Coldwater Peak & Lookout Site


Washington Lookout Sites

There are many mountains in the National Monument just north of Mt. St. Helens, but the most popular is Coldwater Mountain. Once a sight of a lookout tower, today it is the site for numerous research instruments. Hiking from the Johnson Visitors Center, Coldwater is the first mountain of real prominence. Trails approach the mountain from three directions and a nice final trail switchbacks up to the summit. As pictures show, the views are spectacular. The old fire lookout was built around 1935. It was a ground-mounted L-4 cab. Pictures are below. The cabin was removed in 1968 and definitely wouldn't have survived the blast in 1980. Other than the first mile or so, most of this hike is shade-less, very unusual for us in Western Washington! This makes for a great trip when it's sunny and cold, but hiking here on a hot summer day must be brutal.
During the winter, the road up to Johnson Ridge Visitors Center is closed, gated at Coldwater Lake. But, the Coldwater Trail starts about a mile past the gate so the mountain can be reached during this time period. The large Hummicks Trailhead is right at the gate. Unfortunately, the elevation gain is much more than if you started at Johnson Ridge. But with the lack of trees and the sights along the way, the trail from Coldwater Lake is very interesting. The loggers camp that was destroyed on the ridge is especially fascinating, such an eerie thing to see, and better than any tourist devastation site right off the park highways. A very long loop can be made by taking the trail from the highest pass just below the summit to Johnson Ridge Visitors Center, then the Hummicks Trail down to the Hummicks Trailhead (over 20 mile day).
Access & Route
Elevation: 5,727 feet
Distance: 9 miles from Coldwater Gate
Elevation Gain: 4,560 feet from Coldwater Gate
Road Access: Paved
South Cascades
coldwater peak trail map
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Looking Southwest - 1937
Looking Southeast - 1937
Looking North - 1937
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Coldwater Lookout 1958
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Looking Southwest - 2015
Looking Southeast - 2015
Looking North - 2015
Venus Ridge
Whittier - Venus Ridge
coldwater lookout map
Coldwater Peak and the Spirit Lake Ranger Station
Coldwater Lake Gate
Coldwater Lake spirit lake highway
Nearing the Coldwater Ridge Trailhead
Coldwater Lake
logging dozer logging
Logging camp hit by the blast
Coldwater Peak Coldwater Peak hiking St. Helens Lake
One of many views of Coldwater Peak in route
Looking across St. Helens Lake
Traversing up the south slopes of Coldwater Peak to the pass
Nearing the pass on the south side
St Helens Lake
St Helens Lake
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mount-st-helens St. Helens Johnson Visitors center
Road up to Johnson Visitors Center
alder trees Dozer
Alder trees in the first mile