Late in the day, we decided to put an exclamation point on the outing by adding a stout staircase to the finish of the run. The effort was rewarded with beautiful views of alpenglow on Mount Adams to the south.
As the last light of the day swept through the park, a band of clouds played tricks with the light and visibility on the mountain.
One more sprint up the stairs above the Windy Ridge Viewpoint assured that we would catch every last bit of sunset on the mountain. A day entirely spent is a day well spent.