If you lived in the Pacific Northwest in May 1980, you probably remember exactly where you were when Mt. St. Helens blew its top. That eruption was a monumental event that changed the mountain forever.
Kalama Horse Camp, located on the southwest flank of Mt. St. Helens, is outside the blast zone of the 1980 eruption. But the camp and its nearby trails are close enough to the mountain for you to observe how the most recent eruption changed the area. You’ll also plenty of evidence of previous volcanic activity.
When you’re riding at Kalama Horse Camp, here are some of the eruption-related sights you can see:
From the Cinnamon Trail you’ll have panoramic views of Mt. St. Helens. The mud flows that streamed down the mountain’s flanks are clearly visible.
Mt. St. Helens mud flows
From the Toutle Trail you’ll get another view of the volcano’s snow-covered slopes across McBride Lake, which has largely been silted in by eruption-related runoff. Today the lake is so overgrown with alders that you can’t see any water at all.
Near Blue Lake, you’ll travel across the rocky mud flow from the 1980 eruption that hemmed in the lake on two sides.
At Red Rock Pass, the Toutle Trail crosses a long-ago lava flow with a spectacular view of Mt. St. Helens. The name of the pass is puzzling, because the lava is black and there isn’t a red rock in sight.
Red Rock Pass
The Kalama Ski Trail travels over an ancient lahar, or slurry-style mud flow.
The Kalama Ski Trail
On the Kalama Ski Trail you’ll cross a massive mud flow that swept down off the mountain during the 1980 eruption, bringing huge boulders with it.
1980 mud flow
The trails out of Kalama Horse Camp offer something for every rider. The first several miles of the Toutle Trail are easy enough for green horses and riders. The Blue Horse Trail, Kalama Ski Trail, and the far end of the Toutle Trail are moderate difficulty. And the Cinnamon Trail, Fossil Trail, and the middle of the Toutle Trail are challenging because of their big elevation gains/losses and/or their steep drop-offs. By choosing the trails that match your experience and/or inclinations, you can have a fabulous – and geologically fascinating – time at Kalama Horse Camp.
The Toutle Trail runs beside the beautiful Kalama River.
THE HORSE CAMP
Kalama Horse Camp is arguably the nicest horse camp in all of southwest Washington. It features 27 sites in a pretty forested setting, all with sturdy 2- or 4-horse corrals. More than two-thirds of the campsites have pull-through parking for two trailers. Kalama’s two campground loops each have a toilet, stock water trough, accessible mounting ramp, and manure bin. For local riders, the day-use area has parking for 8-10 trailers. There’s also an enclosed group shelter with a wood stove. The camp is open from May through October. A fee is charged for overnight camping, but day-use parking is free.
Kalama Horse Camp
To reach 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 the Hwy. 503-Spur. In 4.3 miles, turn left on Road 81 (Road 8100) at the sign for 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.
The trails out of Kalama Horse Camp are covered in more detail in Riding Southwest Washington Horse Trails, by Kim McCarrel, (Ponderosa Press, 2016). Follow “NW Horse Trails” on Facebook, or go to www.NWhorsetrails.com.
Reprinted with permission from Back Country Horsemen of Washington’s Trailhead News, Jan./Feb. 2017.