The Blue Lake Loop at Kalama Horse Camp runs through pretty old-growth forest and offers filtered views of Mt. St. Helens. It also crosses both ancient and recent mud flows, giving you a close-up view of the volcanic forces that shaped this area. It’s a fascinating ride!
Difficulty: Moderate. Segments of the trail are very rocky, so hoof protection is a must.
Distance: 12.5 miles round trip
Elevation: 2,100 to 3,400 feet
From the day-use parking area at Kalama Horse Camp, pick up the Toutle Trail, which runs beside the Kalama River. In a little less than 2 miles, turn left on the Kalama Ski Trail. It runs across a rocky lahar, an ancient mudflow that was a deep slurry of mud and ash. You’ll enjoy filtered views of Mt. St. Helens through the trees as you ride along.
After about 2.5 miles, you’ll reach a junction with the Blue Horse Trail. Turn left on it, and in 0.3 mile turn left again on the Toutle Trail, which will take you across a mud flow from Mt. St. Helen's 1980 eruption on the way to Blue Lake.
Blue Lake itself is rather a disappointment, as it’s quite small and bounded by a boulder-strewn mudflow. (You’ll have to tie your horses and clamber over the boulders to get to the lake.) But because of the fascinating evidence of the volcanic activity that shaped this area, it’s still a worthy destination.
To return to the trailhead, retrace your steps to the Blue Horse Trail, then follow it and the Toutle Trail back to the horse camp. The Blue Horse Trail runs through a stretch of old-growth forest and has excellent footing for the horses, so you’ll definitely want to save this pretty part of the trail for the homeward leg of your loop.
Kalama Horse Camp is easily the nicest horse campground in Southwest Washington. It features 26 sites with 2- and 4-horse corrals, picnic tables, and fire pits. The camp’s two loops each have a toilet, stock water trough, manure bin, and accessible mounting ramp. You’ll need to pay a fee to camp overnight or have a Northwest Forest Pass to park for the day.
Getting to Kalama Horse Camp
From I-5, take the Woodland/Cougar exit (Exit 21) and head east on Hwy. 503/Lewis River Road, toward Cougar. In 23 miles, Hwy. 503 turns sharply to the right. Go straight on Hwy. 503-Spur. In 4.3 miles, turn left on Road 81 (Road 8100) at the sign for the Kalama Recreation Area. Drive 8.5 miles to a junction, turn right to stay on Road 81, and continue 0.2 mile to the campground.
You’ll find more information about the Blue Lake Loop and other trails near Kalama Horse Camp in Riding SW Washington Horse Trails, by Kim McCarrel, (Ponderosa Press, 2018), available at www.nwhorsetrails.com.