- Distance: 9.45 miles
- Hike Type: Out-and-Back
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Elevation Gain: 1,752′
- Trail Condition: Ash, pumice, dirt, paved
- Trail Highlights: Views of: Loowit (Mount St Helens), Pahto/Klickitat (Mount Adams), Wy’East (Mount Hood), Johnston Ridge Observatory, Spirit Lake, Coldwater Creek, Coldwater Peak, Saint Helens Lark Arch, Pumice Plain, Toutle Valley, Loowit Falls. Exposed edges, minimal shade, variety of terrain, hike through the Mt. Margaret Backcountry, footbridge, multiple trail junctions, alders, Lupine, Indian Paint Brush, Pussypaws, willow, huckleberry bushes, noble firs
- Trailhead(s): Johnston Ridge Observatory Trailhead
- Pass Needed: A.T.B Pass
- Dogs Allowed: No, dogs are not allowed in National Parks
- Crowd Level: Busy
- Vehicle Clearance Needed: Low, paved the entire way
- Recommended Footwear: Tennis shoes or Hiking boots – see Little Acorns
- My Favorite Season To Go: Fall
This is one of the more popular trails in the park, but for good reason.
Excellent views of Loowit, Spirit Lake and the blast zone are seen along the entire trail. Not to mention you can find huckleberries and strawberries during the season!
On May 18th, 1980 Loowit shook the earth and released 2 billion tons of glacial ice, rock and snow. The plume of smoke blocked out the sun and black ash landed in 17 states. The eruption lasted for about 9 hours, killed 57 people and decimated everything within miles.
Harry’s Ridge is named after Harry Truman, an 83-year old man who refused to leave his home and the Mount St. Helens Lodge he owned at Spirit Lake. Him and his cats are now buried underneath 150 feet of volcanic landslide debris. The Truman Trail is named after him as well.
It is also important to know that Harry Truman repeatedly threw his 2nd wife repeatedly in Spirit Lake despite her not being able to swim, was an alcoholic, illegally fished and hunted on Native land with a fake game warden badge, and stole US Forest Service gravel.
“If the mountain goes, I’m going with it.” – Harry Randall Truman
- The trail starts at the Johnston Ridge Observatory, but I would save that for the end
- A majority of the hike is on the Boundary Trail. You aren’t on Harry’s Ridge Trail until you’re about a mile out from the viewpoint
- You can skip Devils Point to make this hike around 8ish miles
- Tennis shoes will work, but boots will help keep out the ash and pumice
- It is completely exposed, so wearing a hat might be an option to consider. Also pack plenty of water, sunscreen and sunglasses. I even saw a lady on the trail with a hiking umbrella!
- Do not feed the wildlife you come across
- Rocks line the trail during the ashy sections
- Views of Pahto/Klickitat and Wy’East won’t be there on a cloudy or smoky day
- Lots of wildflowers can be smelled during the month of July
- Did you know that Fireweed and Lupine were the first plants to grow back in this area after the eruption??
- The logs you see in Spirit Lake are from the eruption
- Strawberries can also be found along the trail from July – August
- As always, practice leave no trace and pack the 10 essentials
- Looking for another trail in the area? Check out the Hummocks Trail!
- Need tips for packing your bag? See what I carry in the ‘What’s In My Pack?‘
The trailhead can be found at the north end of the parking lot, next to the large wooden trail map. You’ll immediately start going straight up on a paved narrow path. There is vegetation on both sides with views to the left. The path will veer right and eventually Loowit (Mt St Helens) will pop up in front.
Straight ahead you’ll see the Boundary-Eruption Trail junction, with a paved path climbing up to the right. However, you want to take a left here and head down the hill. Loowit will stay on your right and eventually the trail turns into ash/pumice/dirt. You won’t lose elevation for too long before leveling out.
There are wood poles to point out the way and rocks that line the trail. For the most part you will stay along the ridge line, lose elevation and be exposed to the sun. There are occasional patches of trees before that, but not much.
