Toutle Trail

Date: August 30, 2009
Distance: 8.1 miles
Elevation Gain: 1000 ft
Time: 4 hours
Difficulty: Difficult
Weather: Warm and sunny
Maps: Kalama Horse Camp Area
My Route:

  1. Starting at the intersection of Road 8122 and trail 238, East on Toutle Trail 238
  2. At junction with 237, veer right then left to stay on 238
  3. After crossing road 8100 at Red Rock Trail Head, Turn left at Kalama Ski Trail 231, the sign intersection is torn down and difficult to understand.
  4. At another unmarked intersection veer to the right, follow the blue diamonds and brightly colored flags on the trees to not lose the Kalama Ski Trail
  5. Cross a rocky area, again looking for flags to mark the route, and cross two more roads
  6. At an unmarked intersection 1/4 mile after crossing a road, turn left
  7. The trail spits out in a big parking area,
  8. Follow parking area down to road 8100, turn right
  9. Turn left onto road 8122 (not marked) to return to parking.
Notes:
We had originally planned to hike at Sheep Canyon, six miles from where we ended up. But a wash out on Road 8100 changed our plans. As luck would have it, we were standing around looking at guidebooks for some idea of where to go in the area when a couple on horseback came up the trail. Turns out we were in the Kalama Horse Camp area. The couple showed us a map (linked to above), and we forged a plan: 238 - 231 loop and scrawled it in the back of a book.

It made for a strange day. We didn't have any destination to be striving towards, no viewpoint or waterfall. Just the goal of finding our way on our route and back to the car without adequate maps. There was considerable effort and discussion about were we should go and if we were on the right track. The poor signage along the trail was sometimes helpful, sometimes not.Ok, So we think we're on 238 and just came from Road 8100. How do we find 231? Why are the arrows only in 2 directions at a 4-way stop? We turned left.

In all we hiked about 8.1 miles. I was later able to put my trails.com subscription to use and find the details of our route in A FalconGuide to Mount St. Helens: A Guide to Exploring the Great Outdoors (Exploring Series). In that book, I verified that we'd hiked 3.7 miles on Toutle Trail (238) and 4.1 miles on Kalama Ski Trail (231). We estimate that we hiked about .3 miles on the road as well for a total of 8.1

Toutle Trail is narrow but easy to follow and walk on. We started in the forest, following the Kalama River up to McBride Lake then to Red Rock Pass. After Red Rock Pass, the trail travels through an ancient lava bed with views of the mountain. This was my favorite part of the route and the best view we had.
Mount Saint Helens and ancient volcanic rocks. I bet it's a cool site when these flowers are blooming.

Kalama Ski Trail is not maintained as a hiking trail. It's not even on most of the Mount Saint Helens Maps. It's primary purpose is a cross-country ski trail and in the summer it's used by hikers and equestrians based at Kalama Horse Camp. As a result, the trail was in some areas hard to follow and cluttered with rocks and sticks. The trail passed through a scrubby forests and across and old lahar. Across the lahar, the trail is hard to find, we had to watch for brightly colored flags in the trees to say on course.
Fallen Trees on the Kalama Ski Trail make a nice seat around lunch time

At 8 miles and about 1000 feet elevation gain, this should have felt like a moderate hike, but it really kicked my butt! I'm even tempted to call it difficult rather than moderate. Maybe that was due to the stress of always feeling a little bit lost and knowing we didn't have anything other than our hand-drawn map. Or maybe the sun was getting to me. In any case, it was tough and I was dying for a big meal and a nap when I finally got back home. The next day my feet and knees are telling me they're unhappy. While the hike was pleasant and we had fun, I don't expect to ever come back and hike this route again.

We found lots of huckleberries in the first few miles of the hike. After returning to the car we all put on sandals and dipped our hot feet in the Kalama River then picked huckleberries. Fun.

Wildlife sitings: 1 frog, 1 chipmunk
Injuries: One of my friends was stung by a bee.

Trail Head:

View PDX Day Hiker in a larger map
Northwest Forest Pass is required for parking
We started from about 1/3 mile up Road 8022 from Road 8100. Road 8100 is washed out just beyond this.

What I said about these trails before: Other hikes on Mt St Helens, Other Hikes in the Kalama Horse Camp area
Other resources for this and other nearby hikes:
Kalama Horse Camp
Guidebooks:
A FalconGuide to Mount St. Helens: A Guide to Exploring the Great Outdoors (Exploring Series)
Gifford Pinchot National Forest (Free e-book) - Does not include Kalama Ski Trail

This hike was part of Hike-A-Thon 2009, a fundraiser for Washington Trails Association. All my hike-a-thon posts are here. My fundraising page is here.

Have you been on this or a nearby trail? Please share your experience.

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