Along the shoreline of Coldwater Lake at Mount St. Helens is the Birth of a Lake trail, which is a paved family friendly, and ADA accessible short trail of ¼ mile each way, with plenty of decks over the water to enjoy the vast views. It’s a drive to get there, but it is on a smooth and wide highway, and the miles in from I-5 slip by quickly. There are so many pullouts and stops, you will have to force yourself to keep going, but the views get better with every foot forward.
However, Helens is best enjoyed on a sunny day, so plan for it.
The loop at the ridge is short and satisfying. Most people only go to the top and then turn back, but make sure you do the loop. It just pops you back out at the parking lot, below.
From the top you can look towards Spirit Lake and the top of Mount Rainier in the distance.
And the views just don’t get old, especially in mid summer, when the wild flowers are out.
And you might get ripe blueberries.
From Castle Rock (well-marked on I-5), drive State Route 504 east 43 miles. Stay right where State Route 504 forks towards the Johnston Ridge Observatory. Continue for 1 mile, turn left at Coldwater Lake. This hike makes for a nice stop after you have gone up to Johnston Ridge and enjoyed the visitor center and hikes up there. Come down, and plan to have a picnic before you leave.
Drive into the Coldwater complex and take the road to the picnic area (it is a loop, and when you leave you will continue through the boat launch area, then back out). Don’t miss the best bathrooms in the West (um, if you loved Logan’s Run from the ’70’s or vintage Star Trek….that is).
The trail follows at first the creek outlet, and has plenty of shoreline to enjoy. However, only go onto shoreline where it is signed that you can. Plenty of it is closed to use.
Near the trailhead you can see Mount St. Helens in the distance.
The head of Coldwater seems far away, but is a nice loop hike (though long) that I did years ago. It’s very quiet, with the wind as your main partner for the hike. That trip Kirk paddled his kayak to the end, and we met for lunch (you can land kayaks there in a designated area). The hummocks in this section are easy to spot in the water.
The long and curving board walk goes out over the lake.
The boys really enjoyed running walking over the water.
One thing about Helens is when the sun is out, have a hat on with sunglasses. It gets very bright.
The trail is technically an in and out hike, but there is a non-ADA section that turns it into a loop. It is a wide and smooth path through the forest, along the water, and it takes you over to the boat launch area, and keep following the trail to make it back to the parking lot.