At the 2-mile mark you’ll walk down a couple small switchbacks and come to the Boundary-Devils Elbow Trail junction. Hook a right and head up to Devils Point (- dead end).
Soon alders, noble firs and willows will be on both sides of the trail.
Loowit comes into sight and Devils Elbow will be on the left. You can also see the south shores of Spirit Lake and the Johnston Ridge Observatory.
The trail veers to the right and then hooks a left, with a view of the observatory on your right. Continue ahead and walk up a small ash/pumice hill with exposed edges.
Head down the hill and eventually come to a dead end around 4,104’ with massive views of Loowit, the Johnston Ridge Observatory, Spirit Lake and small ponds along the Pumice Plain. Turn around and head back to the main trail.
When you reach the Boundary-Devils Elbow Trail junction, look for the narrow path straight head/to the east. The path heads down into vegetation so it may be hard to spot at first glance.
This is the most shade you will get on the trail so enjoy the cool while you can. The Truman-Loowit Trail junction will pop up on the right, but keep heading up the Boundary Trail.
Eventually the path breaks out of the alder and undergreen willow trees and flattens out for a just a second. Walk up one and a half pumice switchbacks to get out of the little “valley” before walking behind a hill.
The trail continues straight and a view of Loowit will come up on the right before heading behind the tall ridge. Here you will be surrounded by brush, huckleberry bushes and wildflowers. This is where the main elevation gain starts, and you’ll cross a footbridge. It is rather narrow here, so be sure to keep your head up for other hikers and remember uphill hikers have the right-a-way.
Take a right on the Boundary-Harrys Ridge Trail (you’ve now gone about 4.5 miles) junction shortly after the bridge crossing and head up a couple switchbacks with views of The Dome.
Soon you’ll be on the ridgeline with views of Spirit Lake while you gain more elevation. This is where the steepest elevation is. The top of Loowit is peaking over the ridge straight ahead of you. Watch out for huckleberry bushes and critters in this section—they’re everywhere! Please remember to not feed the wildlife. The higher you climb, the more Spirit Lake comes into view, and eventually Pahto/Klickitat (Mount Adams).
When you see the volcano monitoring equipment, you’ve hit the top of the ridge. On your right you can see the Johnston Ridge Observatory, behind you are Coldwater Peak and The Dome, Pahto/Klickitat and Spirit Lake to the left, and Loowit in all her glory straight ahead. The view where you are isn’t too different from the end point, but if you have the energy and don’t mind walking back up, it is worth it. On a clear day you can see Wy’East from here too.
Once again, you’ll lose elevation and the viewpoint is at the bottom of the hill/ridge about 0.2 miles away.
Down there you can see Loowit entirely, almost all of Spirit Lake, the Johnston Ridge Observatory, the Pumice Plain, Pahto/Klickitat (on a clear day), Wy’East (on a clear day), Toutle Valley, Loowit Fall and more.
When you are ready, head back the way you came. Remember that you’ll be gaining the elevation you lost at the beginning of the trail.
On the way back, when you come to the Boundary-Eruption Trail junction, head up the paved Eruption Trail. This is paved the entire way. Walk up one switchback before the trail straightens out and Loowit is back in view. Here there are wooden fences to keep you safe and interpretive signs with information about the eruption. Head down 3 more switchbacks before reaching the Johnston Ridge Observatory. If it is open, you can go inside for a fee or free if you have an ATB pass.
To get back to the parking lot, head down the wide paved path in front of the Johnston Ridge Observatory.
It is about a 2- hour drive from Portland, Oregon and 1 hour 40 minutes from Vancouver, Washington.
From Portland, take I-5 out of Oregon and drive up to exit 49 (Castle Rock, Washington). Take a right off the exit and head east for about 42 miles onto WA-504 E/Mt St Helens NE. This road will lead you straight to the Johnston Ridge Observatory.
From Vancouver, take I-5 for 48 miles to exit 49 (Castle Rock). Follow the directions above.
For information about what kind of pass is needed, check out my blog post – Adventure Passes for Pacific Northwest Wanderers entry!